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Ordinary Magician | Half stack developer

How to Read and Comprehend Scientific Research Articles

Scientific articles are how scholars and researchers communicate with each other. Reading scientific articles helps you to participate in your comprehension by wondering how the researchers explain their ideas. Books, websites, papers, scientific magazines are general places to start with.

This tutorial will discuss:

  • How to read a scientific article
  • How to find the main points of an article
  • How to take effective notes

How to read a scientific article

The least effective way to read scientific articles is from the start to finish. Instead, expert researchers scan the article skimming for key findings. The structured scientific articles are defined by several distinct sections. Most articles like lab reports are divided into five sections:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

And the most effective way to read a scientific article is to follow this order: Abstract, Discussion, Introduction, Results, Methods. The difference between the original structure and suggested reading order are listed below:

The original structureOrder suggested

By reading in the suggested order, you can quickly find the information you need to determine if the article is useful for you. After you read each section, asking yourself whether the article is interesting and relevant enough to your research assignment will help you to decide whether to continue reading it.

The Abstract

Abstract usually contains four kinds of information:

  • Purpose of the study (why they did it)
  • Methodology (how they did it)
  • Results (what they have found)
  • Conclusion (what it means)

After reading these sections, think about whether you should continue your reading.

The Discussion

This section usually contains things below:

  • Clear answers about the question posed in the introduction
  • Explanations about how the results supports the conclusions

After reading this sections ask yourself whether you understand and believe the author(s)' claims.

The Introduction

The introduction serves two purposes:

  • Stimulating and interests the subject
  • Putting the article in the large context

Generally introductions achieve these goals by leading the reader from the General(what is already known to the topic), to the Specific(what is not yet known), to the Focused Question(what the authors are asking). Thus, the authors describe previous works and how they are related to it.

Before we move on to the next section, ask yourself why the authors did this study, and, does the researched question match up with the conclusions in the discussion?

The results

The results' section states:

  • What the author has found
  • Key data, often shown in figures or tables

Ask yourself if the data collected are appropriate to answer the researched question before moving on to the next section.

The methods

The method sections tells the reader:

  • What experiments were done to answer the question stated in the introduction

This section can be difficult to read for students due to the technical language used and complex details listed. However, you can fully understand what happened by reading it carefully.

How to find the main points of an article

While you are reading the article, also distinguish the author's main points. It can be difficult to distinguish between the main point and less relevant sub-points.

Key places to look for the main points include:

  • The article title
  • The abstract
  • Keywords
  • Figure and Table titles
  • The first and the last sentences of the Introduction

The keywords to look out for the main points include:

  • "We hypothesize that..."
  • "We propose..."
  • "We introduce..."

How to take effective notes

Another important part of reading and comprehending a scientific article is to take notes. Effective note-taking will save your time and help you clarify your thoughts.

Creating a standard template for taking note will help you organize your research and enable you to make quick comparisons and will save your time re-reading articles.

A possible template of reading articles can be:

Article title
Main concepts
My critical response


So we know that reading a paper in the proper order, making full understand of the author's main points, and taking effective notes can be a effective way to do your research.