Questions to ask a Source
After you've gathered all of your research, it it time to start evaluating and analyzing the literature that you may use in your literature review. This process is what will help you determine the research that you will end up using in your literature review.
There are some questions that you can ask of each of your sources to help you understand the research and whether or not it should be included in your literature review.
- What is the basic question that the authors are trying to answer?
- What are their findings?
- Does their research contradict mine? Does it support mine?
- How does their research relate to my research question/topic?
- Do the authors mention any literature that might be useful for my literature review?
You may find that after you go through a source with these questions that you do not want to include it in your literature review. That is totally normal and expected. If you do want to use it in your literature review, make sure you take notes on what part of your literature review that source will be good for.
Parts of a Scholarly Article
You don’t have to read a scholarly article straight through…you won’t ruin the ending by skipping ahead! Strategically reading the sections will help you get a better grasp on what the article is about and will often save you time.
Not all articles will have these exact sections, but the sections mentioned above are the most common. You will find that even without all the sections, you will still be able to recognize these main parts and be able to read strategically.
The abstract is a short, usually paragraph length summary of the article. Most of the time this will give you all of the most important facts from the article (who, what, where, when, why and how). It is usually located on the first page of the article. You can also find it if you click on the “Detailed Record” of the article.
Always read the abstract first to know if the article will be relevant to your topic and to find out what the article is about.
The introduction usually discusses how the authors got interested in this research and why this research is important. This section is also sometimes called “Background.”
The introduction usually can be skimmed.
The literature review is an overview of the other research that is relevant to the author(s) research. It will discuss previous and current research and how this new research adds to, changes, and/or refutes that scholarship. The author will provide a description, summary, and evaluation of the available/relevant research.
Use this section to find other research articles or resources that you might want to read for your assignment.
The methodology, sometimes called Methods and Materials, is the how of research. In the methodology section, the authors will discuss exactly how they conducted and analyzed their research. The main purpose of including methodology is to increase the reproducibility of the research and allow readers to critically evaluate the conclusions reached by the authors.
The methodology can usually be skimmed and can sometimes be more easily understood after you’ve read the abstract, results, discussion, and conclusion.
The results section has the findings of the study/experiment/research based on the methodology. The results section should list the findings without any interpretation.
It is worth reading the results, but often it can be lists of numbers and outcomes. It may be easier to read the discussion of the results first.
The discussion section is the author(s) opportunity to interpret their results and to explain what they believe the results to mean. The discussion should help you understand how the author(s) answered their research question and what their research adds to the current understanding of this topic.
The discussion section can be one of the first sections you read, after the abstract. It will give you a context in which to better understand the methodology and results section.
The conclusion section shows the reader why the research matters and often will recommend new areas of future research.
The conclusion is usually short, so it’s worth reading through after the discussion.