How to Read an Academic Article Academic articles are different from ordinary newspaper articles or magazine articles. An academic journal publishes scholarly, peerreviewed articles written by experts. The function of a journal is to distribute knowledge, not to make money for the publisher. How to Read an Academic Article Scholarly documentation provides the exact source – including the author and the page number – for every important bit of outside information. The article should end with a detailed bibliography. Footnotes or endnotes may be present. The article will probably be long, complex, and possibly difficult for a non-expert to understand right away. scholarly — each fact or opinion is documented How to Read an Academic Article Academic journals will typically identify their contributors as professors, graduate students, or others with first-hand experience with the subject matter. If the article credits the author as a journalist (“staff writer”, “correspondent” or “special” freelance contributor) then you are probably reading a magazine. A journalist may very well produce a thoughtful, insightful, and important overview of a current issue in an academic field, but the journalist’s job is to summarize and explain what other people do. Without those others doing the academic work, the reporter would have no story to report. How to Read an Academic Article So how do we go about reading academic articles without wasting too much time or energy? You need to become not only avid readers, but also efficient readers, able to extract the maximum information from an academic article with the least effort. You need to learn, in other words, the art of the skim. How to Read an Academic Article No single way works for everyone but this is a basic outline that will help you get started! Let’s start with a three step process because no one will understand academic articles the first time they are read. How to Read an Academic Article Step One 1. Read the abstract (if provided) 2. Read the introduction. 3. Section headings and subheadings. But skip everything else. How to Read an Academic Article 4. Read the conclusion. 5. Skim the middle, looking at section titles, tables, figures, etc.—try to get a feel for the style and flow of the article. How to Read an Academic Article Step Two Go back and read the whole thing quickly, skipping equations, most figures and tables. How to Read an Academic Article Step Three Go back and read the whole thing carefully, focusing on the sections or areas that seem most important. How to Read an Academic Article Once you’ve grasped the basic argument the author is trying to make, critique it! Ask if the argument makes sense. Is it internally consistent? Well supported by argument or evidence? (This skill takes some experience to develop!) How to Read an Academic Article If it is a print out or photo copy highlight areas of understanding or important points. Never and I mean never write in a book unless it is your own copy that you have bought and paid for!