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LIFE Student Library Orientation: Reading Sources

Get to know the library's resources & services. We're here to help!

Reading Sources

Your professors may require a particular type of source for your projects or papers. One type you will run across frequently is scholarly articles. Scholarly articles work differently than news or popular type articles. Not all sources or source types serve the same function, and so they should be read differently. See below for examples of how to approach reading both popular/news type articles as well as scholarly journal articles.


Reading Popular and Scholarly Articles

Different Source Types

Popular articles

Popular articles are the ones you run into everywhere on the internet: CNN, ESPN, HuffPost, Refinery29, BonAppetit. They're written to inform readers on a topic. They're meant to be read front to back, with the most important information towards the front of the article, after the interesting opening written to catch a reader's eye. Written by journalists, these are written for people interested in the topic, but who probably don't have an academic interest or degree in it, i.e. the general public. They contain stories, facts, opinions, people, and dates. 

Scholarly Articles

Scholarly articles aren't ones you find everywhere. You won't recognize the names most of the journals they come from yet. They're written to educate readers. Because scholarly articles are longer and more involved, they usually have an organizational structure. Figure it out and you've got a roadmap to the article. Even before the sections of the article, start with the abstract, usually a paragraph set apart from the rest of the article at the beginning. Also, because scholarly articles build on previous research and scholarly conversations, you will see a section explaining how this is new and different and builds on previous stuff. Don't get bogged down in that section (the literature review, usually unlabled, but full of citations); come back to it once you have a handle on what's happening in the article. These articles are written by scholars, academic experts in the field they're writing about, for scholars, other experts, academics, and students. They assume you have basic knowledge of the subject area and sometimes even specialized knowledge so don't be afraid to look up words and terms you don't know. They contain experiments, theories, results, and answers to research questions.