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Unlock the Power of Efficient Reading with a Free Article Summarizer
In today’s fast-paced world, information overload is a common challenge. With an abundance of articles, blog posts, and research papers available online, it can be overwhelming to find the time to read and digest all the information. This is where a free article summarizer comes in handy. In this article, we will explore how you can unlock the power of efficient reading with the help of a free article summarizer.
What is an Article Summarizer?
An article summarizer is a tool that condenses lengthy pieces of text into shorter summaries while retaining the key points and main ideas. It uses advanced algorithms to analyze the content and extract relevant information to create concise summaries. By using an article summarizer, you can save time and effort by quickly getting an overview of an article without having to read through every word.
Save Time and Increase Productivity
One of the biggest advantages of using a free article summarizer is saving time. Instead of spending hours reading through long articles, you can get a summarized version that captures the essence of the content in just a few minutes. This allows you to go through multiple articles in less time, increasing your productivity and enabling you to cover more ground in your research or learning endeavors.
Additionally, with an article summarizer, you can prioritize which articles are worth reading in detail based on their summaries. This way, you can quickly identify relevant information and decide whether or not it’s worth investing your time in reading the entire piece.
Improve Comprehension and Retention
Another benefit of using a free article summarizer is improved comprehension and retention of information. When faced with lengthy texts, it’s easy for important details to get lost or for readers to become overwhelmed by irrelevant content. By providing concise summaries that highlight key points, an article summarizer helps readers focus on what truly matters.
Summaries created by article summarizers are often structured in a way that makes the information more digestible. They eliminate redundancies, remove jargon, and present the main ideas in a clear and concise manner. This aids comprehension and allows readers to grasp the core concepts without getting lost in unnecessary details.
Furthermore, research has shown that summarization can enhance memory retention. By condensing information into bite-sized summaries, readers are more likely to remember the key points and retain the knowledge for longer periods.
Enhance Content Creation and Marketing Strategies
For content creators and marketers, utilizing a free article summarizer can be a valuable tool. By analyzing summarized versions of articles related to your industry or niche, you can stay updated on the latest trends and developments without spending excessive time on research. This allows you to generate relevant content quickly and efficiently.
Moreover, article summarizers can assist in generating ideas for new content pieces. By reviewing summaries of existing articles, you may discover new angles or perspectives that inspire fresh content creation. Additionally, understanding what topics are trending or gaining traction within your industry can help you tailor your marketing strategies accordingly.
In conclusion, using a free article summarizer is an effective way to unlock the power of efficient reading. It saves time, increases productivity, improves comprehension and retention of information, as well as enhances content creation and marketing strategies. By leveraging this powerful tool, you can stay ahead in today’s information-driven world while maximizing your efficiency as a reader or content creator.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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How to Read a Scientific Paper
To read a scientific paper effectively, you should focus on the results and ensure that you draw your own conclusions from the data and assess whether this agrees with the authors’ conclusions. You should also check that the methods are appropriate and make sense. Spend time attending journal clubs and reading online peer reviews of articles to help hone your critical analysis skills and make reading papers easier and quicker.
Keeping up with the scientific literature in your field of interest is incredibly important. It keeps you informed about what is happening in your field and helps shape and guide your experimental plans. But do you really know how to read a scientific paper, and can you do it effectively and efficiently?
Let’s face it, in our results-driven world, reading new scientific papers often falls by the wayside because we just don’t have the time! And when you do find some reading time, it’s tempting not to read the entire article and just focus on the abstract and conclusions sections.
But reading a scientific paper properly doesn’t need to take hours of your time. We’ll show you how to read a scientific paper effectively, what you can and can’t skim, and give you a checklist of key points to look for when reading a paper to make sure you get the most out of your time.
Step 1: Read the Title and Abstract
The title and abstract will give you an overview of the paper’s key points. Most importantly, it will indicate if you should continue and read the rest of the paper. The abstract is often able to view before purchasing or downloading an article, so it can save time and money to read this before committing to the full paper.
Checklist: What to Look for in the Abstract
- The type of journal article. Was it a systematic review? Clinical trial? Meta-analysis?
- The aim. What were they trying to do?
- The experimental setup. Was it in vivo or in vitro, or in silico?
- The key results. What did they find?
- The author’s conclusions. What does it mean? How does it impact the wider field?
Step 2: Skip the Introduction
The introduction is mostly background, and if you are already familiar with the literature, you can scan through or skip this as you probably know it all anyway. You can always return to the introduction if you have time after reading the meatier parts of the paper.
Checklist: What to Look for in the Introduction
- Is the cited literature up to date?
- Do the authors cite only review articles or primary research articles?
- Do they miss key papers?
Step 3: Scan the Methods
Don’t get too bogged down in the methods unless you are researching a new product or technique. Unless the paper details a particularly novel method, just scan through. However, don’t completely ignore the methods section, as the methods used will help you determine the validity of the results.
You should aim to match the methods with the results to understand what has been done. This should be done when reviewing the figures rather than reading the methods section in isolation.
A Note about qPCR Data
If the data is qPCR, take the time to look even more carefully at the methods. According to the MIQE guidelines , the authors need to explain the nucleic acid purification method, yields, and purities, which kits they used, how they determined the efficiency of their assays, and how many replicates they did. There are a lot of factors that can influence qPCR data, and if the paper is leaving out some of the information, you can’t make accurate conclusions from the data.
Checklist: What to Look for in the Methods Section
- Are the controls described? Are they appropriate?
- Are the methods the right choice for the aims of the experiment?
- Did they modify commercial kits, and if so, do they explain how?
- Do they cite previous work to explain methods? If so, access and read the original article to ensure what has been done.
- Ensure adherence to relevant guidelines, e.g., MIQE guidelines for qPCR data.
Step 4: Focus on the Figures
If you want to read a scientific paper effectively, the results section is where you should spend most of your time. This is because the results are the meat of the paper, without which the paper has no purpose.
How you “read” the results is important because while the text is good to read, it is just a description of the results by the author. The author may say that the protein expression levels changed significantly, but you need to look at the results and confirm the change really was significant.
While we hope that authors don’t exaggerate their results, it can be easy to manipulate figures to make them seem more astonishing than they are. We’d also hope this sort of thing would be picked up during editorial and peer review, but peer review can be a flawed process !
Don’t forget any supplementary figures and tables. Just because they are supplementary doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Some of the most important (but not exciting) results are often found here.
We’re not advocating you avoid reading the text of the results section; you certainly should. Just don’t take the authors’ word as gospel. The saying “a picture speaks a thousand words” really is true. Your job is to make sure they match what the author is saying.
And as we mentioned above, read the methods alongside the results and match the method to each figure and table, so you are sure what was done.
A Note About Figure Manipulation
Unfortunately, figure manipulation can be a problem in scientific articles, and while the peer-review process should detect instances of inappropriate manipulation, sometimes things are missed.
And what do we mean about inappropriate manipulation? Not all figure and image manipulation is wrong. Sometimes a western blot needs more brightness or contrast to see the results clearly. This is fine if it is applied to the whole image, but not if it is selectively applied to particular areas. Sometimes there is real intent to deceive, with cases of images swapped, cropped, touched up, or repeated.
Graphs are particularly susceptible to image manipulation, with alterations to graphs changing how the data appears and a reader’s interpretation of a graph. Not starting the axis at 0 can make small differences appear bigger, or vice versa if a scale is too large on the axis. So make sure you pay careful attention to graphs and check the axes (yes, that’s the plural of axis) are appropriate (Figure 1). You should also check if graphs have error bars, and if so, what are they, and is that appropriate?
Statistics can scare many biologists, but it’s important to look at the statistical test and determine if the method is appropriate for the data. Also, be wary of blindly following p-values . You may find situations when an author says something is significant because the statistical test shows a significant p-value, but you can see from the data that it doesn’t look significant. Statistics are not infallible and can be fairly easily manipulated .
Checklist: What to Look for When Reviewing Results
- Are there appropriate scales on graphs?
- Do they use valid statistical analysis? Are results really significant?
- Have they used sufficient n numbers?
- Are the controls appropriate? Should additional controls have been used?
- Is the methodology clear and appropriate?
- Have any figures been inappropriately manipulated?
- Check the supplementary results and methods.
Step 5: Tackle the discussion
The discussion is a great place to determine if you’ve understood the results and the overall message of the paper. It is worth spending more time on the discussion than the introduction as it molds the paper’s results into a story and helps you visualize where they fit in with the overall picture. You should again be wary of authors overinflating their work’s importance and use your judgment to determine if their assertions about what they’ve shown match yours.
One good way to summarize the results of a paper and show how they fit with the wider literature is to sketch out the overall conclusions and how it fits with the current landscape. For example, if the article talks about a specific signaling pathway step, sketch out the pathway with the findings from the paper included. This can help to see the bigger picture, highlight, ensure you understand the impact of the paper, and highlight any unanswered questions.
A useful exercise when learning how to read a scientific paper (when you have the time!) is to black out the abstract, read the paper and then write an abstract. Then compare the paper’s abstract to the one you wrote. This will demonstrate whether or not you are picking up the paper’s most important point and take-home message.
Checklist: What to Look For in the Discussion Section
- Do you agree with the author’s interpretation of their results?
- Do the results fit with the wider literature?
- Are the authors being objective?
- Do the authors comment on relevant literature and discuss discrepancies between their data and the wider literature?
- Are there any unanswered questions?
Step 6: File it Away
Spending a little time filing your read papers away now can save you A LOT of time in the future (e.g., when writing your own papers or thesis). Use a reference management system and ensure that the entry includes:
- the full and correct citation;
- a very brief summary of the article’s key methods and results;
- any comments or concerns you have;
- any appropriate tags.
Ways to Sharpen Your Critical Analysis Skills
While this article should get you off to a good start, like any muscle, your critical analysis skills need regular workouts to get bigger and better. But how can you hone these skills?
Attend Journal Clubs
Your critical thinking skills benefit dramatically from outside input. This is why journal clubs are so valuable. If your department runs a regular journal club, make sure you attend. If they don’t, set one up. Hearing the views of others can help hone your own critical thinking and allow you to see things from other perspectives. For help and advice on preparing and presenting a journal club session, read our ultimate guide to journal clubs .
Read Online Reviews
Whether in the comments section of the article published online, on a preprint server, or on sites such as PubPeer and Retraction Watch , spend time digesting the views of others. But make sure you apply the same critical analysis skill to these comments and reviews.
These sites can be a useful tool to highlight errors or manipulation you may have missed, but taking these reviews and comments at face value is just as problematic as taking the author’s conclusions as truth. What biases might these reviews have that affect their view? Do you agree with what they say and why?
Final Thoughts on How to Read A Scientific Paper
Reading a scientific paper requires a methodical approach and a critical (but not negative) mindset to ensure that you fully understand what the paper shows.
Reading a paper can seem daunting, and it can be time-consuming if you go in unprepared. However, the process is quicker and smoother once you know how to approach a paper, including what you can and can’t skim. If you don’t have enough time, you can still read a paper effectively without reading the entire paper. Figure 2 highlights what sections can be skimmed and which sections need more of your attention.
Another tip for being more productive (and it’s better for the environment) is to read your papers on-screen . It’ll save time scrambling through a stack of papers and manually filing them away.
Do you have any tips on how to read a scientific paper? Let us know in the comments below.
Want an on-hand checklist to help you analyze papers efficiently despite being busy with research? Download our free article summary and checklist template.
For more tips on keeping track of the scientific literature, head to the Bitesize Bio Managing the Scientific Literature Hub .
Originally published November 20, 2013. Updated and revised September 2022.
Methods can often be important, to judge whether to even trust the results!
The most important is to save all articles that possibly can be interesting in your reference managing system, and classify them with a relevant tag, so that they can be easily found later. Many articles you don’t realize how important they might be until later on. Then you’ll need to find that article you only read the abstract of six months earlier.
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Educational resources and simple solutions for your research journey
How to read research papers quickly and efficiently
If you are at that point when you are asking if you are reading sufficient research papers or if you have done enough literature review, then you should read along. These are common questions when conducting research, especially during the postgraduate years. We may be interested in a research topic but knowing how to read research papers quickly and identifying a research gap is different. As researchers, we need to do extensive reading to know what has been done before or where other scholars have left a gap for us to continue in their footsteps and fill those gaps in knowledge.
Table of Contents
Are reading and comprehension the same when it comes to research articles? Not necessarily.
Learning how to read research papers quickly is not just about your reading speed, it is about how efficient your reading is. To read a scientific paper efficiently means maximum productivity without wasted effort. To this end, I would like to offer some tips for reading scientific articles that helped me get through my PhD and postdoctoral years (and they still apply today):
- To understand how to read research papers efficiently, go to the basics. Determine the relevance of the article ; start with the Abstract, then jump straight to the Conclusions. Reading articles can be time-consuming but if the aims and implications are clear, then you know if an article is worth the read. This tip works because some articles may be very interesting, but the key implications are sometimes not clearly highlighted. Hence by reading the Abstract and Conclusions, we can avoid spending a lot of time struggling to get the main message.
- Try not to read every scientific article that has covered your topic of interest. Filter your literature search by prioritizing the most cited papers within your field and subfield (because it often provides those first insights) and the most recent studies. Let me put this into context–– knowing that evapotranspiration increases with temperature does not need ten citations; however, the effect of some microorganisms on the gut microbiota will depend on the circumstances, hence the details are important and the more we know what can affect our topic, the more we can understand the responses observed.
- Sieving through the available literature in your field is an effort-intensive process, so focus on reading research articles that have high citations . This works because these papers may likely have been published in high-ranking journals, and also because they have great searchability, which means they have high relevance to your topic.
- Try to avoid reading older articles because these references may often become irrelevant and outdated with rapid advances in technology. However, under exceptional circumstances (e.g., seminal work) you can simply find the original study and then perhaps use a newer reference where some practical modifications have been made –– if these are applicable to your study. Established methods or procedures don’t change much unless new equipment becomes available, but it’s critical to stay updated on the latest developments in our field.
- Keywords can help to find important information but also in reading research articles. You may still find some articles that are difficult to get through because of the wordiness or the unnecessary heavy language. For these, use the Abstract and Conclusion to highlight the key findings, and then delve into the detail where necessary. Using keywords to scan for key passages within the article can also help you save some time and ensure you read and comprehend the article more effectively.
- If you are starting your PhD and wondering how to read papers efficiently, be sure to set up notifications for when content related to your specific topic becomes available . While you can search through available literature, setting up publication alerts helps ensure you read relevant literature faster and can stay on top of new developments while you conduct your research.
As scientists, reading scientific papers is not just needed during your degree years but all through your career. And when it comes to tips for reading scientific papers, just remember there is no such thing as too much reading.. Finally, we never stop learning, and we should never do so… science advances very quickly and ever so more now. Embrace it!
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How To Skim Read Journal Articles
Fast-Track Your Literature Review By Focusing On Three Sections
By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | May 2020
If you’ve just started your literature review process, you’re probably sitting on a pile of scientific journal articles and papers that are (1) lengthy and (2) written in very dense , academic language that is difficult to digest (at the best of times). It’s intimidating, for sure – and you’re probably wondering how on earth you’re going to get through it all.
You might be asking yourself some of these questions:
- Do I need to read every journal article to make sure I cover everything?
- Do I need to read every section of each article to understand it?
- If not, which sections should I focus on?
First things first, relax (I can feel your tension!). In this post, I’m going answer these questions and explain how to approach your review of the literature the smart way , so that you focus only on the most relevant literature and don’t waste time on low-value activities.
So, grab a nice hot cup of coffee (or tea, or whatever – just no beers) and let’s take a look at those questions, one at a time.
Do i need to read every journal article on my topic when doing my literature review.
The good news is that you don’t need to read every single journal article on your topic. Doing so would just be a waste of your time, as you’re generally looking to understand the current state of the literature – not the full history of it.
But… and this is an important but. You do need to read quite a bit to make sure that you have a comprehensive view of the current state of the literature (and of knowledge) in your area of research.
Quality trumps quantity when it comes to reviewing the literature. In other words, you need to focus on reading the journal articles that are most cited (i.e. that other academics have referenced) in relation to your topic keyword(s). You should focus on articles that are recent, relevant and well cited .
But how do I know if an article is well cited?
Thankfully, you can check the number of citations for any article really easily using Google Scholar . Just enter the article title in Google Scholar and it will show you how many citations it has – here’s an example:
In fact, Google Scholar is a great way to find the key journal articles for any keyword (topic) in general, so chances are you’ll be using this to find your journal articles in the first place. Therefore, be sure to keep an eye on citation count while you’re sourcing articles. It would also be smart to dedicate a column to it in your literature review catalogue (you can download one for free here ) so that you can quickly filter and sort by citation count.
A quick caveat – citation count is not a perfect metric for the quality of a journal article (unfortunately there is no unicorn metric that indicates quality). While its usually a good indicator of how popular an article is, it doesn’t mean the findings of the article are perfect (remember, the Kardashians are popular too – enough said). To the contrary, it could indicate that there’s a lot of controversy regarding the findings (sounds like the Kardashians again).
So, long story short – don’t be conned by citation count alone. Be sure to also pay attention the to quality of the journal each article is published in (you can check journal rank here ), and pay attention to what other articles say about any given popular article.
Need a helping hand?
Do i need to read the full journal journal article when doing my literature review.
Some more good news – no, you don’t need to read every single word in each journal article you review as part of your literature review. When you’re just starting your literature review, you need to get a big picture view of what each journal article is saying (in other words, the key questions and findings). Generally you can get a good feel for this by reading a few key sections in each article (we’ll get to these next).
That said (ah, there had to be a catch, right?), as you refine your literature review and establish more of a focus, you’ll need to dive deeper into the most important articles. Some articles will be central to your research – but you probably still don’t need to read them from first page to the last.
Which sections of each journal article should i read.
To get a big-picture view of what any article is all about, there are three sections that are very useful. These three sections generally explain both what the article is about (i.e. what questions they were trying to answer) and what the findings were (i.e. what their answers were). This is exactly what you’re looking for, so these three sections provide a great way for you to save time during your literature review.
So, let’s take a look at the three sections:
1 – The abstract (or executive summary)
The abstract (which is located right up front) provides a high-level overview of what the article is about. This is giving you the first little taste of the soup , so to speak. Generally, it will discuss what the research objectives were was and why they were important. This will give you a clear indication of how relevant the article is to your specific research, so pay close attention.
Sometimes the abstract will also discuss the findings of the article (much like a thesis abstract ), but this is not always the case (yeah, the abstract can be such a tease sometimes). If it does, it’s a bonus. But even so, you should still read the other sections, as the abstract only provides a very high-level view, and can miss out on specific nuances of the research.
2 – The introduction section
The introduction section will go into more detail about the topic being investigated and why this is important for the field of research. This will help you understand a bit more detail about what exactly they were investigating and in what context . Context is really important, so pay close attention to that.
For example, they might be investigating your exact topic, but in a country other than your own, or a different industry. In that case, you’d know that you need to pay very close attention to exactly how they undertook their research.
So, make sure you pay close attention to the introduction chapter to fully understand the focus of the research and the context in which it took place . Both will be important when it comes to writing your literature review, as you’ll need to use this information to build your arguments.
3 – The conclusion
While the introduction section tells you what the high-level questions the researchers asked, the conclusion section tells you what answers they found . This provides you with something of a shortcut to grasping the gist of the article, without reading all the dull and dry detail – yeah, it’s a little cheeky, I know. Of course, the conclusion is not going to highlight every nuance of the analysis findings, so if the article is highly relevant to your research, you should make sure to also pay close attention to the analysis findings section.
In addition to the findings of the research, the conclusion section will generally also highlight areas that require further research . In other words, they’ll outline areas that genuinely require further academic investigation (aka research gaps ). This is a gold mine for refining your topic into something highly original and well-rooted in the existing literature – just make sure that the article is recent, or someone else may have already exploited the research gap. If you’re still looking to identify a research topic, be sure to check out our video covering that here .
By reviewing these three sections of each article, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, while still getting a good understanding of what each article is saying. Keep in mind that as your literature review progresses, you focus will narrow and you’ll develop a set of core highly relevant articles, which you should sink your teeth into more deeply.
In this post, we looked at how to read academic journal articles quickly and efficiently, to save you many hours of pain while undertaking your literature review.
The key takeaways to remember are:
- You don’t need to read every single journal article covering your topic – focus on the most popular, authoritative and recent ones
- You don’t need to read every word of every article. To start, you just need to get a high-level understanding of the literature, which you can get by focusing on three key areas in each journal article.
- The three sections of each journal article to review are the abstract , the introduction and the conclusion .
- Once you’ve narrowed down your focus and have a core set of highly relevant, highly authoritative articles, you can dive deeper into them, paying closer attention to the methodology and analysis findings.
And there you have it – now go on and hammer through that pile of articles at warp speed. While you’re at it, why not also check out our other posts and videos covering research topic ideation , dissertation and thesis proposal , literature review , methodology , analysis and more.
Psst… there’s more!
This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .
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Thanks Derek for the tips
Reviewing the Literature can be overwhelming if you do not have the plan or the right structure to navigate the pool of information
You’re most welcome, Aletta. All the best with your literature review.
I personally have found these tips as a key to my long standing problem of reading articles. Thanks a million times
Simple and easy to read guidance… funny too
Great to hear that, Rishen 🙂
Much appreciated Derek. I already realized I could not read everything, but you confirming that has brought a lot of relief.
Great to hear that, Mazwakhe 🙂
Derek sir, I’m really happy for you.You made me to think very smart and effective way to do the review of literature.
Thank you so much.
Dear Derek, thank you for your easy and straight forward guidance,
Thanks for the interesting and informative article
You’re most welcome, Sanoon. Glad it was useful.
Thanks for the insights, I am about to start my literature review and this article as well as the other material from GradCoach will help me on the jorney.
You’re most welcome! Good luck writing your literature review
It was a great and effective information.
Thank you that was very helpful. I am taking a directed studies summer course, and I have to submit a literature review by end of August. That article was short, straight to the point and interesting 🙂 thank you Derek
You’re welcome, Emy 🙂 Good luck with your studies!
Thanks Derek. Reading this article has given me a boost because I have been so stock on how to go about my literature review.Though I know I am not meant to read the whole article.But your explanation has given me a greater insight.
Thank you very much sir for your great explanation 😄 Hopefully I’ve enough diligence and courage to start
You’re most welcome, Felicia. Good luck with your research.
thanks, it was helpful.
Thanks Derek for doing such a wonderful job of helping. Blessings Bro!
Concise and applicable, nice! what a great help. I am now doing a literature review section on my thesis, I used to waste so much time on reading articles that is not relevant back and forth.
Thank for your great help!
Hi Derek, i am busy with my research literature. I submited my 1st draft but it was way irrelevant as per comments made by my supervisor… i gave myself time to find out where i diverted until i lesson to some of your videos. As we speak now, i am starting following the guidelines and i feel confident that i am on the right track now. Thanks a lot my brother
You’re most welcome 🙂
I can’t explain my mood when I realised I had to study more than 40 articles about my study field. It was indeed a game-changer. Thank you very much, Derek. Also, Kardashian was the best example that can be used for this situation :)))
Thank you for posting this. It truly takes a load off! I’m new to Doctoral research and peer review study and “Overwhelmed” doesn’t quite sum up how I felt. This is a tremendous help!
Thank you for the advice. Question, how do one keep count of all the articles considered from starting point to narrowed down. Manually, or is there another way?
- What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis) - Grad Coach - […] first step of any literature review is to hunt down and read through the existing research that’s relevant to your research…
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#GradHacks: A guide to reading research papers
Reading scientific research papers can be a tricky task. It is important to ensure you not only understand the research, but to read it critically and evaluate its reliability. Here is some advice to help you efficiently read, understand and critically evaluate scientific research articles.
Most research papers follow a similar structure and contain the following sections; abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion. Some articles will contain all of these sections and others will contain some of them.
This provides a high-level summary of what was researched and what the findings were.
The introduction gives context to the research by giving information about the field and previous related research that led to this paper. It explains the purpose of the research, what is already known about the topic, the hypotheses that are being tested and how the study will help improve current understanding of the topic. It often includes brief descriptions of key phrases or concepts. Sometimes the introduction includes information about how the research will improve current understanding. However, this is often saved for the discussion and/or conclusion.
Explains how the data was collected and analysed, including how the experiments were set up and what sample, equipment and techniques were used. The statistical techniques are also explained here.
Presents the findings of the research, without bias or interpretation.
The discussion summarises the results. Here, the results are interpreted and their significance is explained. It refers back to the introduction and explains how the study answered the research question(s).
Summarises the key points and findings of the research, the significance of the findings to the field and what the authors believe should be researched in the future based on their findings.
Top tips for reading a research paper
When reading scientific research papers it is important to consider the following
Pay attention to the title
The title should tell you the main purpose of the paper. It is also good to look at the authors and their affiliations, which could be important for various reasons, including: for future reference, future employment, for guidance and for checking if the research is reliable.
When reading a research article, don’t assume that the authors are correct. Instead, keep asking questions along the way, such as ‘is this the right way to answer this question?’, ‘did they do the right statistical analysis?’ and ‘why did they come to that conclusion?’. Taking sample size and statistical significance into consideration is important too.
Make notes as you go
Make notes in whatever way suits you best. It can be helpful to print the paper and make notes on it. Alternatively, a greener option is to make notes digitally.
Read it multiple times
Research papers contain so much information that it will require you to read it many times before you can fully understand it. Get an understanding of the general purpose of the research and the overall results first, then delve into the finer details once you already have a basic understanding.
Reading some of the references will help you gain background knowledge about the field of research and an understanding of what has been investigated previously.
Discuss the paper with someone else
Discussing the paper with someone from your lab or a different lab will show how much you understood and whether you could get more information from it if you read it again. It also helps to reinforce your memory and consolidate what you have learnt.
Steps for reading a research paper
Following the steps below will help you get the most from reading the paper.
Check the publish date
Knowing when the research was published helps you have an understanding of whether these are the most recent findings and how likely it is that further studies have taken place since.
Skim all of the sections of the paper
Make notes as you do this and look up the meanings of any words you aren’t sure of. A handy tip is to use ctrl F on the keyboard to search for the first time an acronym is mentioned if you come across it later on in a paper, as this is where it will be defined.
Read the introduction
Read this in detail to gain some background information on the topic, including what researchers have previously done in this area and why the researchers decided to do this study. Spend longer on this if you are unfamiliar with the topic.
Also, read some of the references included in the introduction if you want to know more.
Identify how this paper fits in with the field
What’s the big question that the field is trying to solve? This will help you to understand the impact of the work and why it was done.
Read the discussion
This section will give you an understanding of the findings of the paper. You may find it helpful to write notes on the main findings and write down any questions you have, so you can find out the answers when you read the rest of the paper.
Read the abstract
To get an overview of the paper. The abstract usually summarises the overall reasons for conducting the study, how the topic was investigated, major findings and a summary of the interpretations/conclusion of these findings. This is a good way to get a summary of the study before reading about it in more detail.
Look through the results and methods sections
The methods section can often be the most technical part of the paper. You will likely need to go over this section multiple times to be able to fully get to grips with the procedures and the results.
It is important to take into consideration the following factors when reading the results and methods sections:
- Sample size
- Statistical significance
Again, look up any terms you don’t understand and make a note of them.
Write a succinct summary of the research
To check your understanding, write a short summary of the research. This will also help if you are going to write about the paper later in an essay, dissertation, thesis or literature review. Use the following questions as prompts:
- What is the research investigating?
- Why did the research investigate this?
- What was found?
- Are the findings unusual or do they support other research in the field?
- What are the implications of the results?
- What experiments could be carried out to answer any further questions?
Seeman, S., Campagnola, L., Davoudian, P., Hoggarth, A., Hage, T., Bosma-Moody, A., Baker, C., Lee, J., Mihalas, S., Teeter, C., Ko, A., Ojemann, J., Gwinn, R., Silbergold, D., Cobbs, C., Phillips, J., Lein, E., Murphy, G., Koch, C., Zeng, H., and Jarky, T. Sparse recurrent excitatory connectivity in the microcircuit of the adult mouse and human cortex. eLife (2018) doi: 10.7554/eLife.37349
Do you have any other tips for reading and critically evaluating research papers? Let us know by leaving a comment!
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How to Read Journal Papers Quickly and Effectively
Before writing an academic paper, especially a PhD dissertation or thesis, one is required to read hundreds and hundreds of journal papers. This helps the student understand the intellectual debate in his topic of study as well as identify the existing gaps that are yet to be addressed.
Given the time constraints that PhD students face, the question that begs an answer is: should a student read each journal article word-for-word, sentence-by-sentence? Or is it OK to skip some sections? How to read journal papers quickly and effectively is one of the major concerns for PhD students.
There are two main reading strategies for academic papers and specifically for journal research papers that this article will discuss.
Structure of journal papers
Recommended reading strategy for novice students, effective reading strategy for experienced students, other important things to do while reading academic papers, related posts:.
Most journal papers are structured in a similar way:
- The first page has: the title of the journal paper, the authors, the bibliographical details (journal name, issue number, volume number, and date of publication), the keywords of the journal paper, and the abstract of the paper.
- The introduction section comes next.
- The methods section.
- The results section.
- The discussion section.
- The conclusion section.
- Some journal papers may also have a limitations section.
- Lastly, the reference list section.
The reading strategy used by PhD students will depend on the stage of research the student is at.
For a complete novice, it is advisable to start reading journal papers in the order in which the sections appear, that is, starting from the title to the abstract, the introduction, the methods, results, discussion, and lastly to the conclusion section.
The purpose of this reading strategy is two-fold:
- to help a new student learn the flow of information in a journal paper
- to understand the purpose that each section in the journal paper serves
After reading several journal papers and understanding the above two main points, the student can start using the second reading strategy described below. This reading strategy is considered to be the most effective and efficient in that it saves readers time and they are able to get the most important information from a journal paper.
Step 1: Read the title of the paper
At a glance, the title can give a reader some bits of information such as the variables of the study, the method used, the population of study, some results of the study. These details can tell a reader if the paper is relevant and worth reading or not.
If the title of the journal article shows some relevance, the reader should proceed to the abstract section.
The image below shows a sample of dissection of the title of a journal paper written by Gichu et al. (2018):
Step 2: Read the abstract
The abstract is a summary of the journal paper and contains information such as: the purpose of the study (why the study was conducted), the methods used in the study (how the study was conducted), the findings (results) of the study and conclusions from the results (the interpretation of the findings).
After reading this section, determine if the paper is relevant for your own research. If it is not, you may decide to stop reading at this point. If it is relevant, proceed to the discussion section.
Step 3: Read the introduction section
The purpose of the introduction section is two-fold:
- To stimulate the interest of the readers.
- To place the study in a broader context.
The most important parts of the introduction section are the background to the study, and the aims and objectives/research questions of the study.
After reading this section, you need to understand why the study was conducted in the first place, and how it fits into your study.
Step 4: Read the discussion section
The discussion section provides detailed responses to the research questions of the paper.
It also discusses how the study findings support (or contradict) previous studies conducted by other researchers on the same topic.
You do not need to read this section in depth, you can scan through and pick out the key issues that are relevant to your study.
Step 5: Read the results section
The results section may or may not have different sub-sections each discussing a specific finding. Read the subtitles to pick out the main findings from the study.
Next look at the tables, graphs and statistics and see if they support the discussions and answer the research questions.
Step 6: Lastly, read the methods section if necessary
This section is often the most difficult to read hence it is advisable to read last, if need be.
The methods section highlights the experiments (or research methodology) that were used, and how data was collected and analysed.
You can skip this section altogether or skim through quickly to take note of any important point that you can borrow for your study. Unless you intend to replicate the study, it is not necessary to read this section in depth.
Take notes while you read
Effective note-taking skills are important when reading academic papers. Taking short notes serves three main purposes:
- It helps you have a clear understanding of the paper. This is especially the case if you can take the notes without referring to the paper.
- It helps you avoid plagiarism if you can write the notes in your own words. Additionally, you can note some direct quotes which are relevant for your own study.
- It saves you time when you start writing your paper because you do not need to go back to the paper and read it again.
While taking the notes, also include the citation so that it will be easier to include the bibliography after you are done writing the paper. Most reference management softwares such as Zotero and Mendley can insert the bibliographies automatically.
Conduct reference mining
Reference mining , also called citation chaining, is a very useful technique for identifying other papers and articles that are relevant to your study and that you may have missed when searching for literature.
Each academic paper or journal paper has a reference list at the end. After reading the paper, look at the reference list and highlight all the references that may be relevant to your study.
Then search for the highlighted articles from journal databases and include them in your references library.
As a PhD student, you will read hundreds of journal papers and other academic articles in order to produce a high-quality dissertation. Reading journal papers quickly and effectively is a skill that develops over time. Not every detail in a journal paper should be read. What is important is information that is relevant to a student’s own research.
Where To Find Journal Articles For PhD Research: A Beginner’s Guide
Boolean Operators and Modifiers: Effective Search Strategies for PhD Students
9 Note-Taking Tips For PhD Research
Grace Njeri-Otieno is a Kenyan, a wife, a mom, and currently a PhD student, among many other balls she juggles. She holds a Bachelors' and Masters' degrees in Economics and has more than 7 years' experience with an INGO. She was inspired to start this site so as to share the lessons learned throughout her PhD journey with other PhD students. Her vision for this site is "to become a go-to resource center for PhD students in all their spheres of learning."
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- J Oral Maxillofac Pathol
- v.17(1); Jan-Apr 2013
Art of reading a journal article: Methodically and effectively
Department of Oral Pathology, Drs Sudha and Nageswara Rao Siddhartha Institute of Dental Sciences, Gannavaram, Andhra Pradesh, India
Reading scientific literature is mandatory for researchers and clinicians. With an overflow of medical and dental journals, it is essential to develop a method to choose and read the right articles.
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.
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.
One can read and appreciate a scientific manuscript if a systematic approach is followed in a simple and logical manner.
“ We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge .” John Naisbitt
It has become essential for the clinicians, researchers, and students to read articles from scientific journals. This is not only to keep abreast of progress in the speciality concerned but also to be aware of current trends in providing optimum healthcare to the patients. Reading scientific literature is a must for students interested in research, for choosing their topics and carrying out their experiments. Scientific literature in that field will help one understand what has already been discovered and what questions remain unanswered and thus help in designing one's research project. Sackett (1981)[ 1 ] and Durbin (2009)[ 2 ] suggested various reasons why most of us read journal articles and some of these are listed in Table 1 .
Common reasons for reading journal articles
The scientific literature is burgeoning at an exponential rate. Between 1978 and 1985, nearly 272,344 articles were published annually and listed in Medline. Between 1986 and 1993, this number reached 344,303 articles per year, and between 1994 and 2001, the figure has grown to 398,778 articles per year.[ 3 ] To be updated with current knowledge, a physician practicing general medicine has to read 17 articles a day, 365 days a year.[ 4 ]
In spite of the internet rapidly gaining a strong foothold as a quick source of obtaining information, reading journal articles, whether from print or electronic media, still remains the most common way of acquiring new information for most of us.[ 2 ] Newspaper reports or novels can be read in an insouciant manner, but reading research reports and scientific articles requires concentration and meticulous approach. At present, there are 1312 dentistry journals listed in Pubmed.[ 5 ] How can one choose an article, read it purposefully, effectively, and systematically? The aim of this article is to provide an answer to this question by presenting an efficient and methodical approach to a scientific manuscript. However, the reader is informed that this paper is mainly intended for the amateur reader unaccustomed to scientific literature and not for the professional interested in critical appraisal of journal articles.
TYPES OF JOURNAL ARTICLES
Different types of papers are published in medical and dental journals. One should be aware of each kind; especially, when one is looking for a specific type of an article. Table 2 gives different categories of papers published in journals.
Types of articles published in a journal
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.[ 6 ] An article published in a peer-reviewed journal is more valued than one which is not.
An original research article should consist of the following headings: Structured abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRAD) and may be Randomized Control Trial (RCT), Controlled Clinical Trial (CCT), Experiment, Survey, and Case-control or Cohort study. Reviews could be non-systematic (narrative) or systematic. A narrative review is a broad overview of a topic without any specific question, more or less an update, and qualitative summary. On the other hand, a systematic review typically addresses a specific question about a topic, details the methods by which papers were identified in the literature, uses predetermined criteria for selection of papers to be included in the review, and qualitatively evaluates them. A meta-analysis is a type of systematic review in which numeric results of several separate studies are statistically combined to determine the outcome of a specific research question.[ 7 – 9 ] Some are invited reviews, requested by the Editor, from an expert in a particular field of study.
A case study is a report of a single clinical case, whereas, a case series is a description of a number of such cases. Case reports and case series are description of disease (s) generally considered rare or report of heretofore unknown or unusual findings in a well-recognized condition, unique procedure, imaging technique, diagnostic test, or treatment method. Technical notes are description of new, innovative techniques, or modifications to existing procedures. A pictorial essay is a teaching article with images and legends but has limited text. Commentary is a short article on an author's personal opinion of a specific topic and could be controversial. An editorial, written by the editor of the journal or invited, can be perspective (about articles published in that particular issue) or persuasive (arguing a specific point of view). Other articles published in a journal include letters to the editor, book reviews, conference proceedings and abstracts, and abstracts from other journals.[ 10 ]
WHAT TO READ IN A JOURNAL? – CHOOSING THE RIGHT ARTICLE
Not all research articles published are excellent, and it is pragmatic to decide if the quality of the study warrants reading of the manuscript. The first step for a reader is to choose a right article for reading, depending on one's individual requirement. The next step is to read the selected article methodically and efficiently.[ 2 ] A simple decision-making flowchart is depicted in [ Figure 1 ], which helps one to decide the type of article to select. This flowchart is meant for one who has a specific intent of choosing a particular type of article and not for one who intends to browse through a journal.
Schematic flowchart of the first step in choosing an article to read
HOW TO START READING AN ARTICLE?
“ There is an art of reading, as well as an art of thinking, and an art of writing .” Clarence Day
At first glance, a journal article might appear intimidating for some or confusing for others with its tables and graphs. Reading a research article can be a frustrating experience, especially for the one who has not mastered the art of reading scientific literature. Just like there is a method to extract a tooth or prepare a cavity, one can also learn to read research articles by following a systematic approach. Most scientific articles are organized as follows:[ 2 , 11 ]
- Title: Topic and information about the authors.
- Abstract: Brief overview of the article.
- Introduction: Background information and statement of the research hypothesis.
- Methods: Details of how the study was conducted, procedures followed, instruments used and variables measured.
- Results: All the data of the study along with figures, tables and/or graphs.
- Discussion: The interpretation of the results and implications of the study.
- References/Bibliography: Citations of sources from where the information was obtained.
Review articles do not usually follow the above pattern, unless they are systematic reviews or meta-analysis. The cardinal rule is: Never start reading an article from the beginning to the end. It is better to begin by identifying the conclusions of the study by reading the title and the abstract.[ 12 ] 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 [ Figure 2 ].
Decision-making flowchart to decide whether to read the chosen article or not
Like the title of a movie which attracts a filmgoer, the title of the article is the one which attracts a reader in the first place. A good title will inform the potential reader a great deal about the study to decide whether to go ahead with the paper or dismiss it. Most readers prefer titles that are descriptive and self-explanatory without having to look at the entire article to know what it is all about.[ 2 ] For example, the paper entitled “Microwave processing – A blessing for pathologists” gives an idea about the article in general to the reader. But there is no indication in the title whether it is a review article on microwave processing or an original research. If the title had been “Comparison of Microwave with Conventional Tissue Processing on quality of histological sections”, even the insouciant reader would have a better understanding of the content of the paper.
Abstract helps us determine whether we should read the entire article or not. In fact, most journals provide abstract free of cost online allowing us to decide whether we need to purchase the entire article. Most scientific journals now have a structured abstract with separate subheadings like introduction (background or hypothesis), methods, results and conclusions making it easy for a reader to identify important parts of the study quickly.[ 13 ] Moreover, there is usually a restriction about the number of words that can be included in an abstract. This makes the abstract concise enough for one to read rapidly.
The abstract can be read in a systematic way by answering certain fundamental questions like what was the study about, why and how was the study conducted, the results and their inferences. The reader should make a note of any questions that were raised while reading the abstract and be sure that answers have been found after reading the entire article.[ 12 ]
Reading the entire article
Once the reader has decided to read the entire article, one can begin with the introduction.
The purpose of the introduction is to provide the rationale for conducting the study. This section usually starts with existing knowledge and previous research of the topic under consideration. Typically, this section concludes with identification of gaps in the literature and how these gaps stimulated the researcher to design a new study.[ 12 ] A good introduction should provide proper background for the study. The aims and objectives are usually mentioned at the end of the introduction. The reader should also determine whether a research hypothesis (study hypothesis) was stated and later check whether it was answered under the discussion.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
This section gives the technical details of how the experiments were carried out. In most of the research articles, all details are rarely included but there should be enough information to understand how the study was carried out.[ 12 ] Information about the number of subjects included in the study and their categorization, sampling methods, the inclusion criteria (who can be in) and exclusion criteria (who cannot be in) and the variables chosen can be derived by reading this section. The reader should get acquainted with the procedures and equipment used for data collection and find out whether they were appropriate.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
In this section, the researchers give details about the data collected, either in the form of figures, tables and/or graphs. Ideally, interpretation of data should not be reported in this section, though statistical analyses are presented. The reader should meticulously go through this segment of the manuscript and find out whether the results were reliable (same results over time) and valid (measure what it is supposed to measure). An important aspect is to check if all the subjects present in the beginning of the study were accounted for at the end of the study. If the answer is no, the reader should check whether any explanation was provided.
Results that were statistically significant and results that were not, must be identified. One should also observe whether a correct statistical test was employed for analysis and was the level of significance appropriate for the study. To appreciate the choice of a statistical test, one requires an understanding of the hypothesis being tested.[ 14 , 15 ] Table 3 provides a list of commonly used statistical tests used in scientific publications. Description and interpretation of these tests is beyond the scope of this paper. It is wise to remember the following advice: It is not only important to know whether a difference or association is statistically significant but also appreciate whether it is large or substantial enough to be useful clinically.[ 16 ] In other words, what is statistically significant may not be clinically significant.
Basic statistics commonly used in scientific publications
This is the most important section of the article where the research questions are answered and the meaning of analysis and interpretation of the data are presented. Usually the study results are compared with other studies, explaining in what aspects they were different or similar. Ideally, no new data should be presented under discussion and no information from other sections should be repeated.[ 2 ] In addition, this section also discusses the various strengths and limitations/shortcomings of the study, providing suggestions about areas that need additional research.
The meaning of results and their analyses, new theories or hypotheses, limitations of the study, explanation of differences and similarities with other comparable studies, and suggestions for future research are offered in this section. It is important to remember that the discussions are the authors’ interpretations and opinions and not necessarily facts.
READING THE CONCLUSION (AGAIN !)
Though conclusion part had been read at the beginning, it is prudent to read it again at the end to confirm whether what we had inferred initially is correct. If the conclusion had not made sense earlier, it may make sense after having perused through the entire article. Sometimes, the study conclusions are included in the discussion section and may not be easy to locate. The questions that can be asked under various sub-headings of an original research paper are presented as a simple questionnaire in Table 4 . It is assumed that one who is using this questionnaire has read and analyzed the abstract and then decided to read the entire article. This questionnaire does not critically analyze a scientific article. However, answers to these questions provide a systematic approach to obtain a broad overview of the manuscript, especially to a novice. If one who is new to reading articles, writing answers to these questions and taking notes will help in understanding most aspects of a research article.
Questionnaire for original research articles
“ Let us read with method, and propose to ourselves an end to which our studies may point. The use of reading is to aid us in thinking .” Edward Gibbon
It has become mandatory to read scientific literature to be well-informed of ever-expanding information and/or for better diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. Since there is an abundance of journals and articles, it is critical to develop a modus operandi for achieving a rapid, purposeful, effective and useful method to read these manuscripts. A simple but efficient and logical approach to scientific literature has been presented here for choosing articles and reading them systematically and effectively for a better understanding.
Source of Support: Nil.
Conflict of Interest: None declared.
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Attempting to read a scientific or scholarly research article for the first time may seem overwhelming and confusing. This guide details how to read a scientific article step-by-step. First, you should not approach a scientific article like a textbook— reading from beginning to end of the chapter or book without pause for reflection or criticism. Additionally, it is highly recommended that you highlight and take notes as you move through the article. Taking notes will keep you focused on the task at hand and help you work towards comprehension of the entire article.
- Skim the article. This should only take you a few minutes. You are not trying to comprehend the entire article at this point, but just get a basic overview. You don’t have to read in order; the discussion/conclusions will help you to determine if the article is relevant to your research. You might then continue on to the Introduction. Pay attention to the structure of the article, headings, and figures.
- Grasp the vocabulary. Begin to go through the article and highlight words and phrases you do not understand. Some words or phrases you may be able to get an understanding from the context in which it is used, but for others you may need the assistance of a medical or scientific dictionary. Subject-specific dictionaries available through our Library databases and online are listed below.
- The abstract gives a quick overview of the article. It will usually contain four pieces of information: purpose or rationale of study (why they did it); methodology (how they did it); results (what they found); conclusion (what it means). Begin by reading the abstract to make sure this is what you are looking for and that it will be worth your time and effort.
- The introduction gives background information about the topic and sets out specific questions to be addressed by the authors. You can skim through the introduction if you are already familiar with the paper’s topic.
- The methods section gives technical details of how the experiments were carried out and serves as a “how-to” manual if you wanted to replicate the same experiments as the authors. This is another section you may want to only skim unless you wish to identify the methods used by the researchers or if you intend to replicate the research yourself.
- The results are the meat of the scientific article and contain all of the data from the experiments. You should spend time looking at all the graphs, pictures, and tables as these figures will contain most of the data.
- Lastly, the discussion is the authors’ opportunity to give their opinions. Keep in mind that the discussions are the authors’ interpretations and not necessarily facts. It is still a good place for you to get ideas about what kind of research questions are still unanswered in the field and what types of questions you might want your own research project to tackle. (See the Future Research Section of the Research Process for more information).
- Read the bibliography/references section. Reading the references or works cited may lead you to other useful resources. You might also get a better understanding of the basic terminology, main concepts, major researchers, and basic terminology in the area you are researching.
- Have I taken time to understand all the terminology?
- Am I spending too much time on the less important parts of this article?
- Do I have any reason to question the credibility of this research?
- What specific problem does the research address and why is it important?
- How do these results relate to my research interests or to other works which I have read?
- Read the article a second time in chronological order. Reading the article a second time will reinforce your overall understanding. You may even start to make connections to other articles that you have read on this topic.
Reading a Scholarly Article Workshop
This workshop presents effective techniques for reading and understanding a scholarly article, as well as locating definitions related to your research topic.
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