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How to Read an Academic Journal Article (UNH Manchester Library)


What it is

What it tells you


The title presents a concise statement of the theoretical issues investigated.

What is this article about?


One paragraph that appears before the article. It provides a summary of the article.

What is this article about?

What topic is the author studying?

What was her primary finding?


This section introduces the topic of the article and discusses what the article contributes to existing knowledge on the topic.

What does the author plan to do in the paper?

Why should we care about this problem/study?

What is the author trying to test or show?

How does she intend to contribute to the field?

Literature Review

(this may be
included in the
introduction or
after the introduction
under its own subtitle)

The purpose of a literature review is to discuss previous work on the topic, point out what questions remain, and relate the research presented in the rest of the article to the existing literature. There should also be a clear discussion of the author's research hypotheses.

What do we already know about this topic and what is left to discover?

What are some of the most important past findings on this topic?

How have these past studies led the author to do this particular study?

What are the research hypotheses?

Methods and Data

The methods section provides information about the individuals that the author studied and the way that she conducted her analysis. It includes information about the participants, the procedures, the instruments and the variables that were measured.

What data did the author use and how did she analyze them?

Who were the participants in this sample?

What makes them unique?

Is the sample a good representation of the entire population? If not, how are they different?

Is the study qualitative, quantitative, or multi-method?


The results section explains what the author found when she analyzed her data. It can be quite technical, reporting the results in detailed statistical language. Tables and figures are frequently included.

What did the author find?

Discussion and Conclusion

Articles typically end by discussing in "plain English" what the results mean and how the study contributes to existing knowledge. Here the research questions are answered and it should be clear at this point whether the hypotheses were supported. The conclusion is the final section. It relates the research back to the larger context, and suggests avenues for future research.

What does it all mean and why is it important?

What were the authors' overall findings?

Why are these findings important?

What limitations of the study do the authors identify (if any)?

What suggestions for future research do the authors make (if any)?


This section lists all of the articles and other sources cited within the article.