How to read a scientific article

modified 2018-10-11

How to read a scientific article

In short:

Handout on how to read a paper

Insights, lessons learnt:

Suggestions follow what I do relatively well


Do people read textbooks in this way?!

The worst way to approach this task is to treat it like the reading of a textbook-reading from title to literature cited, digesting every word along the way without any reflection or criticism.

Most journals use a conventional IMRD structure: An abstract followed by Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.

Others-especially experts in the field-skip right from the title to the visuals because the visuals, in many cases, tell the reader what kinds of experiments were done and what results were obtained

Haha, “repeat the experiment”

Methods are often difficult to read, especially for graduate students, because of technical language and a level of detail sufficient for another trained scientist to repeat the experiments
Reading is an active task. Before and during your reading, ask yourself these questions:
鈥?Am I spending too much time reading the less important parts of this article?

After reading, ask yourself these questions:
鈥?What specific problem does this research address? Why is it important?
鈥?Is the method used a good one? The best one?
鈥?What are the specific findings? Am I able to summarize them in one or two sentences?
鈥?Are the findings supported by persuasive evidence?
鈥?Is there an alternative interpretation of the data that the author did not address?
鈥?How are the findings unique/new/unusual or supportive of other work in the field?
鈥?How do these results relate to the work I’m interested in? To other work I’ve read about?
鈥?What are some of the specific applications of the ideas presented here? What are some further experiments that would answer remaining questions?

--> The suggested note taking form is similar to what I do, but more in depth. I am happy with my current template for now though.