Reading and understanding academic sources can be one of the most challenging parts of the research process. Even if you're reading popular or general sources, close reading requires critical thinking and analysis.
When you're reading, you'll want to try to understand the source on multiple levels.
This can be challenging, especially if you're trying to work on all three levels at once.
Ideally, you'll read a source three times, focusing on each element respectively in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd read-throughs. This takes time, so it is best to start your research early.
We often take for granted our ability to understand the meaning of words from context clues. Most of the time this will serve us well, but academic papers use a lot of specialized language and assume that the audience is primarily other academic experts.
How do you make sure that you understand what you are reading at the word and sentence level?
When you are reading an academic article, underline or highlight any words that you do not understand.
Stop after each paragraph and look up those words, then go back and re-read the text
Academic sources can be difficult to read. Take your time, try not to get frustrated, and open up a new tab in your browser to look up words and phrases that are unfamiliar to you
Once you have an understanding of the words, terms, and phrases being used you will have the foundation to take a closer look at the content of the article.
Here are some ways to gain a better understanding of the content:
While the first level of reading helps you understand what the author is saying, and the second helps you identify what they mean, the third level helps you analyze and contextualize the source so that you can respond to it. This overlaps with CRAAP evaluation and can give you things to SAY ABOUT your sources in your work (meaning a better and easier to write paper!)
One way tool you can use to help you consider these questions is the below table (download it using the link below). Fill out this table as you read and reflect on what you have read. Save this information for each article you read as you complete your research and use it as you write your paper.
An academic source is one written by and often reviewed closely by scholars with an academic expertise in the field they are writing and working in. These sources almost always use established ways of knowing and methodologies (research methods) that are widely accepted in the field and build upon past research and/or established knowledge in unique ways. Because of this, academic works tend to be much more specific than other types of sources.
The easiest way to tell if a source is academic is to google who wrote it and where it was published.
Peer Review in this context, means a specific process beyond editing that these sources go through. These sources are carefully read and evaluated by other academic experts in the same/a similar field. They look closely at the originality of the research question, the methods, the results or arguments, and how the author uses different types of evidence to support their claims. Most published academic works go through several rounds of review and revision before they are published.
Some signs you have an academic article:
Some signs you have an academic book: