Reading research can be a challenge. However, the tutorials and videos below can help. They explain what scholarly articles look like, how to read them, and how to evaluate them:
In some classes, your professor will expect you to use "primary research" or "empirical" articles. For tips on finding them in Penn State databases, see our cheat sheet.
The word "primary" has different meanings in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences, as this short video explains:
In the Social Sciences and Education, primary/empirical research is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief.
How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology." Ask yourself: Could I recreate this study and test these results?
Key characteristics to look for:
Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the "IMRaD" format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components: