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[MUSIC] Much of a scientists' work involves
reading research publications so as to stay up to date in their field, advance their scientific understanding,
review manuscripts or gather information for
a project proposal or grant application. Because scientific articles
are different from other texts, they should be read differently. Most research publications follow
the well known IMRaD format. That is an abstract followed
by the introduction, methods, results and discussion. They have multiple cross-references and
tables as well as supplementary material. There are many approaches to
reading scientific articles. Those of you, who have had
significant experience reading such articles will have developed
a style of your own. For those of you who have not,
I will discuss one approach. Reading a scientific paper should not
be done in a linear way from beginning to end. Instead, it should be done strategically
and with a critical mindset, questioning your understanding and
the findings. We do not read a journal article like
a novel or a newspaper article, and there are several reasons for this. The information is too dense to
comprehend it with a simple reading. You may be interested in a specific aspect
of the article rather than the entire thing. The special structure of such
articles allows readers to find the desired section more easily. The understanding of one part of
an article will often require backward or forward reference to another
part of the article. For adequate understanding of an article, you should be prepared to read an article
at least two, three, four times. You will often be amazed to discover that
what seemed completely incomprehensible on the first reading appears to make
perfect sense on subsequent readings. You should be comforted to
know that even experienced scientists must read articles over and
over again. Furthermore, there will be things
you simply do not understand because you do not have
the adequate background, they're just too complicated, or
they simply do not make sense. Don't overlook this last possibility
simply because you see something in print. In general, people do not try to
conquer every article they encounter. There are simply too many articles and
it would require too much work. They tend to go through a sequential
process of studying the article, all the while deciding to
give it further attention. The decision is based on several factors. Whether the article is of sufficient
interest, whether it is relevant to their work, whether it is of general
importance, whether it is of high quality. Whether it is clearly written and
accessible at least, after a reasonable amount of effort,
whether the article is meaty or short. Here are some tips for reading and
understanding research papers. Quickly read the title once,
looking for key words. Read the title slowly until it make sense. Look through the authors to see if there
is anyone whose name you recognize, whose work you know. This is an important process in trying
to judge the quality of the data. Look at the date, in some areas where
information is rapidly changing, the date may be the most important thing. Bear in mind that there is a definite
lag period between when the research gets done, when the article gets
written and when it's get published. In addition to the publication date,
many journals use the date when the article was received and
the date when the article was accepted. Interestingly, journals that are peer
reviewed are more likely to be delayed in their publication but are less likely to
contain inaccurate or frivolous articles. Never start reading an article
from the beginning to the end. Begin by reading the introduction,
not the abstract. The abstract is the dense first paragraph
at the very beginning of a paper. In fact, that's often the only part
of the paper that many non-scientists read when they are trying to
build a scientific argument. This is a terrible practice, do not do it. When I'm choosing papers to read,
I decide what's relevant to my interests based on a combination
of the title and abstract. But when I've got a collection
of papers assembled for deep reading,
I always read the abstract last. I do this because abstracts contains
a brief summary of the entire paper. I'm concerned about
unintentionally becoming biased by the author's interpretation
of the results, besides the introduction is often
the easiest part of an article to read. In some cases, it also is the most
informative, not so much in terms of presenting new information but
in consolidating background information. Some authors will also present the punch
line of their research in a way that is easier to understand than
the way it is presented in the abstract. The introduction will often
cite many of the references. This is an excellent time
to begin looking at them. The references are particularly
informative if they contain the titles of the articles being cited. You will want to go back to
the reference page over and over again. Then quickly scan the article
without taking notes. Focus on headings and subheadings. Note any terms and parts you do not
understand for further reading. Study the figures and tables. You will not understand them
this first time though, but this will help you know what to look for
when you actually read the article. Skim the methods section. The method section will need
to be studied carefully, only if you intend to use some of
the procedures in your own research. Certain parts of the methods, such as
where the chemicals were purchased, or where the viral strains were obtained,
do not actually contribute to an understanding of the article and
may be safely omitted. Other parts of the methods
may remain obscure, even after the rest of
the article is fairly clear. For our purposes, the methods
should be studied only as far as they contribute to the understanding
of the rest of the article. Then read the results section,
and then go to the discussion. Read the first few paragraphs and
the last two paragraphs. If it is short or easy to understand,
read the whole thing. Look for key issues and new findings. Read the abstract slowly until it makes
sense, then read the article again, asking yourself such questions, what
the problem is the study trying to solve? Are the findings well
supported by evidence? Are the findings unique and
supported by other work in the field? What was the sample size? Is it representative of
the larger population? Is the study repeatable? What factors might affect the results? Examine graphs and tables carefully. Try to interpret data first
before looking at captions.

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