During your study or researching for your assignments, you may have to read scholarly articles. Although you, as a learner, may need to read them now and again, scholarly articles were not written with you in mind (sorry!) so if you sit down with an article and find it incomprehensible, it's not you that's at fault, it's because the article has been written using very specialised language for a very specialised readership.
The good news is that they're not beyond understanding and there are some things you can do to help get some understanding of what's going on in a scholarly article.
A typical scholarly article will have the following sections:
An article might have a separate literature review, or conclusions and recommendations might be separate, but most articles will follow the above format.
From elsewhere in this section, you should know about the argument, an opinion that supported by facts. Every article has an argument and even though the article might be full of technical jargon and not easy to read, the authors, somewhere near the start of the article, must state their argument - what they're doing and why they're doing it. The work that they present will be facts that support their argument. Once you have the argument, you have the key to understanding the article.
Having established the different parts of an article, let's look at how to approach reading articles. Here's an article - not a real one, obviously.
You can learn a lot by reading the title of the article. You should be able to immediately tell if the article might be relevant to what you're looking for
The abstract acts as a preview for the entire article and usually includes methods ("We examined several apples' color") and results ("Although most are red, some are not). By reading the Abstract first, you should get a good idea of what the article is about
A couple of questions to ask:
The introduction provides more background and context to the work carried out, while the discussion and conclusions will tell you what that the authors found out and what they draw from that. Questions to ask:
The results section provides the details of the work and is where the data generated by the work is presented. Look at any visual representations of the data - charts, tables figures etc., but if they're not easy to read, look for their explanations (sentences that mention the figure, table or graphic) Questions to ask:
Now that you have some context, go back and read the entire article. It still might not be easy to read, but you will have an idea of the article's topic and what the authors' conclusions are.
Images from Are Apples Red? taken from How to Read a Scientific Paper by Michael Fosmire, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike4.0 International License