COMM 3100: Foundations of Media Industries

How to Read a Scholarly Article

Typical Article Structure in the Social Sciences

Scholarly journal articles in the social sciences typically follow a standardized format. This chart outlines that format and provides questions to guide your reading of scholarly articles. For a more thorough introduction to reading strategies for scholarly articles, try this tutorial from the Hunter College library.

Section What to Look for
  • What is the main question or topic this article addresses?
  • Is this going to be relevant to your project?

Literature Review 

This is a survey of what other researchers have written about the topic. It is sometimes combined with the introduction. 


  • 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?


  • 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?
  • Based on their analysis of the data, what answers to their research questions did the authors find?


  • 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 is the main contribution this study makes to the literature on this topic (you can also look to the introduction for this)?
  • What are some questions left unanswered?
  • What other sources that this article cites could be useful to you?