Research articles use a standard format to clearly communicate information about an experiment. A research article usually has seven major sections: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, and References. Sometimes there are minor variations, such as a combined Results and Discussion section, or an overall General Discussion section in which multiple experiments are presented in one article.
Reading the Article
Allow enough time. Allot at least half the time that you spend on this assignment to reading and understanding the article. Before you can write about the research, you have to understand it. This takes more time than most students realize. Does the author's study make sense to you in lay terms (could you explain the study to your roommate)? When you can clearly explain the study in your own words, then you are ready to write about it. Here's how to proceed.
Scan the article first. If you try to read a new article from start to finish, you'll get bogged down in detail. Instead, use your knowledge of APA format to find the main points. Briefly look at each section to identify:
the research question and reason for the study (stated in the Introduction)
the hypothesis or hypotheses tested (Introduction)
how the hypothesis was tested (Method)
the findings (Results, including tables and figures)
how the findings were interpreted (Discussion)
Underline key sentences or write the key point (e.g., hypothesis, design) of each paragraph in the margin. Although the abstract can help you to identify the main points, you cannot rely on it exclusively, because it contains highly condensed information.
Read for depth, read interactively. After you have highlighted the main points, read each section several times. As you read, ask yourself these questions:
How does the design of the study address the question posed?
What are the controls for each experiment?
How convincing are the results? Are any of the results surprising?
What does this study contribute toward answering the original question?
What aspects of the original question remain unanswered?
Plagiarism. Plagiarism is always a risk when summarizing someone else’s work. To avoid it:
Take notes in your own words. Avoid writing complete sentences when note-taking.
Summarize points in your own words. If you find yourself sticking closely to the original language and making only minor changes to the wording, then you probably don't understand the study (see our handout, "Plagiarism and Student Writing").
Copyright 2010, University of Washington, Psychology Writing Center