4. Analyzing an Academic Article
This aims to show you how to read and understand scholarly articles, a skill that is virtually guaranteed to help you keep up with assigned readings. Appreciating how academics write and why they write as they do may even improve your own papers.
This is preliminary information. Fill this table in before you start reading. Just look at the title and the "meta-information," the authors' names, the source of the paper, number of pages, number of foot- or endnotes, etc.
Write the title of the article here. Titles will tell you a lot
about the content of the article: the geographical focus,
period, subject, and, sometimes, something about the author’s
approach or interpretation (which may be indicated by a play Title
on words or a question mark). You can also use this space to
comment on what the title leads you to expect from the
Note the authors of the paper. If you know who he or she is, Author(s) then make a note of that, too. What is the author's discipline?
Where was this article published? Note the original source of
the article. The publication it appeared in can lend or deny the Source
Examine the article as a whole. Try to determine something about the purpose, audience, and content of the paper before you start reading. Look for clues in
the title and/or subtitle, the acknowledgements (if any), the first foot/end note, and the author's biographical note (sometimes with the article, sometimes compiled separately).(the same as the second entry in the previous part)
Why do you think the author wrote this paper? Does it seem
to be refuting someone else's interpretation of some event or
phenomenon? Is it offering new information? You'll usually
find clues to the answer to these questions in the first few Purpose
paragraphs(showing the gap). That's where authors usually try
to show why their paper is useful and worth
reading.(significance and implications)
Who is this paper written for? Experts? The general public?
Knowing who the authors are addressing can help you decide
how to approach the article. If the authors are addressing an
expert audience, then the style will likely be more academic. Audience
There may be fewer explanations or somewhat less
background information. If the audience is a broader one, then
there may be more detail but less detailed explanations.
What does it seem the article is about? (related background
information) Look at the first couple of paragraphs; they
should give you some hints. Again, refer to the title(method, Subject focus, research subject). Some disciplines include an abstract
that precedes the text. This will give you an uncritical
summary of the paper's subject/content.
Where is the author getting her or his basic
information?(literature review) Is it mostly from other books
or articles? Is it based on interview, archival or survey data? Sources Knowing where the author got the information will tell you
whether the author is looking at something new, taking a new
look at something old, or talking about something new.
Start reading. If the article has a labeled introduction, you should find the author's statement of purpose, or thesis statement, before the end of that section(the aim of the research). You should also be able to tell what evidence the author is going to use to support the position she or he has taken(results
got from the research experiment that was designed for the particular research).
The author may also explain the limits on the article, the length of time, the geographic location, the extent of the information that's going to be used, the theories that are going to be applied. (in material and method section)You
should also be able to tell what the author's point of view is. (support or
Write out the thesis statement as you find it in the article. It is
sometimes only one sentence; sometimes two or three.
Sometimes the sentences are separated from each other. An
author might be obvious about it: "This paper will argue. . ." Thesis
(the sentence of this kind is usually in the discussion section)
or subtle, giving only a statement of his or her interpretation
followed by some indication of the evidence that will support
Note here what evidence the author claims will be used to
support her/his argument. This question may well have been
answered in the first step, by checking the notes. Use this stop Evidence to expand your grasp of the evidence. (evidence or
interpretation of the evidence; usually in result section and in
Writers of articles rarely tackle big topics. There isn't enough
room to write a history of the world or discuss big issues.
Articles generally focus on a particular event, change, person,
phenomenon, or idea. It may be further limited by a narrow Limits
geographic focus, a limited period, or being restricted to a
particular group of people. Note what limits the author places
on the article. (in discussion section)
This is sometimes easy to detect; sometimes you have to feel
it out by looking at what things are described positively and Point of
what are described negatively. Note what you learn about the View
author's point of view. (in literature review and in discussion.)
Presentation and Argumentation
Keep reading but watch what the author is doing. This step requires that you read the article to gain an understanding of how the author presents the evidence and makes it fit into the argument(moving from the results section to
the discussion section). At this stage of the exercise, you should also take the time to look up any unfamiliar words or concepts. Also, watch how the author switches from first explaining how the evidence supports the argument and then to the summary(also to be written about in the conclusion section as research findings.). The last few paragraphs of the article should tidy up the discussion, show how it all fits together neatly, where more research is needed, or how this article has advanced knowledge, that is, the implications of the
Use this space to note the words or concepts you had to
look up. Did the author coin his/her own terms, or use Concepts/Words
common terms in unusual ways?
How well did the author rely on his/her evidence? Was
everything mentioned at the outset referred to in the
article?(in literature review) Was quoted material used to Use of Evidence
illustrate or substantiate or verify points? You may not
have much to say for this section, or you might notice that
materials listed in the bibliography or reference were not
used in the paper. (this is usually not appreciated and
looked at as unqualified writing style. )
You can either write out the author's conclusions (though
they're often a paragraph or so long), or you can
summarize where the author went with the paper. You
may refer to the thesis statement to help you phrase your Conclusion summary. (by referring to the conclusion section or the
end of the discussion section, if there is no particular
section written for conclusion section. That is, there is a
combination section of discussion and conclusion section)
This is where you might note what the points the author
has made might mean in a larger context(may be applied
or be extended to more broader scope). What might
government officials make of this paper? Who might find
it useful? Would anyone change the way they work, or
approach an issue if they read this article? What Implications difference has it made for you? You might also consider
why your instructor has asked you to read this article.
What new course-related information did it contain? Was
the article assigned because it illustrated ideas or concepts
covered in the course? Perhaps the author advanced
thinking in the discipline. What do you think?
Now that you've finished reading, consider your personal reaction to it: not only "did I like it?," "it was hard to read," or "it was boring/interesting." This, along with the work in the other steps, is the basis for a critical evaluation of
the article. Even if you don't know anything about the topic, you can make some judgments about the article and how well the author made her or his case. Evaluation is a bit harder. "Evaluating" means comparing one thing to some kind of standard, that is, other articles in the same discipline or journal as the one you've read. If you are not familiar with those other articles, it can be hard to evaluate well. However, you can do a fairly good job of it by considering the conventions of other, similar articles. Does this one fit the pattern? Does it have quality, that is, does it make up to the academic standards of writing, presentation, organization, source citation, and such?
This is where you note your personal reaction to the Personal
paper. Your comments might be one or two words, or Reaction
might be longer. Remember, too, that these notes will allow you to quickly review the article later on. You might do well to write your future self fairly detailed notes.
Did the author persuade you that the point/argument she/he was making was true, or at least convincing? Did Strength of you feel, at any time, that the author was just hoping you'd Case agree? Use this space to note how convincing you thought the article was.
Use this space to note how good this article was compared to other articles, either in the discipline/area, or in the Evaluation same journal. It is helpful to write page numbers of
relevant passages in the article.
Use this space to record your sense of the quality of the paper. In most published articles, the quality will be quite
high. Many people contribute to helping an author revise and refine a paper and what you see published is rarely Quality
what the author originally wrote. There may be some technical problems, like spelling mistakes or formatting problems that you might note.
Use this space and the ones below to record anything else you might need to know about the article either to write a summary or a review or to remember about it so you can Other
read the summary sheet instead of reading the article again before tests or exams or for referring to it in a paper.
Prepared by Amanda Graham