Reading Guide for Students

Reading Sociology Journal Articles

Reading sociological texts can at first seem a little overwhelming, however, this guide is meant to provide some helpful tips on how to master this skill. As a sociology student, one of the main skills you will be expected to learn will be how to read and understand sociological texts.

With practice, you will be able to become proficient in this skill. Below are some tips on how to read and understand sociological journal articles.

Journal Article Reading Tips

  1. When reading a journal article, you must understand that most follow the same structure. The structure is as follows:
    • Abstract – This section is at the beginning of the paper and it briefly summarizes the entire article.
    • Introductory Section – The problem is introduced and the objectives are stated.
    • Literature Review – The literature of the paper is discussed.
    • Data Section – The data sources utilized for the analysis are discussed.
    • Results Section – The statistical tests are explained and the findings are discussed.
    • Conclusion/Discussion – the main findings are tied back to the literature review.
  2. Keep in mind that almost everything displayed in the tables is explained in the text.
  3. The problem being researched is usually explained within the first two pages of the article.
    1. After identifying the problem, determine the author’s position.
  4. Determine the variables.
    1. What is the independent variable?
    2. What is the dependent variable?
    3. What are the control variables?
  5. Identify the variables relevant to the particular study.
    1. Read about how each variable is measured.
  6. The results section of a quantitative journal article can be difficult to understand due to its technical nature, however it is very important.
    1. The results section will discuss how the variables are coded.

If you find yourself having problems understanding assigned reading materials, consult your instructor.

Click on the links below for additional explanations of the topics discussed on this page. In addition, utilizing the resources discussed in the writing guide are also helpful.


Krippner, Greta. 2000, “How to Read a (Quantitative) Journal Article”. 2014.

State University of New York, The College at Brockport. 2013, “Department of Sociology Reading Journal Articles”, Brockport, NY: The College at Brockport State University of New York. 2014.