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How do I Read a Scholarly Journal Article?: Home

Make reading a scholarly journal article easier by reading smarter not harder.

What Order Should I Read a Scholarly Journal Article?

You may be tempted to read a scholarly journal article in order from the first page to the last page, but that isn’t very efficient. Instead, read like a scholar by reading the journal article's sections in this order:

  1. Front matter including the article title, authors, and abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Conclusion

If you are no longer interested in that journal article after reading the article’s conclusion, go find another scholarly article to review.

But, if you are still interested in that journal article after reading the article’s conclusion, then skim the following sections:

  1. Literature Review
  2. Discussion
  3. Results
  4. Methodology
  5. References 

Still interested in that scholarly journal article? Read it again—and this time, read it in whatever order you want. This helps improves your understanding of the research study's findings and impact.

Breaking Down a Scholarly Journal Article in Sections

While journal articles may look different depending on the journal that published them, most scholarly journal articles contain the following sections*:

Sections of a Scholarly Journal Article
Front Matter Introduction Literature Review Methodology Results Discussion Conclusion References

Title: Title of the article.

Author Information: Author names and sometimes credentials/affiliation information.

Abstract: Short summary of the article. This first sentence usually introduces the research topic and the last sentence summarizes the research findings. 

Provides an in depth overview of the research topic and identifies the research question or claim that this paper should answer.  Background information about the research topic that usually provides the context for the research such as how this research study fits into already published research.  Describes the methods, or how the research study was set up in such detail that someone else could replicate the research study.   The findings of the research study. This section may have charts and data tables to illustrate the study’s findings.  Highlights the major findings of the research study and identifies relevant outcomes.   Summary of the research study’s outcomes and potential impactful findings. May also indicate when further research is needed.  Citations of resources used in the journal article. 

*Note: Not all journals use the same terminology for sections, but the purpose and intent of that section is still the same. 

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Understanding Scholarly Journal Articles

Interpreting the meaning of a scholarly journal article doesn’t have to be intimidating. Even scholars are learning while reading someone else’s research!

To help you read and understand a scholarly journal article, consider using a few tricks:

  • Take notes of each section you read
  • Write down any parts you don’t understand
  • Use other texts (dictionaries, encyclopedias, even Wikipedia!) to clarify the parts you don’t understand

For example, if you stumble on a term you don’t know, look it up.