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Sustainable Food Systems (BPSE-351): Read & Evaluate

Course Readings and Library Resources

Reading for Writing

Reading scholarly articles is a skill. Like all skills, you can learn how to do it through practice, patience, and experience.

Scholarly Communication – Publishing papers in journals is a way that scholars “talk” to each other; how they share information with each other about their research, their ideas and discoveries.

You are now joining that conversation with your own original voice.

Remember, when anyone starts a research project, whether you are a student writing a paper for an assignment or a professor writing an article for publication, you must review what others have discovered and written about your topic.

First you READ, then you WRITE.

Guidelines for Reading a Scholarly Article

 

  1. Who is the Author(s)? What are their credentials and qualifications? Are they objective or biased?
  • Authors of journal articles are often making an argument; they are trying to convince you of something.
  • Usually, authors present new, research-based information. Sometimes, authors can be biased and only present one side of the story.
  • It is your right and responsibility to critically evaluate the information in the article. Your thoughts and judgments about articles are important; don't just accept what other authors say - question them!

 

2. How to Approach the Article

When you read journal articles, always remember that YOU are going to write a paper based on what you read.  So, do the following:

  • Keep in mind your research question (ex. "What is leadership in the hospitality industry?")
  • Focus on the information in the article that is relevant to your research question (it is okay to skim over other parts)
  • Question everything you read - not everything is 100% true or correct
  • Think critically about what you read and try to build your own argument based on it
     

3. Steps to Reading a Scholarly Research Article

Look at the structure of the article (many academic research articles use a standard format)

  • Abstract (summary of the whole article)
  • Introduction (why they did the research)
  • Materials & Methodology (how they did the research)
  • Results (what happened)
  • Discussion (what the results mean)
  • Conclusion (what they learned)
  • References (whose research they read)

- First, Read the Abstract and Conclusion (these have the main points.) 

- Then, Read the Introduction and Discussion for more detail.

If you find anything in the Abstract or Conclusion that is important for your paper, look for it in the text.
If you need more information, then read through the Methods or Results sections.

 

4. How to Take Notes on the Article

There are various ways to take notes, but this is a personal style choice.  Try different ways, but use the one that fits you best.  Below are some suggestions for note-taking:

  • Pay attention to what each section is about.  The Abstract, Discussion, and Conclusion sections usually have the most important information.
  • Take notes while you are reading (that way you don't have to go back and re-read it when you write your paper)
  • Write summarizing notes for main points
  • Highlight only very important quotes or terms

 

5. How to Reference the Article

There are two main ways to reference an article in your paper:
 

Quoting

  • Use quotations when the author’s original words are so special that you cannot reword it.
  • Usually, use quotations for definitions.
  • A good rule of thumb: 1 quotation per page maximum.
     

Paraphrasing (Summarizing)

  • Use paraphrasing to tell your reader in your own words what the author had to say, in detail or in general terms.
  • This is most commonly used in academic writing.
  • A good rule of thumb: when writing a literature review, use 2-3 paraphrases per paragraph.

If you find text that you plan to quote or paraphrase, be sure to note the page # and citation info, so you don’t have to go back and find it when you write your Works Cited or References page.

 

Guide adapted from Pasadena City College WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum)/ Health Sciences Tutoring Lab
 

Guidelines for Evaluating an Article

 

 

Purpose of Article Type of Journal Organization and Content Bias Date of Article

Bibliography

Usefulness And Relevance

Authority/Author

Coverage

Audience

 

  • Purpose of Article: Why was the article written? To:
    • persuade the reader to do something? For example: vote a certain way, purchase an item, attend an event
    • inform the reader? For example: results of a study/experiment, what happened at an event
    • prove something? For example: that a behavior is bad/good, a method works/doesn't work

 

  • Type of Journal: For college papers, information should be obtained mainly from scholarly journals.
    • Scholarly Journals contain articles describing high quality research that has been reviewed by experts in the field prior to publication.
    • Trade magazines are important for professionals and students preparing to enter an industry. For academic projects, they can be useful for industry information or economic data.
    • Popular magazines, such as TimePeople, Bon Appetit, should be used sparingly, or not at all.

 

  • Organization and Content: Is the material organized and focused? Is the argument or presentation understandable? Is this original research, a review of previous research, or an informative piece?

 

  • Bias: Some publications have an inherent bias that will impact articles printed in them. Is the journal:
    • political?
    • an alternative press?
    • sponsored by a company or an industry lobby, such as a pharmaceutical company or a marketing board?
       
  • Date of Article: Some topics, such as those in the sciences, require current information. Other subjects, such as history, value older material as well as current. Know the time needs of your topic and examine the timeliness of the article; is it:
    • up-to-date,
    • out-of-date, or
    • timeless?

 

  • Bibliography: Scholarly works always contain a bibliography of the resources that were consulted. The references in this list should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for the content. Look for:
    • if a bibliography exists
    • if the bibliography is short or long
    • if the references are original journal articles or only summaries from encyclopedias, etc.
    • if the references are contemporary to the article or much older
    • if the citation style is clear and consistent

 

  • Usefulness: Is the article relevant to the current research project? A well-researched, well-written article is not going to be helpful if it does not address the topic at hand. Ask, "is this article useful to me?" If it is a useful article, does it:
    • support an argument?
    • refute an argument?
    • give examples (survey results, primary research findings, case studies, incidents)?
    • provide "wrong" information that can be challenged or disagreed with productively?

 

  • Authority: Is the author an expert in this field? Where is s/he employed? What else has s/he written?
     
  • Coverage: Does the article cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?

 

  • Audience: For what type of reader is the author writing? This ties in with the type of journal, as popular magazine are geared to the general reader, while trade magazines are for the specialist and scholarly journals are directed at researchers, scholars or experts in the field. Is the article for:
    • general readers?
    • students (high school, college, graduate)?
    • specialists or professional?
    • researchers or scholars?

 

  • Illustrations: Are charts, graphs, maps, photographs, etc. used to illustrate concepts? Are the illustrations relevant? Are they clear and professional-looking?

 

Guide adapted from: Colorado State University Libraries How To Do Library Research / How to Evaluate Journal Articles
 


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