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Biology Research

A guide designed to help students in Biology classes find quality research.

Steps to Reading a Scientific Article

Do not read scientific articles like a book (first word to last word).

The worst way to read a scholarly articles is front to back. Scholarly article reading is very different from leisure reading. Follow these steps to take the mystery out of article reading.

Art of Reading a Journal Article

Background:

Reading scientific literature is mandatory for researchers. With an abundance of journal articles, it is essential to develop a method to choose and read the right articles.

Objective:

To outline a logical and orderly approach to reading a scientific manuscript. By breaking down the task into smaller, step-by-step components, one should be able to attain the skills to read a scientific article with ease.

Methods:

The reader should begin by reading the title, abstract and conclusions first. If a decision is made to read the entire article, the key elements of the article can be perused in a systematic manner effectively and efficiently. A cogent and organized method is presented to read articles published in scientific journals.

Conclusion:

One can read and appreciate a scientific manuscript if a systematic approach is followed in a simple and logical manner.

Adapted from: Drs Sudha and Nageswara Rao Siddhartha. "Art of Reading a Journal Article." (2013).

Types of Journal Articles

In general, scientific literature can be primary or secondary. Reports of original research form the “primary literature”, the “core” of scientific publications. These are the articles written to present findings on new scientific discoveries or describe earlier work to acknowledge it and place new findings in the proper perspective. “Secondary literature” includes review articles, books, editorials, practice guidelines, and other forms of publication in which original research information is reviewed.

Adapted from: Drs Sudha and Nageswara Rao Siddhartha. "Art of Reading a Journal Article." (2013).

Scientific Article Structure

Most scientific articles are organized as follows:

  1. Title: Topic and information about the authors.

  2. Abstract: Brief overview of the article.

  3. Introduction: Background information and statement of the research hypothesis.

  4. Methods: Details of how the study was conducted, procedures followed, instruments used and variables measured.

  5. Results: All the data of the study along with figures, tables and/or graphs.

  6. Discussion: The interpretation of the results and implications of the study.

  7. References/Bibliography: Citations of sources from where the information was obtained.

Adapted from: Drs Sudha and Nageswara Rao Siddhartha. "Art of Reading a Journal Article." (2013).

How to Start Reading an Article

It is better to begin by identifying the conclusions of the study by reading the title and the abstract.  If the article does not have an abstract, read the conclusions or the summary at the end of the article first. After reading the abstract or conclusions, if the reader deems it is interesting or useful, then the entire article can be read.

Adapted from: Drs Sudha and Nageswara Rao Siddhartha. "Art of Reading a Journal Article." (2013).

Questionnaire for Scientific Articles

Adapted from: Drs Sudha and Nageswara Rao Siddhartha. "Art of Reading a Journal Article." (2013).

Ask for assistance, if needed.

If you are having trouble understanding an article, ask for help from your instructor, your classmate, a tutor or a librarian.