Reading Academic Articles
Academic articles are research-based or scholarly writing. The purpose of academic writing is to apply pre-existing knowledge found in the literature to reveal new findings. The process is ongoing. Writers of academic articles use first and second hand sources of information as they share new perspectives or theories.
Reading academic articles is not an easy task. Academic writing follows certain conventions that you have to become acquainted with. The most important one of these is that ideas are backed by reasoned analysis and support before they are accepted by readers in the academic community. Generally speaking, the purpose of academic writing is to demonstrate the result of a research process or inquiry. That is what the readers of academic writing expect, but find challenging.
There are 3 kinds of academic articles:
- New articles that focus on new ideas
- Review articles that discuss scholarly writing.
- Theoretical articles that share new theories
Resistance to Academic Writing
Students are required to read scholarly articles. Many find the reading challenging. However, many instructors are unaware that students need help in reading the articles. Firstly, students may lack prior knowledge on the topic. Secondly, students may find the writing too structured to follow.
Students find it hard to connect with language that is formal and impersonal. They need to learn to break things down into ideas and reflect on the process. The following list of strategies may facilitate academic reading.
1. Purpose for Reading
Write down your purpose for reading the article. Conduct a Know Want Learn (KWL) on the topic. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I know about the subject?
- What do I want to learn?
- What did I learn?
Before starting to read you need to consider why you are reading and what you are trying to learn. You will need to vary the way you read accordingly.
- If you are reading for general interest and to acquire background information for lectures you will need to read the topic widely but with not much depth.
- If you are reading for an essay you will need to focus the reading around the essay question and may need to study a small area of the subject in great depth. Jot down the essay question, make a note of any questions you have about it, and don’t get side-tracked and waste time on non-relevant issues.
2. Reading Strategies
Practice going over the text quickly as you look for specific information.
- Scanning or going over the text to find specific information
- Skimming or reading quickly to get a general idea of the overall content
Steps to Follow as you scan and skim
- Read the first paragraph throughly.
- Take notes and summarize each paragraph
- Don’t read every word.
- Read the heading and subheadings.
- Focus on the figures, tables, diagrams, and illustrations
- Read the first sentence of each paragraph
- Read the concluding paragraph
Going Beyond the Text
Academic articles open doors to reflect. Critical thinking involves the whole person. A reflective thought involves emotional, analytic, and creativity. Reflective writing allows the reader to go beyond the text. Instructors should encourage students to read and reflect. My goal is to create a learning environment that causes students to engage in critical reflection and evaluation of the existing text. I would like my students to reflect on the reading and relate to the content in a personal way.
3. Reflective Writing
Reflection allows the reader to add personal experiences and observations to scholarly articles. Reflective writing helps improve analytical skills. However, it takes practice. One way to practice reflective writing is to write about events. Once you become proficient at reflecting on events, do the same with an academic paper.
Guidelines to reflect on an event (lesson, class, course, lecture, conference session, webinar, presentation, workshop)
Give the title, date, presenter or presenters, lesson, class, course, lecture, conference session, webinar, presentation, or workshop, number or name of the event, and where the event took place (online/face-to-face).
- Describe the event very briefly.
- Did you connect with the other attendees and/or the speaker? If so, how?
- What questions came up during the event?
- How did the content relate to you as a teacher and/or learner or individual?
- What were some of the thoughts that went through your mind during the event?
- How did you feel during the event? If you felt good, what made you feel good? If you felt discomfort, what made you feel discomfort?
- What challenges might you encounter in implementing some of the ideas?
- What steps can you take to resolve the challenges?
- What would you like to do in the future as a result of what you heard, read, saw in the event?
- Write a question or 2 that you would like to research (look into) as a result of the event.