Tips For Reading Scientific Papers

Reading a scientific paper is a completely different process than reading about science in a blog or news article. A single paper may take you a long time to read at first. Be patient with yourself. You may need to read the sections out of order, jot down notes, read it multiple times, skim or even skip certain parts, and pause to look up terms in our glossary. As you gain experience, you will learn what approach works for you.

Most research papers will be divided into the following sections:

Abstract: Briefly summarizes the research including why it is important, what was done, and what was found.

Introduction: contains all the background information needed to understand the broader context of the research.

Methods: clearly outlines how the research was carried out.

Results: describes what was found in detail, sometimes using tables and figures (graphs, illustrations, or diagrams).

Discussion: makes connections to other research and interprets the meaning of the results.

Conclusion: reinforces major takeaways and states their significance beyond the paper.

Not all papers are freely available; you may only be able to see the abstract for some. If you want to read the full text of a restricted paper, Open Access Button is a tool that takes you to a free copy of the research article or helps you ask the author to share the article with you. You can also email the author directly; many are receptive to these requests.



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