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The Writing Guide

Planning, researching, writing, referencing and drafting your assignments

Reading smarter

Reading Smarter           

Reading points

Before you read:

  • Read over your assignment task again, to remind yourself of the point of your assignment (it's very easy to get distracted by interesting things that are OTT)
  • Ask some questions you hope the article will help answer
  • Look at the quality of the source - did this come from a peer reviewed journal?  What kinds of works have the authors cited? (Don't let the answers bias you one way or another concerning the article, just be aware of who has written it and for what audience).

As you read:

  • Find new questions.  See if the article eventually answers them.
  • Make a note of anything that catches your attention (your "aha!" or "fancy that!" moments), and make a comment in the margins.
  • Think about the things you've already read, find points where the authors agree or disagree.

After you read:

  • Reflect!  Write a sentence or two about that article. 
    • Articulate:  what were they talking about (in a nutshell), what were they "good for" and what quotes sounded particularly quotable?
  • File!  Put that article somewhere sensible, so that you will be able to find it again without too much difficulty
  • Notice any gaps in your knowledge that you still need to plug.

How to read a journal article efficiently

You will probably find far too many journal articles and book chapters to read for your assignment, and if you try to read all of them the whole way through every time, you'll start to drown in the literature.

So follow these tips for reading articles to read smarter, not harder.

Read the abstract first

The article is summarised in the abstract. If you've read the abstract, but didn't see anything that might be helpful, put that article aside and move on.

Read the introduction and conclusion next

Most of the important details will be mentioned in the introduction and conclusion. If they look promising, move to the skimming phase.

Skim the discussion, then the rest of the article

Read the first sentence of each paragraph and skim through the rest of the paragraphs to look for keywords that stand out. Then you can target the paragraphs with the most useful information to read in more depth.

Scan the reference list

One good article can lead you to another - even an "average" article might lead you do a better one. Take a look at the reference list to find more resources to follow.

What makes a journal article scholarly?

Journal coverThis video shows how to recognise a scholarly journal article, using our valuable checklist for evaluating sources.

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