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BIOLH 1407: Hulett: Reading a Scholarly Article

From Idea to Library

Scientific scholarship is an ongoing conversation that scientists conduct with one another in the form of original research. Scientific researchers formulate a question in their area of interest, then conduct an extensive literature review to examine how other scientists have examined the same question from different perspectives. Based on what the scientist learns through this review process, s/he designs a study to add to the conversation, or reveal something new about the topic by way of the scientific method. 

What Does Peer-Reviewed Mean?

Peer reviewed materials are publications reviewed by "experts in the field" or referees prior to the publication of the material. After reading and evaluating the material, the referee informs the publisher if the document should be published or if any changes should be made prior to publication. Peer reviewed materials are also referred to as Refereed. Peer reviewed materials are significant to the research and the literature of most academic fields because they assure readers that the information conveyed is reliable and timely.

Non-refereed materials such as trade journals or magazines use less rigorous standards of screening prior to publication. In some publications, each article may be only screened by the publication's editor. While knowledgeable, no editor can be an authority on all the subject matter printed in a journal. 

The term "scholarly materials" is often used to describe refereed materials, but this term is not exclusive to refereed material. Non-refereed materials may not by scrutinized as intensely as refereed materials, but they can still be considered scholarly. Also, trade journals and magazines can be valuable sources of information in their own right, depending on what you are looking for.

Adapted from https://guides.library.nymc.edu/peer-review

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Things to Consider When Reading a Scholarly Article

Consider the following points when reading a scholarly article:

  1. Know your research question or argument. Though your question/argument may change or evolve as you delve deeper into the research process, you will want to have a solid idea of your research focus.
  2. You don't have to read the entire article in order. Start with the abstract which will give you a general summary of the article. If the abstract seems relevant then move to the conclusion or discussion section of the article to gain a better understanding of the article's main claims. At this point if the article does not seem relevant or useful then discard it. However, if the article does seem useful then spend as much time as necessary reading the article.
  3. Read critically. What is the author's argument? You will need to use your judgment when evaluating each source of information. Further research may be necessary if you find the author to be biased or you do not believe the validity of their argument. 
  4. Read the reference section. Reading the references or works cited may lead you to other useful resources. You might also get a better understanding of the major players in the area you are researching. 
  5. Take notes. How you do this is up to you. Make sure you keep your research question and argument in mind so you can be more efficient when taking notes. 

Adapted from https://libguides.csuchico.edu/c.php?g=462359&p=3163509

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