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Library Research Basics: Read

This guide will help you to use the library's resources for your research. Learn to find books and articles, evaluate resources, use specific databases, choose a topic, etc. Access documentation and video tutorials to help with the research process

Read What You've Gathered

Now that you have gathered sources for your paper, it's time to start reading what you've found. Here are a few tips that may be helpful.

Read with a Purpose

  • Read to develop your knowledge and understanding about a topic.
  • Is the scholarly conversation gravitating in a specific direction?  What are the predominant facts and theories on the topic?
  • Be sure to have information from a variety of viewpoints.
  • Read from a variety of sources - Books, articles, newspapers, reports, primary sources, data sets. etc
  • Make decisions regarding what is and isn't useful to your arguement.  Stay focused on your topic.  Leave out material that does not relate well to what you are trying to express.

Take Notes

  • Be sure to paraphrase rather than copy word-for-word, unless you expect to quote the author directly. This will help you to avoid plagiariaing someone elses work.
  • Record the citation information right away in order to save time backtracking to re-find the source later.
  • Leave plenty of space to jot down your own thoughts regarding the information you have read.

Develop an Outline

Think about the structure of your research paper, including any subtopics you will be addressing.  If you are required to follow a specific format, be sure to include all the components.  Will you need an abstract or a literature review, for instance?

Other Resources

OWL at Purdue Why and how to create a useful outline.

Creating an Outline for a Research Paper video by Heather Zink, online instructor at Rasmussen College.

How to Read a Scholarly Article video from Western University Libraries

Developing a Thesis Statement from the Writer's Handbook at the University of Wisconsin Madison Writing Center

Creating a Good Thesis Statement video from The Center for Academic Achievement at East Tennessee State University.

How to Read a Scholarly Science and Technology Article PowerPoint tutorial by Lloyd Wedes, MLS, Library Director, Devry University, Houston Metro

Create/Revise a Thesis Statement

The Thesis Statement:

  1. Should be specific and only cover what will be discussed in the paper, supported by evidence
  2. Usually appears at the end of the first or second paragraph of a paper
  3. May need to be revised as the topic changes

A Strong Thesis Statement:

  1. Takes a stand based on readings and your understanding of a topic
  2. Shows that the topic is controversial, but makes an arguement based on evidence
  3. Focuses on one main idea
  4. Tells the reader exactly what the paper will be about

Three Parts to a Thesis Statement:

  1. Topic - what will this paper be about
  2. Claim - what is my main argument
  3. Reasoning - how will I prove my argument

Evolution of a thesis statement:

You might begin with a statement that is too broad and does not make a claim, like the fragment below -

Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.

The statement below is better, as it expresses a claim, but it continues to be vague.  The reader does not have a clear idea of what the paper will be about.

More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.

The next statement can not be considered a thesis statement, as it merely reports a statistic without making a claim.

Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.

Of the four statements, the one below is the better thesis statement, as it provides the reader with a clear and specific topic, states the writer's assertion, and supports the claim with evidence

Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.


How to Read a Scholarly Article

Understand the Author

Is the author an expert in this area of study?  Is the article writen in a neutral tone, without evidence of bias?  Is the author's motivation for writing this article one of sharing new information with others in the field?  If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may have reason to be sceptical of the author's claims.   

What is the author contributing to the scholarship? Scholars conduct research and write up their research in scholarly journals in order to advance their profession.  Scholarly articles contribute something original, correct past misunderstandings, include a new variable or apply a theory in a new way.  Pinpoint the author's claim.  Be sure this claim works within the context of your paper.  

Read Selectively from the article

Most scientific articles follow this structure:

  • Begin by reading the abstract and conclusion thoroughly.  These sections contain the main points and will help you understand the gist of the article. 
  • If the article appears appropriate for you research, scan the rest of the paper for content that applies to your research
  • If you need more information, then read the whole article more closely.
  • Scan the references for further readings that may help with your research