• Kelly Knight

5 Tips for Reading Research Articles

Updated: Jul 20


Have you ever reached the end of reading a research article and had no idea what you just read? Yeah, same here.



There is an art to reading the copious amount of research articles that is required of us in academia. Since January, I’ve probably read hundreds of pages of articles.


Switching from studying chemistry, biology, and forensic science to now being in a PhD in Science Education Research program means lots of new “language” for me so reading some of the research has been tough. The way I combat my difficulties with reading research articles is by using ACTIVE reading vs. passive reading. As an active reader, I engage with the text instead of just simply reading it. This leads to a greater level of comprehension. Here are some active reading techniques that work for me:


Active Reading Techniques

1. Outline the article by actively taking handwritten notes or typed notes as you read.
2. Be sure to stop and look up the definition of any word or term in the article you don’t understand. Write the definition in the margin or in your notes. How can you understand the article if you don’t understand the words? This will also increase your vocabulary.
3. Highlight important points and jot notes in the margin to remind you why you highlighted it. I have always been an infamous highlighter lol. You would open my books and see tons of highlighting but I wouldn’t remember why it was highlighted which made it pointless.
4. Use post-it notes to jot down your thoughts and small summaries as you go along or write it in your notes. This has been increasingly important for me in my PhD class which is always an open-ended discussion about the literature we’ve read. I like to make notes as I’m reading so I can easily recall my thoughts so when the professor asks us about the reading, instead of scouring my notes and trying to make sense of my highlighting I can just refer to my post-it.
5. At a minimum identify the important points like the research questions and/or purpose, methodology, sample types, data analysis, and the key findings.

Put any other tips you have in the comments!

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