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When reading long or complex journal articles, take a strategic approach to manage your time, focus, and energy. 

In fact, skipping around is encouraged when reading scholarly articles.  By following the suggestions described below, you can quickly determine if the article is relevant to your research and if you should do an in-depth reading.

Strategic Reading: Journals

New student researchers might find scholarly journal articles intimidating, but do not be afraid to engage with this type of information.  Develop a strategy for reading these articles, so you can find useful information without reading a long, complex article that's of no real use to your topic.

  1. Read the ABSTRACT (summary) -   This should give you just enough information to let you know the basics of the article. From this, you will know whether you should continue reading or look for something different.  
  2. Read the INTRODUCTION and the RESULTS  - These sections will provide you with the hypothesis of the article, and what the author(s) learned through the research process.
  3. Read the DISCUSSION - This section should tell you what the authors felt was significant about their results.
  4. (If needed) Read the METHODS/MATERIALS - These sections provide the details of how the study was performed. There should be enough specifics so that you could repeat the study if you wanted. 

Strategic Reading: Scholarly Books

Books don't often have an abstract that summarizes the main points of the material, but you can learn to skim a book so you don't waste time reading information that is irrelevant to your research.

  1. Table of Contents - this will give you a general idea of what the book covers. If there is one section in particular that focuses on your topic, consider reading that section.
  2. Preface and Introduction - the preface provides key information the author believes is important to their work. The introduction sets up the author's argument and should outline the information to follow.
  3. Skim the contents - read introductory and concluding paragraphs in each chapter. 
  4. Read the relevant sections - focus primarily on the information that relates directly to your research paper.
  5. Take notes - record the page numbers of important thoughts, quotes, and details.
  6. Data - look at the charts, graphs, or other illustrations.  They might provide useful information for your research paper.
  7. Index - check the index for important people, terms, or events.

CAUTION:  This process does not work well with fiction materials.