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Librarian Pro Tip - Read the Article More Than Once!
Scholarly articles are complex pieces of writing. They are written by scholars, for scholars, and the authors assume that readers will have extensive background knowledge of the field. As a student, you will need to work harder than a professional sociologist to fully understand a scholarly article. This is not a bad thing. You just aren't as familiar with sociological research as a practicing sociologist because you're still in college.
Follow these steps for reading success. You should read the article 3 times.
READING 1: In your first reading, do not read the article from start to finish.
Read the title, the abstract, the introduction, sub-headings, and conclusion.
Put a question mark (?) next to any word or concept you do not understand. You will revisit these later.
Write down 1 or 2 sentences that summarize the article. This sentence should answer the question: What is this article about?
READING 2: Now that you're oriented to the article and know the basics of the author's study, your second reading will allow you to pay attention to important details you missed the first time around.
Read the beginning and end of sub-sections. Pay particular attention to topic sentences (authors make important points in the first sentences of their paragraphs).
When you come across the words/concepts you put a "?" next to during the first reading, look them up so that you know what they mean (consult your textbook, an encyclopedia, the web...)
Answer 3 questions:
1. What is the purpose of the article?
2. What are the author's main arguments?
3. What new contribution does this article make to the field of sociology? (Essentially... why does this study matter?)
READING 3: This is your final pass - review sections that still confuse you.
Take notes on the authors' arguments, evidence, and findings. (You might find it helpful to paraphrase in the margins)
Answer 1 final question: Did the authors succeed in making their argument?