As mentioned before, reading scientific research papers can be tricky because they are not only written in academic language but also due to the many components that make up a paper. There is an abstract, a conclusion, supporting evidence and, finally, the main body of the paper.
The main body usually contains either arguments or examples that support the study’s hypothesis. These hypotheses may seem obvious (e.g., drinking eight glasses of water per day is better for your health) but studying them as an outsider can sometimes be difficult to evaluate.
When reading a new paper, you should consider what parts appeal to you and why, how well the researchers supported their claims, and whether there were any significant weaknesses. When doing so, remember that this paper was designed to convince other people about its findings – it will likely try to draw attention to itself by making strong statements.
It is very important to do your own homework first and understand what experts have said about similar topics before coming to conclusions.
Look for the author’s explicit or implicit assumptions
As we have seen, making an assumption is a very common tactic in writing. An assumption can totally change how you read a piece of literature, talk about it, and interpret its messages.
Making an assumpton means assuming something that the writer does not explicitly state but which he or she probably thinks about more than anything else. For example, when reading through this article, you might assume that people are born with a sense of morality within them.
This belief in a natural moral compass exists because most people agree with certain morals even if they know few individuals who violate those rules constantly. Because of this, society comes down hard on unethical behavior, creating a “culture” of ethics.
However, this assumption is not universal – there are many cultures where ethical conduct is less prevalent. In these cases, external forces such as other people’s actions play a much larger role in shaping your own moral code.
As scientists, we make assumptions about nature all the time. We assume that atoms exist, that energy can be transformed into other forms, and so forth. These assumed truths influence what we do and how we apply science to understand new phenomena.
When reading scientific research papers, look out for examples of internal reasoning and logical thinking that may or may not include made assumptions.
Check the logic of the paper
The first thing you should do when reading an academic paper is check the logic of the article. Make sure that the arguments are solid and that the writer made sound conclusions based on appropriate evidence.
A common mistake writers make is thinking that because their ideas were once accepted, then they must be correct. This isn’t always the case!
Many flawed theories have been published under the guise of truth, so it is important to evaluate the proof behind the claims.
Remember, even reputable scholars can be wrong! However, if there is no convincing proof or evidence to back up their claim, then the better option is to believe the opposing view.
By having alternative views, we grow as individuals by exploring different concepts and philosophies. It also helps us form our own opinions, which is a key part in developing good reasoning skills.
Are there any gaps in the data or the analysis?
Gaps in the data are an important part of scientific research, as they ensure that your conclusions are valid. If everything you analyzed has no variability, then you cannot make statements about the topic!
Data can be limited by several things- you may not have enough samples, there may be inconsistencies in how you gathered the information, or there could be faulty equipment or procedures used while collecting it.
If there is one major area where this happens most often, it is when researchers test a new product for efficacy before using it in humans.
Such a testing procedure should include looking at whether the product works for example, by comparing it with a placebo (an inactive substance) or another tested treatment.
By doing so, we get rid of bias because people might believe the product does something even if there is no evidence proving it. Testing such a thing is very expensive though, which is why only big companies typically do it.
Is the conclusion supported by the results?
As mentioned earlier, the conclusions of an article should be backed up by the findings. If there are some parts that seem out-of-place or that do not make sense, it is your duty as a reader to call out these flaws so that other readers can evaluate whether the author effectively communicated their message.
It is important to note that even if the content of the paper seems completely logical, it does not mean that its argument holds true for the topic at hand. A well designed paper may use logic that applies to a different issue. For example, a paper about why dogs eat their poop might also include reasons such as keeping bacteria levels down or learning how to digest nutrients.
Furthermore, although scientific papers typically contain enough information to reproduce what was done, they often fail to describe certain steps clearly. This makes it difficult to understand what was modified and why. When reading a new paper, try to compare yourself to someone who has done similar work before and see what changes you can find.
Are there any conflicts of interest?
As mentioned before, as an academic researcher, you will probably write about or study topics that are in your field or area of research.
As such, there may be some similarities with the topic under review and projects or studies that you are working on at present.
This could be due to a similar focus or area, or it could be because the same publisher published both papers.
And while no paper is perfect, readers should look out for instances where significant parts of the paper seem like they were written with the aim of promoting the author’s own project or theory.
By using appropriate sources, other experts in the field can check whether these claims hold up and if so how well.
Is the methodology rigorous enough?
A methodological paper or article is an interesting read because it goes into great detail about how the author conducted their research and what steps they took to ensure their findings are credible.
A strong theoretical framework, appropriate use of statistical tests, and solid evidence supporting conclusions all contribute to making the reader believe that what was tested and analyzed under the given topic is correct.
When reading a scientific research paper, you should be looking for these things as well as consistency in terms of writing style, formatting, and tone.
Is the sample representative?
As with any research, your conclusions will be limited by how well you sampled the population. In this case, it’s important to make sure that the samples being used represent the whole population.
It is not enough for the researcher to include only people of color in their study if they claim to focus on diversity. They must also ensure that the participants are represented across all socioeconomic status (SES), gender, age groups, and geographical locations.
By including these components, we can be certain that our results apply to the general population. This way, we get more accurate information!
Another thing to note is whether or not the researchers adjusted for confounding variables. These are things such as race, income, etc. that may influence the outcome measure. If they were not included, then we cannot determine if the differences between the groups was due to the variable or not.
How many times has the study been done?
The next step in critiquing an article is looking at how many times their hypothesis was tested and whether they conducted research with and without their hypotheses being supported.
This article talks about how important it is to do this, and why! It also goes into more detail by giving examples. Check out the link below for these and other tips.
It’s very important to remember that even if someone else did the same experiment as you, that doesn’t make their findings valid. You must determine if their results match your assumptions or not, and if so, what conclusions can be drawn from them.