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5 Tips for Reading Academic Research 

Date Published: 04/05/2021

Students at Mount Alvernia College across year levels and learning areas are currently engaged in tasks that require them to use academic research.  Teacher Librarians have been doing a lot of sessions with classes taking them through the process of finding academic, peer reviewed articles to support their claims.  

Here are five of our tips for what students DO and DON’T need to concentrate on when reading academic research. 


No. 1 You DO need to look for Peer reviewed articles – they are research gold.

When articles are peer reviewed this means the author has had the work scrutinised by experts in the field.  These experts critically evaluate the article and provide feedback to the author.  The author then actions the feedback before the article is published. This is one of the most widely accepted methods of quality control for academic research. 


No. 2 You DO need to read the ABSTRACT.

The abstract appears at the beginning of a scholarly article and is a summary of the key information, methods, analysis, arguments, results, and conclusions of the full paper.  

When reading the abstract, students should ask themselves, what is this study about, what are the key findings of the study and how are these related to my research question? 


No. 3 You DON’T need to read the paper in the order that it is written – after the abstract, read the DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS.

The discussion and/or conclusions are generally found at the end of the paper and explain the findings and significance of the research.  They might also make recommendations based on these findings. 

When reading the discussion/conclusion, students should ask themselves, what is the overall meaning and importance of the study, and how is this useful to my own research? 


No. 4 You DON’T need to read the entire paper every single time.

Skim reading is a skill that is very useful when conducting research. You are essentially mining the article for information that is useful to your question by reading abstracts, introductions and the first line of each paragraph.  Look for what is relevant to you and skim over the other parts. 

When you find information that is useful, it is at that point that you can take a deeper dive by reading more thoroughly, highlighting important details and taking notes. 


No. 5 You DO need to check the LITERATURE REVIEW and the REFERENCES. 

A literature review synthesis the published information relevant to a particular area of research or topic. It presents what is already known about a topic and how the topic has been studied. 

When reading the literature review, students should ask themselves, what have been the most important past findings about the topic and what main themes have emerged?  

A second question, students should consider is – are there any studies I could use for further research or as a model for designing and organizing my own study?

That’s where the Reference List comes in useful.  Go to this list to track down related research that could assist with your topic. 


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