When you are trying to get into academic or professional field that requires significant research, there is no avoiding it; you will have to do some reading. This includes not only looking at what other people have written about the topic, but also actually studying their writing and how they form ideas and conclusions.
Reading scientific papers can be difficult because they often use very formal language and concepts that may seem overly complicated to the average reader.
However, this complexity comes from the way scientists think about things, so by thinking in such a way yourself, you will be able to understand more of the paper.
When doing your own research, remember that science moves slowly and researchers test out different theories against each other, gathering enough evidence to prove which one is better.
Take your time to read through the paper carefully and work back up as needed. Also, make sure to look for supporting information and examples!
You want to make an informed decision, not just something you feel like. Even if someone else’s opinion differs slightly from yours, you should still evaluate their reasoning and see whether it makes sense to you.
Read the entire paper carefully
Even though it may be difficult at first, do not skip over any part of the article or conclusion! This is very important as there could be some information in those sections that matter for use or adaptation of the research.
There are many ways to learn about scientific papers. You can read the abstract, the introduction, the main body, and then the discussion or conclusions. All of these parts play an integral role in helping you understand the paper and what it means.
Reading only the abstract or the introduction of a new study will usually tell you enough information to determine whether or not the findings are meaningful. Sometimes however, there are too many assumptions made in either the introduction or the abstract to make determining this quite so simple.
When reading through the article, remember its purpose which is to describe the effects of the product being studied. The author’s stance on the product being discussed and their interpretation of the results belong in the discussions section, not the main article. These two pieces often go hand-in-hand.
Make a list of things you should try to find out before you read the paper
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to do some research!
The first thing you want to do is make sure that your notes are organized and systematic. You don’t want to get distracted because you forgot what note or reminder said something important about the next step.
Make sure to write down the following information ahead of time.
Look for a journal that is peer reviewed
As mentioned before, not all academic journals are equal! Some may use poor methodology or flawed research practices in evaluating studies they publish.
Some may even distort or misrepresent the results of studies to support their own bias or agenda. This has led to controversy over some publications’ claims.
By using older, more established standards, your reading will be more trustworthy as you compare notes with others. Make sure to evaluate the quality of the article, not just whether it was paid for or not.
We have discussed how to determine if an abstract is reliable and balanced, but what about the full paper? You can do this by looking at the index page, the table of contents, and searching through the references to see if there are any valid citations.
You should also look up the author’s past work and confirm that it meets our scientific norms.
Read the abstract
The first thing you should do is read the paper’s abstract! This short summary of the article contains crucial information such as what the writer’s goals were, who the writer was writing for, and the main points/theses of the paper.
It will also tell you if the content of the paper is persuasive or not. If it is not, then there is little need to read the rest of the material because you know the truth already!
The abstract does not contain any new information so reading it quickly will save you some time later when you are able to more thoroughly evaluate the material.
However, it can be tricky to figure out how long you should spend on the abstract. Some people may feel that the abstract does not give enough detail about the article, thus taking longer than needed to read it.
Too long could even distract you from fully evaluating the article due to lack of interest. Therefore, try spending just a few minutes on the abstract before moving onto the body of the article.
Look at the author
As mentioned earlier, your initial step in reading a scientific paper is to check out the authors of the article. You should look up this writer on Google or their professional site to see if there are more articles they have written.
If you find that these other writings match what you read, then you can assume that they wrote well and be confident that they know what they’re talking about. For example, someone who writes very frequently might publish his or her own book later!
By looking them up online, you will also discover whether they have collaborations with other scientists or not. If so, it shows that they work well together and communicate effectively. This creates an excellent environment for productive research.
You should always consider the credibility of the writers and researchers you are studying.
Look at the publisher
As mentioned before, how you access a paper depends on who published it and under what terms they allowed readers to view it. Some publishers do not make their papers easily accessible unless you are an existing customer or have paid subscription for their service.
To ensure that your research is authentic, make sure to only read academic material from well-respected sources with high trust ratings. Make sure to check out reviews as well to see if there are any warning signs about the source being biased or fake science.
Sources with higher quality content will be made available through free reading apps or via direct linking to the site where you can scroll down and click “access article”.
Read the website
When reading a paper, there are several things you should look for. Make sure to check out the journal or article webpage first. Does this look like your average research publication? Probably not. That is okay! Most journals require a free open access account to view their content.
Most academic papers have a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) attached to them. All good websites will tell you how to find that information. You can then use it to search the site directly or through another source.
The abstract of the paper is an excellent starting point to understanding the material. This short summary gives a brief overview of what the paper intends to get done and why it is important.
After the abstract, the main body of the paper begins. Here, the authors go into greater detail about what they intended to do and why. A reader could easily skip over part or all of the introduction if they feel so.
Lastly, the conclusion summarizes everything the paper has said up until this point. Depending on the length of the paper, this may be the only bit some readers read. However, even those who only half-read the conclusion still got a lot from it.
Reading a scientific paper does not just focus on getting knowledge in the topic, but also on looking at the paper as a whole and taking notes. Even though most of the content is already covered, going through and noting points can help later when you want to refer back to that page/topic.
Check the reputation of the journal
As we have discussed, publishing in lower-tier journals is often a great way to get your work published quickly. But this can also hurt your career because it may not be quality publications.
Subsequent reviewers will likely notice that you publish only in low-quality venues and will give lower reviews than they would if the publication was higher quality.
This could very well hurt your future success because people who read these review articles will most definitely look into whether or not to submit their own research to this publisher.
By looking at past papers and reviews from similar publishers, they will be able to determine whether or not this company has an overabundance of editorial interference and/or peer reviewer harassment.