Bachelor of Nutritional Science/Master of Dietetics; Bachelor of Human Nutrition: Reading a Scholarly Article

Scholarly journal articles

Scholarly journal articles come in various forms, including research reports, review articles and theoretical articles. They are written in formal language, using subject-specific jargon, and often include statistical analyses and discussion of definitions and theories. Reading these types of articles can be overwhelming and confusing, but this can be avoided by understanding the anatomy of the article and what type of information is found in each section. This guide describes the different types of journal articles and practical suggestions to help you read them effectively and efficiently.

You can search for journal articles on a topic via Library search or via Library databases.  A Database is a search engine for journal articles. Key databases for searching psychology literature are listed on this page.

The video below introduces scholarly and academic journals and explains the peer-review process.

Types of academic journal articles

Academic journal  articles can be of different types:

Research also know as empirical or original articles present the methods and results of an original research study conducted by the authors of the article. The data is collected in a variety of ways such as interviews, surveys, questionnaires, observations, and various other quantitative and qualitative research methods.

See the section on "Structure of an article" to see how they are typically structured.

Review articles provide a comprehensive summary of content from earlier published research on a certain topic in an attempt to explain the current state of understanding. Review articles do not report original research, but they can lead you to research articles. They usually include the word ‘review’ in the title.

Theoretical articles examine existing literature and theories, as well as proposing new ones or exploring them in a new way. 

Reading a scholarly journal article (infographic)

Taking notes from your reading

There are various ways to take notes, but this is a personal style choice. Below are some suggestions for note-taking:

  • Highlight important quotes, new terms, unfamiliar vocabulary and significant sentences. Look up the definitions of new terms and write them on the article copy
  • Write summarising notes for main points
  • Clearly record referencing information (especially the author and page numbers) about the section of text you have read in notes in case you have to refer to the text again
  • Develop a template for recording notes on articles you read or adapt the template below for use
  • For more tips, check out the Note-Taking from Readings video ( (3 min 46 sec), UNC Learning Centre.

Identifying the methodologies

Once you start reviewing the selected articles you may want to ask yourself the question of whether the research is qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods in nature. You may also question if the article is written as a form of a comprehensive literature review presenting conclusions from multiple research studies.

The information included in some sections of the journal article will assist in identifying the methodologies used in the study.

  • Read the abstract and methods sections. From this, you can confirm if the article is a qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods study
  • Look for charts, data, and other representations in the results section
  • The word "qualitative", "quantitative" or "literature review" will sometimes appear in the title, keywords or subject terms.

Key takeaways

  • Skim the pages for important content 

  • Keep in mind your research question

  • Focus on the information in the article that is relevant to your assessment questions

  • Identify the main idea of the article and summarise it in your own words in one or two sentences and include the full reference information

  • Reflect on what you have read - draw your own conclusions

  • Keep a dictionary by your side

  • Check the resources mentioned in the article as well as in the reference list as they may lead you to other useful resources.

Additional resources