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SWP538: The literature review

Reading strategically

Reading strategically

It's not well understood that academic reading is a skill that needs to be learned. Academic reading is not like reading for pleasure or leisure. There is a structure and flow to academic reading that - once you know how to identify it - can help you learn where to target your energy so that you don't feel as though you need to read every single article you encounter from top to bottom. Particularly while in the searching phase of a literature review, you need to be able to make quick judgments about the relevance of an article. Here's how to do that. 

The structure of an academic article: 

Abstract: A structured summary of the article.

Introduction and background: Offers context and rational for the present study, including a literature review.

Methods: An explanation of the methods used to collect and analyse research data.

Results: Often presented thematically in numeric tables and charts, it contains selected results of the study in raw form.

Discussion and conclusion: Presents analysis of results, and makes clear the significance and application.

Bibliography: List of sources used throughout the present study. Useful for further reading.

Now that you know about the component parts of scholarly articles, you are prepared to scan your search results and make swift judgments about the relevance of an article to your own context. Note: this step in the process does not require you to read the entire article! You will begin by scanning the articles and follow these steps: 

Step 1. Skip to the end
Step 2. Identify research question and major findings
Step 3. Determine its relevance

Once you have decided that an article is relevant, you can prepare to read it critically for a deeper understanding, so that you can apply it to your own analysis. 

For more...

Read this helpful blog post on How to Read for Grad School / Miriam Sweeney. You don't need to be a grad student to learn some helpful tips from the post!