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Communication & Media Studies Research Guide

Identifying Scholarly Articles

What is a scholarly article?

A scholarly article is how researchers (scholars) communicate the findings and analysis of their research. Scholarly articles:

  • Provide original research and analysis - these articles are based on studies or experiements, or analyze an artifact or event. Every scholarly article presents something new about the world we didn't know before.
  • Are written by scholars - scholars tend to hold PhDs, or other advanced degrees and are professors at universities.
  • Are published in peer-reviewed journals - you won't find these floating about on the internet, they have to be published in a journal. Most times you'll find them in the library databases.
  • Might be hard to read - they act as the primary conversation between scholars about a field of study. Since they are written by scholars, for scholars, they contain specialized language that might be hard for the lay person to understand.


Reading Scholarly Articles

Reading a peer-reviewed journal article is a multi-step process. By focusing your attention on specific sections, you will be able to decide whether or not the article will be useful to you.


Stage 1: Title + Abstract

The title and abstract for an article will give you the purpose of the article, a small amount of context, and a summary of the findings. After reading the title and abstract:

Does the title and abstract indicate that it will help you understand your topic in detail? (it implies it will support your thesis statement or provide answers to your research question).


If the answer is YES move to stage #2

If the answer is NO, locate a different article


Stage 2: Introduction + Conclusion

These sections will include the purpose of the article along with the main conclusion. After reading these sections:

What did the authors want to learn; what did they study? (thesis statement, research question, hypothesis)


Stage 3: Results + Discussion

The Results or Findings section include specific pieces of data, statistics or examples from the study. The Discussion or Analysis section will interpret these results and help you understand why these results are important. These are sections where you can take direct quotes to use in your own papers. After reading these sections:

What did the authors learn about their topic? (use quotation marks for direct quotes)

What are some specific examples you can use from the Results? (use quotation marks for direct quotes)


Stage 4: Methodology & Literature Review (optional)

The Literature Review summarized the research that was done prior to this article, and the Methodology section describes how the current experiment was conducted. These sections will be more useful as you move through your journey as student-scholars, and into your major and research methods courses.


Stage 5: Decision Making

After reading the article, you should be able to fit it with your topic, and know how to best use it in your paper. If it takes too much effort to "make it fit," set the article aside, and move on to the next one. After reading the article:

How does this article answer your research question or support your thesis statement?

If it doesn't, how can you use it otherwise?


** If you find an article that is not formatted (uses headings/sections) in this way, start with stages 1 and 2, then read from the end toward the beginning until you can answer the questions in stage 3 **