Reading Scholarly Articles: Part Two

This is part two in a series on reading scholarly articles. Read the previous entry here.

by Kristoffer Warren

Academic reading is challenging no matter what level you’re at, but it does get easier with experience. Here are four key guidelines that I have found helpful in my academic reading.

  • Take time. Reading should never have to be a race. Understanding what you read takes time and that’s ok. Actually, it’s normal. Most people need time to process information because most people are human, not robots! Read slowly, and reread confusing sections. Repetition is what our brains need in order to understand complicated or new information.
  • Do not allow yourself to become frustrated. Reading slowly and rereading can easily become bothersome. But you can’t let that get to you! One way to avoid frustration is to take a short break from reading after each major section. This will allow you to remain focused and keep you from freaking out.
  • Highlight and take notes. Highlighting doesn’t mean that the reading becomes a color coded rainbow or solid block of neon yellow when you’re done. Highlighting should be used to emphasize points that stick out to you while reading: interesting passages, confusing passages, sections relevant to the class, important definitions – anything that made you go, “Oh! Look!” while reading.

Along with highlighting, taking notes with a pen or pencil can be useful. For example, if there was a confusing sentence in the text, you can rewrite the sentence in your own words. Or if there was a large amount of scrambled information, you can summarize it for reference later.

  • Use a dictionary! When reading, there are going to be words that you don’t understand. That is totally ok, but be prepared to teach them to yourself while you read. If you have a smartphone, using google while reading is super helpful. Learning these words will help you to understand the text better, and assist you in discovering more words to use in your own writing.

Want some more tips? Karen Rosenberg co-authored the book Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing which includes “Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources”: a section that addresses the many struggles of scholarly and academic reading. Check it out by clicking on the Viking hat:


Last note: Still struggling with academic reading? Come on in to the Writing and Communication Center! We can work with you to hone the skills that you need to become the reader that you want to be. If you’d like, you can even bring difficult text in with you and we can read it together. We love that! That would be super awesome! We hope to see you here.


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