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Writing Guide: Reading Smarter

This guide covers: understanding the essay question; searching databases and organising research; the writing process: critical thinking and note-taking; referencing and citing in text, and using academic language.

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.

What makes a journal article scholarly?

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

Reading Smarter Strategies

How to Read a Journal Article Efficiently


  • Read the abstract, introduction and conclusions first
  • Use skimming and scanning techniques to find relevant information (inc. keywords)
  • Use the reference list to help you find other relevant sources

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