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Research Toolkit: Quickly Read an Article or Book

 Related Guides: Quickly Evaluate an Article, Quickly Evaluate a Book


Quickly Read an Article

Selecting a peer reviewed article for your research:

  • What is the purpose of the article?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What information do you need from this article?
  • How does the article relate to your research topic?
  • What do you expect to learn from this article?
  • How does this article inform your thesis statement or research needs?

Scanning a peer reviewed article to determine the main idea:

  • Read the title and the abstract of the article to get a summary of the findings
  • Read the introduction of the article, which includes information about the research topic
  • Review graphs, charts and illustrations
  • Read the discussion section
  • Read the conclusion
  • Look over the literature review, if one is included

These parts of an article can tell you a lot about the article without reading through the entire text.

Avoid difficult articles - if you do not understand sections as you skim, then move on to an article that you do understand.


  • Use a dictionary to learn the definitions of terms in the article.
  • Look through the literature review section to find other research articles.
  • Consult the references and bibliography sections to find additional relevant resources.

Quickly Read a Book

Selecting a book for your research:

  1. Read the title
  2. Review the table of contents. Identify chapters about your research topic.
  3. Give your book a quick overview:
    • Who is the author? Is the author an expert in the field? Review the author biography at the beginning of the book or the back cover.
    • Read the preface of the book
    • Go over the summary or concluding chapter at the end of the book
    • Look for book reviews about the book - these can provide summaries, indicate its relevance to the field, or highlight any controversies about the book
  4. When reading the chapters that look relevant, make sure to understand the argument presented:
    • Review the subheadings in relevant chapters
    • Read the opening and closing portions of relevant chapters
    • What point of view is the author expressing? Can you detect any biases?
    • Is the author exploring the issue thoroughly, or is there information missing?
    • Is the evidence presented fairly in the chapter? Is there enough evidence? Does the evidence support the author's case? Could you make other arguments?
    • How does the author's point of view compare or contrast with other readings?
  5. Look through the index at the back of the book. If the book covers a broad topic, use the index to find specific information. Be aware of the following:
    • Indexes sometimes require you to look up a subject many times. Learn to use the index and the table of contents together to speed up your research.
    • Indexes sometimes place the subject out of context.