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POLI 346: Seminar on the U.S. Courts and Legal System

Strategies for Reading Scholarly Articles & Books


From: Fine, G.A & Fitzsimmons, S.K. (2011, January 30). Learning to Read, Again. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Edwards, P. N. (2000). How to read a book. Ann Arbor1001, 48109-1107.

Quick Tips

Jump Around
​It's okay to skip around in a scholarly article. Start by skimming the abstract, introduction, conclusion, and look at images or data representations. If the article looks to be useful for your purposes, read it from the beginning to end. 

Keep It Strategic
While you are reading, reflect on how the article relates to what you want to write about or research. ​​ 

Mark It Up
​​Take notes. Interact with the article. How do the ideas or information presented relate to what you want to write about?

Cut through the Jargon
Unfamiliar technical terms? Google or use a specialized dictionary to find definitions. 

If the article is relevant after you've read through it, consider reading it again. 

Find the Source 
​References can be a very useful resource. Be sure to skim the titles in the References section. You could find another scholarly article you want to read. 

Adapted from:

Not all articles will use these exact subheadings, however these questions can still be used to focus your reading.

Article Section Key Questions
  • What is the objective of the study or article?
  • What results or conclusions are presented in the abstract?
  • What issues does the author seem to be concerned about?
  • What is the gap in previous research that the authors are addressing with this study?
  • Does the author(s) introduce theory?
  • How does the author test their hypothesis or conduct their analysis?
  • What data or evidence was collected? How is it used?
  • What were the major findings or conclusions of the article?
  • Are the main findings expected?
  • Does the article meet its objectives?
  • Does the author address the problems or limitations of their research methods?
  • What does the author suggest as future research?

Reading Social Science Research Articles. From OSU Libraries (3:16)


Fantastic advice and compiled resources from Dr. Miriam Posner (UCLA) 

Reading scholarly books and articles – introduction to digital humanities. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2024, from

As I’m sure you know, reading a scholarly book or article isn’t really the same as reading for pleasure. If you’re frustrated, you’re not alone! This kind of reading is actually a skill, and like any skill, it has to be learned and practiced.

When you read for research, you’ll skip around a lot, skim, and hunt for arguments. Sometimes this process of reading for the argument is called “gutting” a book.

Presentation Slides: They are mostly a distillation of the very helpful articles that appear below.

Paul Edwards, “How to Read a Book”
A much-loved short guide to reading an academic book or article.

Shannon Mattern, “Reading Effectively”
Some really great advice on getting through difficult texts, even in the face of frustration and confusion.


Pain, E. (2016) How to (Seriously) read a scientific paper. Science Magazine.     

Many of you have come to us asking for more (and more serious) advice on how to make sense of the scientific literature, so we've asked a dozen scientists at different career stages and in a broad range of fields to tell us how they do it.

Although it is clear that reading scientific papers becomes easier with experience, the stumbling blocks are real, and it is up to each scientist to identify and apply the techniques that work best for them. The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

How to Use a Source

The BEAM model provides a framework for identifying how you might use a source in your own research. 

BEAM model details: Background to present information and establish facts; Exhibit to explicate, interpret, analyze; Argument to affirm, dispute, refine, extend; and Method to provide a critical lens, key terms, theory, style, perspective and discourse