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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

BIOS/MATH 130 Spring 2021

Reading Scientific Articles


Given that the journal literature is immense, design searches that can narrow your search to the most relevant. Then, read only those sections of a scholarly paper sufficient to tell you whether a deeper reading of the article is worth your time.  

Here are some resources about reading articles:

How to (seriously) read a scientific paper Elisabeth Pain

This provides lots of perspectives on how to read a scientific paper. One really important point is this one which emphasizes that you should never in the first reading immerse yourself in the details of a paper.

"I start by reading the abstract. Then, I skim the introduction and flip through the article to look at the figures. I try to identify the most prominent one or two figures, and I really make sure I understand what's going on in them. Then, I read the conclusion/summary. Only when I have done that will I go back into the technical details to clarify any questions I might have."

This guide (U. of Texas Libraries) has a tutorial, plus it makes the same type of point:

"One method is to change the reading order of the sections in the research article. Instead of reading the sections in the order the journal puts forth try: 

1.) Abstract

2.) Discussion

3.) Introduction

4.) Results

5.) Methods"

This is a more medically focused treatment. 

Art of reading a journal article: Methodically and effectively RV Subramanyam, Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

Some other resources: