Strategies for Reading the Scholarly Conversation

Brief Description:

This worksheet provides an introduction to the genre of the scholarly journal article, prompting students to identify and analyze common features of these complex texts in order to read them strategically and increase comprehension. Students develop a basic understanding of a chosen article on their research topic as they locate bibliographic information, summarize the argument, and locate sections and important terminology. With an awareness of the article’s structure in mind, students finish the worksheet by exploring an example of the scholarly conversation through an in-text citation and reflecting on ways the article will be useful for their project.

Primary Learning Outcome:

  • Describe the value that information derived from various sources would bring to a research project (5.2)

Additional Learning Outcomes:

  • Evaluate why information creators have authority to speak on a subject, recognizing that authority is earned in a variety of ways (3.1)
  • Monitor gathered sources and envision what additional information and perspectives are needed (2.4)

Time Needed:

Approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete the worksheet, either in class or as homework.


  • Reading Strategies Worksheet [Word] [PDF]
  • Printable Activity Plan [Word] [PDF]

Instructor’s Notes:

  • Prior to completing this worksheet, student will need instruction and practice selecting databases and performing effective searches.
  • Students should be encouraged to spend plenty of time searching and exploring before being assigned this worksheet, so that they take time to choose an article that will be useful for their project.

More Information:

The genre of the scholarly journal article can be confusing and intimidating to students for many reasons, from the specialized vocabulary, to the publication process, to the aura of absolute authority often bestowed on these sources. If we, as instructors, think of scholarly articles as artifacts of the academic culture that produced them, we can help beginning college students decode these texts in order to learn—and perhaps critique—the norms, values, and social practices of academia. Linguist James Gee discusses the layers of difficulty inherent in the acquisition of a new discourse, such as an academic discourse in a higher education environment. He calls discourses “identity kits” requiring certain ways of acting, talking, and writing (7). According to Gee, learning a new discourse is always difficult, especially when it conflicts with a person’s existing knowledge and values, and can only truly be accomplished through apprenticeship, rather than “overt instruction” (7). This worksheet takes a small step toward that apprenticeship model by providing students with a set of strategies for identifying and analyzing key components of scholarly texts.

 Gee, James. “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction.” The Journal of Education, vol. 171, no. 1, 1989, pp. 5-17. JSTOR,

 Questions about this activity? Contact Lauren Wallis.

Creative Commons BY-NC-SAStrategies for Reading the Scholarly Conversation by Lauren Wallis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.