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Reading effectively an academic article

May28

Here are some tips for reading effectively an academic article

• From the start, you need to know quickly if the article is really of interest to you and worth reading. Analyze the title, abstract and then the first part of the introduction and its structure. Immediately decide whether you should stop or keep on reading this article;

• Pay attention if possible to the identity of the author(s) and their affiliations. This can help you put the article in its context;

• Take some time to understand and put in context the title and keywords (under the abstract) chosen by the author(s);

• Read carefully the abstract to understand the motivation, objectives, methods and results proposed by the author(s). These elements should in principle act as a map for reading the rest of the article;

• Take a quick look at the structure of the whole article, its layout, organization, illustrations, figures, tables and number of pages. It gives you a sense, a first idea of how serious this article is;

• If your general impression is favorable so far, read the introduction of the article. As its name suggests, it should introduce you, set the stage, bring you into the context of the research and end up with a brief description of the structure of the article section by section;

• According to the structure announced in the abstract and described in the introduction, read the sections of the article.
Pay attention to :
o style of writing and relations between sections;
o validity of methods and partial results;
o relevance of figures, tables and illustrations;
o relation of ideas with known results in the field;
o originality of ideas proposed;
o references list and their citations in the text;

• Typically, an article contains sections that described the context (background), literature review, a methodology, discussions, perspectives and a conclusion. Each section serves a particular well known purpose;
• For example, an author often leaves doors open to further investigations on aspects of the topic in the perspectives or conclusion section.;

• The approach, methodology and claims in the article should be backed up by substantial results and a sound demonstration. Are you convinced that the author(s) achieved the objectives announced in the title and exposed in the abstract?

• If you need more information not explicitly available in the article, you may want to contact directly the author(s) of the article;

• Keep in mind that you need not read and understand an interesting article of several pages in a single day. Good things always take time.

More resources about reading and writing articles are available on the Academic Joy Web site.

Have a nice reading.

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