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Library Research for College Students: Step-by-Step

A step-by-step in-depth start to finish guide through the research process.

Check the Filter to Find Peer-Reviewed Articles in Library Databases

EBSCO logoEBSCO Peer-Reviewed

Gale Academic OneFile LogoImage: Gale Peer-Reviewed filter

How Do I Tell if an Article is Scholarly?

Use this grid can help you decide whether or not your source is scholarly.




Detailed report of original research or experiment, lengthy report of an original application of an arts or humanities concept Secondary report or discussion may include personal narrative, opinion, anecdotes.


Author's credentials are given, usually a scholar with subject expertise. Author may or may not be named; often a professional writer; may or may not have subject expertise.


Scholars, researchers, students. General public; the interested non-specialist.


Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires prior knowledge. Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers.



Required. All quotes and facts can be verified. Rare. Scanty, if any, information about sources.


Research study, lengthy academic discussion of an arts or humanities concept, research review article Editorial, news, book/film review, letters, highlights

How to Read Scholarly Articles Step-by-Step

Scholarly articles don't have to be read word for word

  • skim or scan for information you can use. Scholarly article icon
  • take notes as you read
  • check out the tips below

1. Read the abstract first -  it tells you what the article is about and helps you decide if it makes sense for your assignment

2. Next, read the introduction and discussion/conclusion - covers the main argument, hypothesis/ purpose of the article; take notes about how you can use the information

3. Read about the Methods or Methodology.  (Skimming is okay.) - jot down the type of research the authors used - survey? study? etc  AND if the research is qualitative (describes something) or quantitative (measures something) 

4. Read the results and analysis (may be called "conclusion" or "discussion")

  • some things to jot down...
    • what the authors or researchers learned and note-taking icon
    • whether the results are factual and unbiased
    • how the analysis relates to  the data 
    • what conclusions YOU gathered from the data

5. Skim the author's References or Works Cited List 

  • it should include all of the materials the authors used in the article

If you prefer, check out the short video below about what to look for in a scholarly article.

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