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Information Literacy Modules

Scholarly Articles


Scholarly Article 

New to college-level research? Don’t know what scholarly articles are or how to read them? Don’t fret! This module will help you identify common characteristics of scholarly articles and give you tips on how to read them.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this module, you will be able to: 

  • List the standard format of empirical scholarly articles. 
  • Effectively and efficiently read scholarly articles for maximum comprehension.

Format of an Empirical Scholarly Article

An empirical scholarly article is where authors completes their own study. The purpose of an empirical scholarly article is to share research results with other members of the scholarly community. 


Titles of scholarly articles are descriptive and specific. 

Authors and Credentials

Authors' credentials will always be listed, as well as where they work (institutional affiliation) and sometimes contact information. 


All scholarly articles should contain an abstract under the title and authors' name, before the actual article begins. This typically consists of a one-paragraph summary of the article. The purpose of an abstract is to help the reader determine if they want to spend the time and effort reading the entire scholarly article, since scholarly articles tend to be lengthy. The abstract will summarize the article’s purpose, significant results, and implications of the study. NOTE: Never quote from the abstract!


The first part of the actual article is the introduction in which the authors state the topic of the article and the article’s purpose.

Literature Review

This section discusses the literature that has already been written about the topic. The authors will list all the important studies that have already been done pertaining to the topic. In this section, there will be many in-text citations where the authors reference other sources. 


In this section of the article, the research methods used in the study are provided, including enough details so that another researcher would be able to replicate the study. Information on who the participants were, how they were recruited, and what was done are included. The methods section oftentimes includes sub-sections. 


The results section is where the authors provide the results of the study, which typically consists of statistical analysis. Many times, this section includes graphs, tables, or charts. This is the one section of the scholarly article that you can skim over, especially if you don’t understand the statistics presented in the study. 

Discussion & Conclusion

If you don’t understand the statistical analysis discussed in the results section, don’t fret! The discussion section of a scholarly article will discuss the statistical analysis in layman’s terms. Also in this section will be a discussion of the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the study; the study’s implications; as well as questions for future research. 


An appendix gives additional information and typically includes information that is too detailed to include in the body of the paper, such as a scale, test measurement, or raw data. The authors will include this information in an appendix so that the body of the paper can remain focused.  

Bibliography/Works Cited/References 

The last section of a scholarly article is the bibliography section, in which the authors will list all the sources referenced in the article. The authors will list the most pertinent sources related to the topic, so don’t skip over this section! If you don’t know how to find the sources listed in the bibliography, ask a librarian! 

How to Read a Scholarly Article

You don’t have to read a scholarly article in chronological order the first time you are reviewing it. First, read the abstract. Then, jump to the discussion and conclusion section. Next, read the introduction and literature review. Finally, read the entire article from start to finish. Take notes as you go, and make sure it is clear in your notes when you are quoting the article. (Write down the authors' names and page number for any direct quotes, in order to avoid plagiarism.) It’s best to read the article twice to make sure you understand it fully.  

Ask yourself these questions as you’re reading: 

  • What is the purpose of the article? 
  • What is already known about the topic? 
  • What are the research questions? 
  • How does this article contribute to the field? 
  • What unanswered questions do you have after reading the article? 


Maybee, C., Carlson, J., Slebodnik, M., & Chapman, B. (2015). “It's in the syllabus”: Identifying information literacy and data information literacy opportunities using a grounded theory approach. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(4), 369–376.


Creative Commons License

All of the PALNI Information Literacy Modules are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.