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A subject guide for anthropology, including archaeology, primatology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology

Scholarly Works

Sometimes approaching a large academic monograph or scholarly article can be intimidating, especially if you have a large amount of resources to review. Here are some tips on approaching books and articles for your research projects. 

Approaching a Book

  • Read the table of contents, introduction, and conclusion  
  • Search the index for your keywords and jump to those sections
  • Go back and read whole chapters or sections to get the fuller context
  • Explore the bibliography and follow the citations

Reading Scholarly Articles

When first encountering scholarly material, consider skimming the following sections of the work in the order listed below to efficiently grasp the content of the work and evaluate how the material relates to your research needs:

  1. Abstract - The abstract provides a summary of the material, and reading it first will give you an immediate indication as to whether the material and its findings are relevant to your research.
  2. Discussion/Conclusion - Look to the authors closing thoughts and how they are contextualizing them to see how the work's findings align with your argument.
  3. Introduction - The introduction details the research questions the material aims to explore and grounds the material in a field of inquiry. Establishing that information will clarify how the material is conversing with other works in the field and help you further decide whether the material is pertinent to your research interests.
  4. Methods/Results/Analysis - Look to these sections when you have deemed the work relevant to your research and when you are ready to closely analyze and evaluate the material.

This brief article includes information on how to determine your purpose for reading and devise a reading strategy that suits your purposes. "How to Read (and Understand) a Social Science Journal Article" by Frederique Laubepin is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution - 2.0 Generic License.

Evaluating Your Sources

What gives someone authority?  Not all sources have the same weight or authority, so think critically about the sources you use for your project.  Ask yourself questions like the ones below, and do a little investigating. 

  • What are the author's academic credentials?
  • Is the author affiliated with a university or a research institute?
  • What is the author's context or bias?
  • Who is the publisher?
  • Is it a reputable journal?
  • How current is the source?  When was it published?
  • Does this source provide references to support it's claims?
  • Are the author's arguments clearly communicated and organized?
  • What new information does this contribute to the field?
  • Has this source been cited by others? 
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