Reading scientific research papers is not an easy task, nor does it happen frequently. Even professional scientists have trouble doing so sometimes! That is why there are several different ways to read a paper you want to understand better.
This article will go over some basic steps for reading a scientific research paper and how to read a systematic review. Both of these types of articles fall under the category of quantitative studies or research.
We will also look at some important components of a paper that most people skip over when trying to get information. These include the abstract, the introduction, and the conclusion.
When deciding which type of paper to read, know that both can be equally helpful in giving you insight into the study’s findings.
Read the methods
The most important part of any scientific research paper is the method section. This typically takes up about one-third of the article, making it the longest portion. As you read this section, make sure to keep yourself organized by highlighting or underlining terms to help you quickly determine what topic each paragraph covers.
The methodological sections vary greatly from field to field. For example, in social science studies such as sociology or psychology, there will be some form of quantitative analysis done (using numbers instead of words). In biological sciences, there will usually be an experimental design used, or studying a control group. And for physical sciences like chemistry or physics, there are always formulas that can be applied!
However, no matter which area of study you are reading, all methodology chapters should have at least two components: a systematic approach to gathering information and conclusions and use of logical reasoning to come to answers.
Read the results
The first thing you should do is read the results of the paper! This goes beyond just reading the abstract, but also looking at the figures and the main body of the article where the researchers describe their findings.
The results are what matter most in any scientific research study. These results may or may not be reported in the article, so look for them outside of the topic and environment of the research being conducted.
By reading these, you can get an overall sense of how well the experiment was done, if there were any unexpected outcomes, and whether the conclusions match what the researcher intended to find.
It is very important to understand that even when scientists publish their work online, they will almost always include some form of disclaimer. These disclaimers tell you that the results cannot be generalized and apply to people like you without further confirmation.
Read the discussion
As mentioned before, scientific papers tend to contain a lot of information that may or may not be relevant to your reading assignment. What matters is determining what you want to learn from the paper and how you plan to use it!
The main goal of most academic research studies is to determine if there is enough evidence to prove an assertion or hypothesis. This is different than trying to disprove a theory, which is more focused on proving something wrong.
Instead, researchers look for solid answers to important questions, which help them formulate their hypotheses or theories.
By taking the time to read through the study twice, make sure you have gone through all the results, conclusions, and ideas the authors included in the article. These additions are often the key parts of the paper worth remembering.
Furthermore, some of the supporting details may contradict the original conclusion or suggest new possibilities. You can choose to emphasize over-emphasis, under-emphasis, or both depending on yourself and the topic.
Look at the author’s conclusions
Even though there are many ways to read a scientific research paper, reading with focus on only the conclusion will not be very helpful! Analyzing an article starting with its main points can help you see how the writer put together their ideas and concepts.
Reading beyond the headline or abstract is important because it gives you more information about what the article topic is and who the article was written for.
It also helps show how well the writers of the article contribute to the field and what other experts think about the material covered in the article.
Look at the source data
One of the most important things you will do as a reader is make sure that what you are reading makes sense! If something seems vague or confusing, it was probably not read or understood by its author/researcher.
When reading an article about scientific research studies, one must be careful to look at the sources used in the study. These can include previous studies, theories, and conclusions. Make sure that these sources are reliable and valid before using them for your own purposes.
There are many ways to check reliability of a source, but the two basic types are internal and external. Internal consistency checks verify if what’s being said agrees with other parts of the text, or with someone else’s interpretation of the same information. External consistency looks at whether there are similar results from different researchers.
By having these consistency checks, we can increase our confidence in the accuracy of the material.
Give your feedback
After reading an article, let yourself relax for some time before giving your opinion about it. If you have nothing else to do, then just stroll away from the computer screen and focus on something else!
You should not immediately start thinking about how bad or good the writer was in their writing and if what they wrote made sense or not. You can do that later, once you’ve given the paper a rest.
Also, remember that someone else might be reading the same document you read earlier. Take into account what they may think of the author and the content after you’re done reading.
After all, they invested their time in writing this piece and wanted to share it with others.
Provide a final assessment
As you read, evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the paper. Ask yourself questions such as how well was the experiment designed? Were there adequate controls? Did the authors include any statistical analysis to support their claims? Was the writing clear and concise?
You can also look at the citations used in the paper, see if they are appropriate and usable by others in the field. Make sure that anything mentioned is allowed under copyright or license!
After reading the article and looking up some points for yourself, compare your answers to these questions with what the writers included. If everything seems sound, then great! But be aware that there may be ways to improve upon this research study and make it more powerful next time around.
Follow scientists on Twitter
Recent trends in science have been moving away from longer, more complex scientific papers and towards publications that are shorter, simpler, and focused on presenting new information rather than debating about what theory is better than another.
This has led to an increase in online resources where you can find easy ways to read these documents. These documents may be research studies or notes written by the researcher before the paper was published, so make sure to look into them both!
Twitter is a great way to do this as it allows you to quickly get the context of the article and see if anyone else wrote about the material.
There are many different accounts out there with lots of followers who write short reviews and posts about various topics related to reading articles and academia.