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Using Academic Sources

This is a companion guide to "Finding Academic Sources". Its goal is to make student researchers more comfortable with using scholarly material in their own research.

Scanning Scholarly Articles

Often it can be efficient to browse through or scan an article to get a sense of the analysis or research described.  In scanning, you'll want to read the Abstract and also the introductory first section of the article, which usually explains the basis for a study or critical analysis.  This introductory section often defines terms and reviews previous research or scholarship relevant to this article's concerns.  It can be helpful to then skip to the last section of the article to get a sense of the conclusions drawn from the study or analysis.  As with all sources, keep in mind that an academic article considering only one aspect of your topic can still be helpful to your own research. You'll want to draw information from a range of sources with different perspectives on your topic.

Depending on the information you need and your own research purposes, you may also want to glance at the Methodology section to see the scope of who or what was studied and how exactly. In the sciences and social sciences, what key factors were the researchers trying to measure?  Did the researcher work with a large population, a random sample, a targeted group?   In the humanities, did the scholar use particular texts or art works and apply specific critical theories in their analysis?

Particularly in the sciences and social sciences, research articles are helpfully organized into predictable sections, though these sections are not always labeled the same way.  Explore the linked Anatomy of a Scholarly Article below, noting each separately highlighted section.

Anatomy of a Research Article

Activity

Consider the value of a couple of sections of a scholarly article and when you might use them. Name 2 or 3 sections of an academic article and describe how they could be useful to you as a researcher.