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Reading like a Researcher: Steps for Skimming

Step 1: Read Strategically, Not Linearly


  2. Read the INTRODUCTIONS carefully: Note the author’s arguments, framework, organization
  3. Read the LAST CHAPTER: Note restatement of arguments, conclusions, recommendations
  4. Use the INDEX to identify RELEVANT chapters or passages
  5. Read RELEVANT parts of the book: Skim beginnings and ends of those chapters, browse the middle of each
  6. Skim the SOURCE NOTES for similar work and field experts


  1. Identify NAME of JOURNAL: Use to identify scope and parameters of article
  2. Read the TITLE and ABSTRACT of the article: Note the main argument, evidence, statement of conclusion
  3. Read the INTRODUCTION: Note framework and any citations
  4. Read the DISCUSSION and CONCLUSION sections: Note “why you should care”
  5. Browse METHODS and RESULTS: Note images, tables, charts and other data
  6. Search the WORKS CITED page for similar works and field experts

Step2: Take Notes!

  1. Develop a NOTE-TAKING system (Google Docs)
  2. Use a CITATION TOOL: Zotero, Refworks, EasyBib
  3. Be specific
  4. Note PAGE NUMBERS of exact quotes
  5. Jot down your questions and observations
  6. Note opposing viewpoints 

Step 3: Be Purposeful

Ask Yourself:

  • “What is the author trying to say?”
  • “What is motivating the exploration of this topic?”
  • “What does this research contribute?”
  • “What academic conversations is the author trying to align with?”
  • “What are the main arguments of this piece?”
  • “How does this relate to my other readings?”

Step 4: Apply Critical Perspective

A Critical Perspective traces and names flows of POWER.

  • “Who has power and who does not?”
  • “Who benefits from particular social arrangements, and whom do they marginalize?”

Critical perspectives QUESTION assumptions and values implicit in arguments.

  • “What are the values underlying this work?”
  • “What experiences and perspectives do these values privilege?”
  • “How might centering different values or experiences re-frame the argument or conversation?” 


Leckie, Gloria J. "Desperately Seeking Citations: Uncovering Faculty Assumptions about the Undergraduate Research." Journal of Academic Librarianship, vol. 22, no. 3, May 1996, p. 201. EBSCOhost.

Rose-Wiles, Lisa M. and Melissa A. Hofmann. "Still Desperately Seeking Citations: Undergraduate Research in the Age of Web-Scale Discovery." Journal of Library Administration, vol. 53, no. 2-3, Feb. 2013, pp. 147-166. EBSCOhost.

Sweeney, Miriam E. “How to Read Like a Graduate Student.” Feminist Research in Critical   Information Studies, 20 June 2012,