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CYSG110 Research Guide

Initial scan

The steps in the process of scanning an academic article for relevance: 

Step 1. Skip to the end
  • You won’t spoil the ending! Reading the conclusion is your best bet for making a quick determination of the relevance to your topic.

Step 2. Identify research question and major findings
  • The research question will almost always be stated just prior to the Methods section, and can also be found within the abstract and/or conclusion.

Step 3. Determine its relevance
  • Is it relevant to your context? Does it discuss themes that you have already identified in other studies? Does it introduce new themes not previously considered?

    • If yes, include for appraisal

    • If no, discard and find others (if necessary)

    • If maybe, review the abstract and conclusion again, perhaps keep in a “maybe” folder and evaluate again once you have completed your review

Asking critical questions

Now that you have scanned your search results and have amassed those that are relevant to your context and needs, you can settle in to do what we call critical reading. This is where you must plan to read the entire article thoroughly.

Critical Questions to Ask When Reading

Critical reading encourages the reader to think about how an article or argument is constructed, not just what it says or what the study found. Here are some questions to ask yourself when reading:

  1. What are the central ideas or arguments in the paper?
  2. Are there words, concepts or research methods used that you don’t understand? If so, ensure you follow up with quality resources to ensure comprehension and extend your learning.
  3. What is the context for the argument? Have they made explicit connections to existing literature, and located their work within that context?
  4. Is their literature review clearly outlined and presented in an inclusive manner? Are there any obvious exclusions? If so, are they accounted for?
  5. Who is the author? Who are they writing for? Have they located themselves and their positionality to the topic at hand? Are there any declared (or perceived) conflicts of interest?
  6. What evidence is given to support the conclusions?
  7. Is the evidence credible, that is, does it come from reliable sources?
  8. Is the logic of the argument sound? What are the steps in the argument that leads from the evidence to the conclusion?
  9. Are any of their ideas problematic? Are there other lenses that could be used to frame the argument?