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Research Guides

Information Literacy & Library Research: How to Critically Read Academic Articles

Information literacy is the ability to know when information is needed and to be able to identify, locate and evaluate, and then legally and responsibly use and share that information.

How to Read Critically

Now that you have evaluated an article and decided to potentially use it, you need to not just read the article, but read it critically so you can get a deeper understanding of what the article is about and how it can provide evidence to support your thesis statement and paper. Reading the paper strategically and critically will save you time and effort.

Note for INFO 1010:

Knowing how to read your sources will really help you when it comes to synthesizing them well. It will save you a lot of time as you create your own synthesis matrix for the module 5 assignment. It will also save you time in the future as you do more research and read more academic articles for the upper level classes in your major, etc.

Highlighting the different points listed in the abstract.Purpose and Context

Before going into any article, take what you've learned from your evaluations (see CRAAP Test) of the article to give you an idea of what to expect about the article. Who is the author? Why did they write it? When did they write it? What kind of article is it? This should help you understand where the article fits into your research paper.

Main Points

When looking at an article, identify the different sections, covering the basic points. Then, identify the main points in each section.

Starting with the abstract, you should be able to find the main points of the article without having to read the whole article.

Once you have identified the main points of the article, you should be able to find sections or paragraphs that touch on each of the identified main points and focus on those sections. Highlighting the points that are relevant to your topic will be helpful for going back to it later.

Abstract and Introduction

When you are first deciding whether an article will be useful to your research, reading the abstract can help a lot to get an idea of what the article is about. If you want a bit more in depth summary, you can next read the introduction.

From the information in the introduction, you should have a fair idea of what the article is talking about, as well as if it will work for your research.

The introduction might be followed by a literature review, or that could be part of the introduction itself. A literature review is a summary of all the current research on that topic, to give the reader some context as to where this study is coming from. This is a valuable place to get more background information, as well as to find other sources that might work in your research.

Discussion and Conclusion

After the introduction, the next part that you want to read is the discussion or conclusion. These sections will talk about what was learned in the course of the research and will come to the valuable conclusions that the article is all about.

This might be called something different, depending on what kind of article you are reading. Sometimes there is no discussion and just a conclusion, or sometimes the conclusion is the discussion. But essentially this is the so what part of the article that justifies the research conducted with how it adds to the current literature on the subject. This part will most likely be the most applicable to your research needs.

highlighting the discussion section.

Methods and Results

If the article is in the sciences, it might have a methods and results section. These are the sections that talk about how the research was conducted and what limitations and potential biases there are. This is the section that shows the accuracy of the research by detailing how it was conducted, so it could potentially be validated through recreation.

You don't necessarily have to read the methods and results section. It is going to be the most complex and technical part of the article. This means that it is important to the authority and accuracy of the article, but is not necessary to read to get the main points of the article. You only need to read it if you think it will further your understanding your topic. Especially if you are still early in your college career. Don't give yourself unnecessary work.

Highlighting the title, abstract and introduction.

highlighting the methods and results sections.