Tips and Tricks for Reading Academic Articles

Posted 2 months ago

Academic articles can take a LONG time to read

Academic articles can take a LONG time to read. Here are some tips and tricks to work smarter and not harder. Note: not all papers will include all of these sections. 

  • Always read the abstract first. This may seem obvious, but this will give you an overview of the paper and tell you if it is relevant to you or not. Sometimes after reading the abstract, you realise it is not the type of paper you are looking for and not worth reading the whole paper. It is also a good summary of the whole paper.
  • The introduction gives a background. This is important if you want to read around the area of interest, but if you already have a solid knowledge of this, this is only worth scanning. The end of the introduction tends to state hypotheses and rationale if there are any.
  • Methods has a lot of nitty gritty information that you may or may not need to know, such as software’s used, demographics etc, so only read all of it if you need to. Make sure you still scan this section, particularly the procedure, as it gives you more of an understanding of what happened. 
  • Results again can be a difficult read. Often you do not need to know the exact statistics, and just need to know if any significant results were found, so again scan this section if you do not need to read it thoroughly.
  • The discussion is very important to read. It tends to start with an overview of what was found (saves you reading results section!) and then goes on to explain why. Towards the end, strengths and limitations are normally listed, which is important if you are critically analysing it. 

Some papers you will need to read all of it, it depends on the importance of it. However, I hope these tips will help with reading some articles, especially if you are just trying to assess the relevance of it!