Reading Research Tips

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Hints for Reading an Academic Paper

  1. Read the abstract, introduction and conclusion to determine the question being asked and why that question is important.
  2. Decide whether the question is interesting or important.
  3. Make note of the important aspects of the paper (research question, method, etc.) for reference while reading the rest of the paper.
  4. Read the literature review and examine the bibliography to determine the position of the paper.
  5. Read the sample selection, method, and results sections of the paper to determine its validity:
    1. What category of study is it?
    2. If it is an experiment, what steps did the researcher take to improve external validity?
    3. If it is a quasi- or non-experiment, what steps did the researcher take to improve internal validity?
    4. Did the researcher carefully design the study to capitalize on the natural strengths of the category of study?
    5. Do the variables really capture the constructs the researcher claims they capture? Is there a more appropriate variable?
    6. What limitations does the researcher point out?
  6. After assessing validity, consider the conclusions made by the researcher.
    1. Examine the results of the primary test. Are the results consistent with the researcher's explanation?
    2. Are the stated conclusions consistent with the results? Does the narrative discussion make unjustified claims about the usefulness of the study?

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