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PSCI 361 - Political Research

How to Read an Article

Reading Strategy:

Overwhelmed at the thought of reading through a large amount of articles for your literature review? Try the following process to make reading more manageable.


Reading an Article

1. Skim the Entire Article

  • Read the abstract
  • Read the first and last sentences of each paragraph.
  • Watch out for “signposts” (e.g., “This study…,” “I will argue…,”  “Results demonstrated…,” “Future research…”)
  • Focus on specific sections (e.g., Introduction, Discussion)
  • Look for the following specifics:
    • What is the title?
    • Who are the authors and what are their credentials?
    • Are there research questions? What are they?
    • How was the study conducted (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, # participants)?
    • What are the findings?
    • What is the author’s thesis?

2. Read In-Depth

  • Highlight or underline key terms, ideas, theories, names
  • Define or identify any terms that are unknown
  • Write any questions or comments that you have in the margins
  • Mark any confusing sections to reread later
  • Understand how the findings are being interpreted (e.g., what does the author see as the implications)
  • Analyze the article, considering:
    • Evidence
    • Assumptions
    • Sources used (relevant? credible? current?)
    • Author bias

3. Respond

  • Summarize the article in your own words, addressing all main points
  • Respond by agreeing or disagreeing, interpreting, or analyzing the text

Adapted by Nancy Falciani-White from “Appendix: Detailed Description of the Four-Step Approach (pdf),” accessed from on 30 January 2015.

Image credit: "Reading" (CC BY 2.0) by Wiertz Sébastien