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How to Read Journal Articles in the Social Sciences

How to Read Journal Articles in the Social Sciences
A Very Practical Guide for Students

Second Edition
  • Phillip C. Shon - Professor of Criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Additional resources:

Study Skills

August 2015 | 144 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
This superb guide teaches you how to read critically.  Its no-nonsense, practical approach uses a specially developed reading code to help you read articles for your research project; this simple code enables you to decipher journal articles structurally, mechanically and grammatically. 

Refreshingly free of jargon and written with you in mind, it’s packed full of interdisciplinary advice that helps you to decode and critique academic writing.  The author’s fuss free approach will improve your performance, boost your confidence and help you to:   

  • Read and better understand content
  • Take relevant effective notes
  • Manage large amounts of information in an easily identifiable and retrievable format
  • Write persuasively using formal academic language and style.

New to this edition:

  • Additional examples across a range of subjects, including education, health and sociology as well as criminology
  • Refined terminology for students in the UK, as well as around the world
  • More examples dealing specifically with journal articles.

Clear, focused and practical this handy guide is a great resource for helping you sharpen your use of journal articles and improve your academic writing skills.

‘I have used the book over the last five years with my students with great success. The book has helped students to develop their critical thinking, reading and writing skills and when it comes to writing a dissertation they have used the code sheet in their own writing.’ - Pete Allison, Head of the Graduate School of Education, University of Edinburgh

Student Success is a series of essential guides for students of all levels. From how to think critically and write great essays to boosting your employability and managing your wellbeing, the Student Success series helps you study smarter and get the best from your time at university. 

Chapter 1: The Challenges of Reading
Chapter 2: Trying to Fix Mechanical and Structural Writing Problems with Abstract Tools
Chapter 3: Should I even Read This? How to Read the Abstract, General Introduction and Methods Section
Chapter 4: So What? How to Read the General Literature Review, Psychology Introductions, and Results Sections
Chapter 5: Becoming a Part of the Scholarly Community: How to Read the Discussion and Conclusion
Chapter 6: Highlighting and Organizing the ROF, SPL, CPL, GAP, RFW and POC
Chapter 7: Will the Reading Code Organization Sheet Work on Non-social Science Texts?
Chapter 8: Concluding Remarks


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Visit the SAGE Study Skills hub for tips, resources and videos on study success!

This book gives time to the art of reading a journal. It is itself word heavy and as such it may or may not be suitable to all students learning styles.

Mrs Dawn Burnham
Early Years, Farnborough College of Technology
June 16, 2017

This is a very practical guide for students in second/third year. There are step by step practical procedures that enable students to consider the challenges initially faced when reading journal articles.

Ms Nakissa Campbell
Dept of Care and Early Years, Weston College
February 21, 2017

This book is a good practical guide for undergraduates learning to engage with journal articles.

Ms Nakissa Campbell
Dept of Care and Early Years, Weston College
July 3, 2016

The book's recommendations seem very practical and helpful to me and I hope for the students as well: I know from experience that my students don't have a guideline on how to read, which - as the author points out - is closely connected with writing abilities. Although I currently cannot ask my students in a course on data gathering and analysis to delve into a full course of reading a paper, I will use much of the books guidelines and teach the essential topics in a compact version during the course. I believe that the reading code will help the students to form an identity as a researcher in the social sciences - which entails to be text-savy and this book deals exactly with this in a hands-on way.

Mr Georg Kessler
Sociology , University of Wurzburg
July 5, 2016

This is very useful in masters programmes especialy for mature practitioners who have been out of academia for some time.

Dr Mehmet Ali Dikerdem
Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University
July 7, 2016

This is a very practical guide, indeed. The author tackles the directive issued by many professors to students—to read critically or synthesize literature. Most books in this field do not delve into these mysterious statements. Song does, and in a very helpful way. He departs from the idea that a book which teaches students how to read must be succinct, concise, and operational. He also takes into account that international students are at a disadvantage regarding English writing and a command of disciplinary jargon. To overcome these setbacks, Son developed reading codes used to navigate the reader toward a scholarly paper. In subsequent chapters, he demonstrates how to apply these codes to different sections of a journal paper, notably the introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections. This is an incredibly useful source for students at all levels of the academy, especially those from outside the western world. Although Son focuses on the reading of journal articles, his suggestions apply to other academic works as well.

Dr Ruben Gowricharn
Humanities, Tilburg University
September 30, 2015

Too light on detail and substance. Too general.

Mr Kenneth Anthony Wilkinson
Dept of Marketing, Ops & Digital Busin, Manchester Metropolitan University
February 15, 2016

This book is very detailed and useful for tutors/ lecturers who are helping students to read and write journal arcticles/ essays etc. However, we cover most of its content in a few small interactive lectures on academic writing; the students would not read the whole book.

Dr Ruth Stevenson
Graduate School of the Environment , Centre for Alternative Technology
December 3, 2015

A simple, easy to use guide for students and staff alike.

Mr Colm Treacy
School of Health Sciences, City University London
May 13, 2016

The book offers support strategies in an easy to access format.
The reading code is straightforward to follow and of value to students.
An easy to read text that makes the complex understandable.

Ms Clare Winder
Dept of Education and Social Science, University of Central Lancashire
December 9, 2015

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