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Library & Research Overview: Read and Evaluate a Scholarly Article

A guide to using the CIA Library and conducting academic research.

Guidelines for Reading and Evaluating a Scholarly Article

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, 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.

  1. Who is the Author(s)? What are their credentials and qualifications? Are they objective or biased?
  • Check if the author has an advanced degree or works at a college, university, or other academic institution.
  • 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 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.)
  • Copy down the title, author, and page numbers in case you cite the source in your final 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:


  • 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

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