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Articles: How to Read a Peer-Reviewed Article

A guide to finding, identifying, and using different types of articles designed and created by Clark Librarians

How to Read A Scientific Article

This infographic is from Elsevier, a scientific publisher. For a text only version, click here.

How to Read a Peer-Reviewed Article

Reading articles that are "above our heads" is one way that we learn and grow as scholars. Don't be afraid to tackle a "hard" article. You'll be surprised at what you can do! 

Here's a more introductory-level option for reading a scientific paper:

1. Take a first pass over the article

  • Read the Abstract.
  • Read the Introduction.
  • Skim the body of the paper, including the research methodology, sample sizes, statistical methods, etc. 
  • Skim the Discussion.
  • Read the Conclusion.

2. If the article looks like something you might want to use, put it aside for a day or so. 

3. Read the article again, following the steps above, but this time use your favorite methods for active reading:

  • highlight
  • make notes in the margins
  • identify important concepts
  • identify words you need to look up in other sources

4. You may need to read an article three or four (or more) times, but that's OK! The secret is to give yourself enough time to read, re-read, and absorb the information. 

5. Your instructor or a librarian are happy to help you interpret articles.

Try It Yourself

screenshot of scientific article

1. Open this article (if you are off campus you will need to sign in):

Health Impacts of Climate Change in Pacific Island Countries: A Regional Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptation Priorities

2. Choose the pdf option. 

3. Spend a few minutes reading the article, applying the principles for "Learning How to Read Scientific Article." 

4. Be prepared to discuss five things you learned, or five questions you have, from your initial look at this article. 

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