HOW TO READ A SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE
"Probably what you should learn if you are a graduate
student is not a large number of facts, especially if they are
in books, but what the important problems are, and to sense
which experiments, work that has been done, probably
When students 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, CDroms from hell, and bound periodicals that refuse to flatten
themselves for photocopiers (no matter how hard you press on them, CPR-style).
once an article has been located--or, in the case of this class, provided--there is the
problem of reading it.
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,
because perhaps as few as 1 in 4 articles that find there way into your hands should be
committed to your brain, and is deadly boring.
Before reading one word of an article, ask yourself:
What am I looking for in this
Knowing what I do about the subject, what gaps need to be filled, what
knowledge needs to be expanded, and 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, plus keep you more interested in the material.
Read the authors' names.
Where and with whom are they working?
What is their
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.