How to Read a Journal Article – Transcript
(Andy Ross) Hi guys. Welcome to this short video about How to Read an Academic Journal Article, which
is an important skill in university study and one that you’ll need to do numerous
times during your studies. So, what this video will do is answer these three questions. First of all, what is a journal
article? What is a typical structure of an academic journal article? And what are some
basic strategies for reading a journal article? So, first of all, what is a scholarly journal article?
First of all, an academic journal article should present original research which is
current and relevant in the field. It is generally discipline-specific which
means there are journal article specific to the field of nursing, the field of education,
the field of accounting, the field of tourism and so on.
Academic journal articles are also peer-reviewed which means before they are published the
article is reviewed by two or three other experts in the field and they determine whether
the research is relevant, important enough and whether the article is written in the
appropriate academic style. Journal articles always follow academic writing
conventions which includes academic language and referencing.
And also, to read a journal article effectively the reader generally needs some kind of background
knowledge in that area. For example, if I were to go and read a journal article from
the field of dentistry, if I’ve never done any study about dentistry before it would
be very hard for me to understand what that article is about. Most journal article have a typical structure.
They vary in some ways depending on the type of journal that you read or journal article
that you read, but a typical structure is this one presented here.
First of all the Abstract is at the beginning which gives a summary of the overall article.
The Introduction gives a general introduction of course.
A Literature Review will summarise previous relevant research and identify a research
‘gap’. The Method shows how the research was conducted.
The Results, significant findings. The Discussion, and interpretation of those
findings in relation to data and literature. A Conclusion, which will generally summarise
main findings, present some implications and limitations as well as future research directions.
Then there’s the references. Now to read an academic journal article there are some general strategies that we can advise.
So, if you want to know the general picture of the whole article, you should read the
Abstract or skim the sub-headings if there are some in the article.
If you want to know some background on the topic, read the Introduction.
If you want to know the rationale for the study or any previous related research, the
Literature Review is the part that you could read.
If you want to know how the research was conducted, go to the Method.
If you want to know the main findings, go to the Results.
If you want to know the significance of those findings, go to the Discussion.
For future research possibilities, or of you want to know limitations in the research – the And the reference list of course at the end
will give the details of all the research that was cited.
So these are some general strategies but on top of these you can also … you should also
keep in mind that with a journal article it’s not always necessary to read every section.
You might just be looking at different journal articles to see how the research was conducted
in each of those studies. In that case, the most important part for you is the Method.
So, keep in mind what your purpose in reading the article is as that will guide the way
that you read it and the strategies that you can use.
And finally, unlike most other things that we read, it’s not always necessary to read
a journal article in order. Often we read the abstract first, then we might want to
know immediately what the results of the study were, so we would go to the Results and if
they want to know what they mean we go to the discussion.
So, your purpose in reading will determine the strategy you use and the order in which
you read the article. Now, we’re going to have a look at an example
article now to see some of these strategies in practice. Example article
So keeping in mind the strategies just outlined, let’s look at an example of a journal article.
This one’s called ‘Why Restaurants Fail? The Relationship between Restaurant Failures
and Demographic Factors’. This article roughly follows a typical structure
as we just outlined, but not exactly in terms of the headings but this is something you’ll
often find. There’s not always an exact match in headings, but the general structure
remains the same. For example, there’s no specific Introduction
section, but you can clearly see some language used in the first paragraph that indicates
it is an Introduction as it shows the purpose of the study and it talks about ‘this study
will build on’, ‘our purpose was to study’, and so on. This type of language gives us
an idea that it is actually an Introduction to the article.
There’s also, here, not a separate Literature Review heading, but we can begin to see that
previous relevant literature is being discussed. Examples of this can be seen in the highlighted
sections here – ‘Crutzen (2008) distinguished a small business’ and ‘Similar to Peterson,
Albaum, and Kozmetsky’s (1986) consumers’. These are examples of previous literature
being reviewed. Now, if we move on, you can note some sub-headings
and these guide your reading when they appear in an article and will help you see the different
areas in which literature is being reviewed. Now, the Literature Review will generally
help identify a ‘gap’ in the research, and this will be the guide of the current
study and it is usually identified in research questions and here you can see eight research
questions highlighted. Often these appear as part of the Method section
but in other cases they can appear, like in this case, at the end of the Literature Review.
So, just highlighting again that not every journal article is the same, but they sort
of stick to a typical general structure and this one does that as well.
So, there’s the research questions. Then, we see the Method which is where we learn
how the research was conducted. You can see the highlighted sections here point out details
about the data and participants and as you can see ‘our data were obtained from two
sources’, ‘with a relatively small population’, so that’s about participants, and then at
the end of that section ‘the categorical data were recoded and analyzed using SAS software’.
So this is the kind of information that you would generally see in a Method section.
The Results section is next, and this is often separate from the Discussion section but,
again, not always and in this case the Results and Discussion can be seen as being presented
together. You can see the Results are presented in tables,
and the highlighted sections … the highlighted sections show the language often used in introducing
different results using words such as ‘found’, ‘revealed’, ‘an explanation’, ‘indicated’,
and so on. Now, then we come to the Conclusion. So, I’m
just skipping through quickly that part of the Results and Discussion because it’s
quite long but the highlighted parts will give you the idea. Then we come to the Conclusion,
and you can see that the first part of this Conclusion kind of summarises what has been
done in the article. Then, some of the limitations of the study
are pointed out, and finally some suggestions for future research directions are pointed
out as well. Now, of course in all academic or all scholarly
journal articles the reference list is the last part, so you can see that there. All
journals will have different referencing styles not only APA and Harvard but other styles
as well. And that is basically a brief overview of
how to approach reading an academic journal article in your study, which you will have
to do a lot of. So, if you have any further questions about
any of these strategies or if you have an article you are struggling reading, please
don’t hesitate to make an appointment with Academic Skills and we’d be happy to help
you out with that. But in the meantime, good luck with your reading
and good luck with your studies.