How to Read a Scientific Article

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By elidashepherd
Words 1158
Pages 5
PSY 801: How to Read a Scientific Article
Author unknown (variously attributed – most likely James Watson)
When Learners in the sciences are first faced with using the primary research literature, the prospect sometimes seems overwhelming. Finding pertinent journal articles often seems to involve a maze of abstracting journals, indifferent librarians, missing volumes, CD-ROMs from the netherworld, and bound periodicals that refuse to flatten themselves for photocopiers (no matter how hard you press on them CPR-style). Even after an article has been located or provided, there is the problem of reading it. The worst way to assimilate a research paper is to read it word for word, title to literature cited, as if it were a textbook. This approach is a waste of time not only because perhaps as few as 1 in 4 articles that find their way into your hands should be committed to your brain, but also because it is deadly boring.
Before reading one word of an article, ask yourself what you are looking for in the article. Knowing what you do about the subject, what gaps need to be filled? What knowledge needs to be expanded? What controversial points need to be corroborated? Generate expectations of a journal article before you read it. This will help your analysis of the work in front of you, and it will keep you more interested in the material.
Once your initial expectations have been generated, then what? The following steps seem to make sense.
1. Read the authors' names. Where and with whom are they working? What is their expertise? Names may mean little at first, but as you wade through a scientific subject or topic you will find familiar names cropping up, and you will develop those with whom you agree and those whom you question.
2. Read and digest the title. It should summarize the work of the article well, help you to clarify your expectations of the paper, and be…...

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