Reading and Summarizing Research (Social Sciences)


This module is offered in two versions, one for Social Sciences/Business/Education and the other for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. The focus is on using the typical organization of U.S. research writing to understand and take notes. We will also focus on common concerns for second-language writers: paraphrasing, quotation, and appropriate source-use practices; use of reporting verbs and noun clause structure; and controlling the strength of claims. Students work with readings they have selected from their course/dissertation research.


No textbook: students should bring 3-5 research papers (journal articles) in their field as mentor texts.

Recommended books for further reading (choose the one closest to your field):

  • Mika & Danielle LaVaque-Manty, Writing in Political Science: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2015)
  • Lynn Smith-Lovin and Cary Moskovitz, Writing in Sociology: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2016)
  • Shan-Estelle Brown, Writing in Anthropology: A Brief Guide (Oxford, 2016)

Readings and Tasks: Social Sciences, Business, Education

Week In preparation In class
1: The RP Genre

Collect a mini corpus of 3-5 research articles in your field; bring the articles to class for analysis

Read: The Genre of Research Articles

Skim through the example research paper on this website, and also read as many of the pages of introduction, lit reviews, methods, results, discussions, and conclusions as possible.

Review the IMRAD structure

Discuss how to read social science articles efficiently

Use the 5 Ws to analyze research papers

2: Reading and notetaking Read this blog on keeping a research journal and this post on a scan-reading technique.
Can you find examples of good (or bad) writing in your corpus?
Annotate one article that you plan to summarize and write a memo

Note-taking techniques.

Meta-cognitive reading strategies (Mokhtari & Reichard, 2002)

Outlining a text

Identifying cohesive language and other metadiscourse

3: Paraphrasing

Read about plagiarism and paraphrasing

Outline your article. Take notes.

Skim through this useful list of academic phrases for referring to sources

Principles of source use

Paraphrasing practice with class text

Noun clauses

Reporting verbs

4: Summary writing Draft a 1-2 paragraph summary of your article

Principles of a good summary

Peer review summaries in groups

Misc grammar issues and wrap up

Creative Commons License
This Graduate Communication Support Initiative module was designed by Nigel Caplan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This version: 12/29/16

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