Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Westminster College Logo

BIO 201 (Ortiz): Evaluating & Reading Information

Questions to ask about your sources:

You should be able to answer these questions as your read. (Note: These are broken up by section and are in the order of how we suggest you read the sources (which isn't start to finish!).


  • Is this relevant to my research? How/how not?
  • What do I know about the research from the abstract. What questions do I have?


  • Why did the authors do this study?
  • What problem is the study trying to solve?
  • How is this research unique?
  • How is this research related to my project?
  • What other research exists in relation to this topic?

Discussion / Conclusion

  • What did the researchers conclude? Why?
  • Are there any weaknesses in the authors' analysis and conclusions? What are they?
  • Are the findings unique and supported by other work in the field?
  • Given the results of this research, what other research could be conducted next to further explore this topic?


  • Which cited articles should I read to further my understanding of this topic?
  • What other authors are conducting significant research in this field?


  • How was this research conducted?
  • What was the sample size? Is it representative of the larger population?
  • How could I repeat the authors' work? Would I need more information to conduct the experiments and analysis myself?


  • What data did the study produce?
  • Do the figures and tables accurately present the same data/results discussed in the text? Do you understand them?
  • Are all the results presented factually and free of bias?
  • What major factors could affect the results?
  • Given the results presented, what conclusion can you draw from the data?

This list adapted from University of New Mexico's Biology 203L: Ecology and Evolution Guide


How to read these primary sources:


Below you'll find a basic notes format for use when reading academic/scientific articles. Try it out, take good notes, and it will save you time in the end.  

Don't be intimidated!

Good Writing:

  • Is clear and easily understood. 
  • Is written with the intended audience in mind.
  • Honestly interprets other people's ideas (and cites them!)

Bad Writing

  • Obscures ideas and confuses readers.
  • Is either too casual "Sup Dr. O, Im here to tell you about how..." or full of jargon/unnecessarily fancy words "Hence, the individuals engaged in this process (which is to say: experiment) first sought assistance in crafting a solution of the correct PH." 
  • Is poorly organized and still had that 'first draft' feel.

Academic writing:

  • Can have some of the qualities of bad writing but still be good. 
  • Assumes pre-existing expertise of the reader. 
  • Is part of an ongoing conversation (which is why it can be so confusing to jump into it!)