Brandel Library

COMM 3450: Media and Society

Reading Scholarly Sources

Overview of reading scholarly sources

When you first start reading scholarly articles, it will feel challenging. Don't let this stop you from reading them! The secret is that you do not need to understand every single word--even your professors probably don't understand every single word. Instead, when you are reading, focus on finding answers to these four questions: 

  • What research questions is the author trying to answer? 
  • What did they do to answer the questions? 
  • What answers did they find to their questions? 
  • How do these answers fit into what other researchers have found? 

Typical Article Structure

Section What to Look for
Introduction
  • What is the main contribution this study makes to the literature on this topic (you can also look to the conclusion for this)?
  • Is this going to be relevant to your project?
Literature Review 
  • What are the major themes the author has identified in the literature as being pertinent to their topic?
  • Are there any sources cited here that could be useful for your research?
  • How does the author see their research question fitting in to the rest of this literature?
Methods
  • What is the researcher's method of answering the research question? (e.g., qualitative, quantitative)
  • What are the variables being measured/analyzed?
  • Where is the data coming from?
Results
  • Based on their analysis of the data, what answers to their research questions did the authors find?
Discussion and Conclusion
  • What is the main contribution this study makes to the literature on this topic (you can also look to the introduction for this)?
  • What are the key takeaways from this study?
  • How do the results of this study fit in with the results of other studies on this topic? 
  • What are some questions left unanswered?
References
  • Would any of the sources this article cites be useful for my project?