Read Journal Articles Efficiently: How To Read A Journal / Academic Article

Navigating the intricate maze of academic journal articles can feel overwhelming, with their specialised language, dense content, and often circuitous points.

Yet, there’s a science to sifting through these scholarly pieces efficiently, ensuring you grasp the essence without wading through every word.

This guide unveils tried-and-tested strategies, from the significance of the abstract to the importance of the literature review, ensuring you make the most of your reading journey.

Whether you’re a seasoned academic or a curious reader, here’s how to discern and digest scholarly content smartly and effectively. Dive in and unlock the secrets to efficiently reading peer-reviewed academic articles.

How To Read Journal Articles: Reading Strategies

Academic journal articles can be difficult to read. The need to read every word can be daunting, leading to a waste of your time. Fortunately, there are strategies for reading these peer-reviewed sources of information.

One such strategy emphasises skimming sub-headings, focusing on the title and abstract, and understanding the key ideas without reading the whole article.

The literature review section offers insights into existing research, while the conclusions highlight the study results. Annotate purposefully and think critically as you’re reading, ensuring a good understanding of the authors’ research project and the article’s main points.

Here are some of the steps you can use to read journal articles quickly, and efficiently:

1. Read the Abstract FirstProvides a quick overview of the study’s main points and implications.
2. Stop Reading if it Doesn’t Make SenseIf the early sections are unclear, consider moving on.
3. Scan Before You ReadStart with the title and abstract, then skim sub-headings and findings.
4. Always Read the Literature ReviewOffers insights into existing research and the article’s context.
5. Read The Methodology And FindingsDetails the research approach and presents the study results.

1. Read the Abstract First

Navigating academic journal articles? Start with the abstract. Located on the first page of most research papers, the abstract:

  • Provides a summary of the article’s main points
  • Offering a snapshot of the purpose of the study
  • Methodology
  • Key findings, and
  • Future research implications.

In essence, it helps you get a good understanding without reading the whole article.

Reading a scientific article can be daunting with specialised language, intricate sub-headings, and data graphs.

 However, skimming the abstract first can save you time and help decide whether the content aligns with your specific research or topic. It’s crucial when determining if you need to delve deeper into the research literature.

As you read, note the difference: there are peer-reviewed articles that undergo stringent checks by journal editors and review articles summarising existing research. 

Knowing the type of article you’re reading indicates its relevance. Always let the abstract be your initial guide when diving into scholarly journals.

2. Stop Reading the article if it Doesn’t make Sense

When diving into the complex world of academic journal articles, it’s essential to adopt smart reading strategies.

We’ve all been there: starting an article, hoping to glean valuable insights, only to find ourselves lost amid a sea of jargon and data. 

The insider tip? Stop reading. Yes, that’s right.

Consider the first page. Usually, it houses:

  • The title
  • Abstract, and
  • Introduction

If, after perusing these sections, you’re scratching your head, it might be time to move on. 

A well-constructed academic article should set its intentions clearly in the early sections. Whether you’re tackling a peer-reviewed research paper, a review article, or just skimming, the purpose of the study should be evident.

Now, a quick word about the types of journal articles. Peer-reviewed papers undergo a rigorous check by journal editors and, as many students find, they can be notoriously dense.

On the other hand, review articles distill existing research on a topic, offering a comprehensive overview.

The literature review section, in particular, is an important section that provides a summary of previous research. If that doesn’t provide clarity, the findings section might.

Of course, don’t feel pressured to read everything. Many articles are licensed under a creative commons share-alike 3.0 unported, meaning you can share and adapt them, making it even more crucial to choose articles purposefully.

Remember, your time is valuable. Let the clarity of the article’s early sections guide your reading journey.

3. Scan before you Read

While many students find these pieces dense and sometimes difficult to read, there’s a strategy insiders swear by: scan before you dive in.

Begin with the first page, where you’ll find the title and abstract. This section gives a summary, providing a glimpse into the article’s purpose and main points.

Read Journal Articles Efficiently: How To Read A Journal / Academic Article

Skim through sub-headings, graphs, and the findings section. This is your cheat sheet, letting you know if the article holds the information on the topic you’re seeking.

Remember, the goal isn’t to read everything. It’s to pinpoint the sections that advance your research project or satisfy your curiosity. So, the next time you pick up a research paper or any scholarly article, scan before you commit.

4. Always read the Literature Review

In the sprawling landscape of academic research, navigating a single research paper can be akin to deciphering a dense forest. One invaluable map? The literature review section of an article.

Imagine diving into a research paper published in a reputable academic journal. While many might be tempted to skim through or even skip certain sections, the literature review stands out as a foundational pillar, offering insights into the existing research and setting the stage for the article’s own contribution.

By reading this section, one gains an understanding of the historical and current debates, the methodologies employed, and the gaps the current study seeks to fill.

For instance, while the methodology section details how the research was conducted, and the findings section elucidates the results, the literature review contextualises these elements.

It gives readers a panoramic view of the previous research on the topic, allowing them to think critically about the presented data in light of existing knowledge.

Moreover, this section serves as a goldmine for sources of information. For those diving deep into a specific topic or embarking on a research project, the literature review can direct them to key articles, journals, and authors that are pivotal in the field.

Contrary to popular belief among many students, you don’t need to read every word of a journal article to get a good understanding of it.

By focusing on sections like the literature review, readers can:

  • Paraphrase the main points
  • Annotate key ideas
  • Decide whether to delve into more detail or stop reading altogether. 

So, the next time you’re faced with an academic article, remember: always read the literature review. It might just save you time and offer the clarity you seek.

5. Read The Methodology And Findings

Given the dense content of most academic articles, students and researchers often search for reading strategies to maximise their comprehension without reading every word. 

The answer? Zeroing in on the methodology and findings sections.

The methodology section of a journal article provides an illuminating roadmap for the research undertaken. It goes into more detail about:

  • How data was collected
  • The tools used
  • Insights into the reliability and validity of the study results. 

For instance, if you’re reading an article on social sciences research, the methodology might discuss the specific research techniques, like surveys or interviews, and the rationale behind choosing them.

The findings section, on the other hand, is the crux of the research.

Here, authors lay out the results of their experiments or studies, often accompanied by graphs and tables. It’s the segment where the research question meets its answer.

One of the juicy details not everyone knows? Editors of top-tier academic journals particularly scrutinise these sections during the peer review process.

Why? Because the methodology establishes the credibility of the research, and the findings section conveys its novelty and significance.

Read Journal Articles Efficiently: How To Read A Journal / Academic Article

For those who skim journal articles, understanding the methodology and findings can give a good understanding of the article’s main points. In fact, these sections, along with the literature review, are crucial for those wanting to think critically about the existing knowledge in the field.

So, the next time you dive into an academic journal article, remember the significance of the methodology and findings. They’re your key to unlocking the article’s essence and the next steps in the research continuum.

Wrapping Up: Its Not Hard To Read A Journal Article

In navigating the vast and intricate world of academic journal articles, it’s essential to employ strategies that optimize comprehension while conserving time.

Remember, the key isn’t to read every word but to efficiently extract pivotal information. Whether you’re:

  • Skimming the abstract to gauge relevance
  • Halting reading when clarity is lacking
  • Scanning before diving deep
  • Valuing the insights of the literature review
  • Honing in on methodology and findings

Each step offers a way to approach these dense works. As scholars and curious minds, adopting these tactics can transform our reading experiences, ensuring we grasp the essence of research without feeling overwhelmed.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.