In the life of a researcher, it is necessary to do a lot of reading. But to understand and interpret the texts, you need to know how to read scientific articles with fluency, clarity and agility. Here we will describe you how to read a scientific article.
Those who do not master scientific writing often read a scientific text and feel frustrated when reaching the end of the content. The density of a text and the excess of jargon make it difficult to fully understand the subject. With that in mind, Via Carreira created a reading guide to make your life easier.
The importance of reading scientific articles
In the first year of graduation, universities encourage the reading of scientific articles. Reading this type of production is important to know the state of the art of a given topic and, thus, produce your own works, such as reviews , expanded summaries and even other scientific articles.
Unlike books, scientific articles present up-to-date findings that recognize the evolution of science, based on reliable information. These are texts that went through the hands of reviewers before being published in journals, which is why they inspire confidence in the scientific community.
All scientific research aims to solve a problem , based on the application of a systematic methodology (with well-defined and explained procedures). The article, being scientific, brings these elements and supports all types of academic work .
Among the main motivations for reading scientific articles, it is worth mentioning:
- Interest in research;
- Search for solutions or answers in the study area;
- Support a point of view.
Techniques on how to read scientific articles and interpret them
It is not enough simply to read a scientific article, in the same way that you read a fiction book or a report. It is necessary to identify key elements and interpret them to arrive at the best scientific evidence.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to read scientific articles:
1 – Read the title
Often, just by reading the title of the article, you can find out if it is relevant to your research or not. So read the title carefully, tag the keywords and make sure it has an approach that interests you.
By analyzing the title, you can check what the job promises are.
2 – Check date and authors
After analyzing the title, it is worth noting the year of publication of the article. In this way, you find out what the level of updating of the study is. Another important point is to check the academic trajectory of the authors and the reliability of the institution where the research was conducted.
3 – Read the summary
The abstract , as the name implies, is a summary of everything you will find in the scientific text. Carefully read this part of the article, identifying objective, methods (how the work proposed to solve a certain problem), result and conclusion.
A researcher needs to know very well how to optimize his time, otherwise he will not be able to meet the schedule. Therefore, the preliminary reading of the title and abstract are essential for the first selection of articles.
4 – Take a look at the introduction
The introduction of an article brings what already exists of prior knowledge on the subject studied. In addition, it highlights the importance of the subject, what bothers the author and what he wants to study.
If you think the article is good enough to support arguments in your research, read on. Otherwise, discard it and look for other, more recent and relevant publications.
5 – Do a superficial reading of the whole
The first time you read a complete article it is always superficial, that is, it is not necessary to take notes. Just pay attention to the words and expressions that are unknown . Use a highlighter to identify terms. If possible, also identify the central idea and major findings .
6 – Read in depth
The second reading is always more in-depth and makes it possible to make a critical analysis of the scientific production. At this stage, be careful to take notes and identify the following elements:
- Research problem: what difficulty does the author propose to solve? Identify the guiding question .
- Method : what path did the author take to find a solution to the problem? This section has a lot of detail, so it’s the hardest to read.
- Results : check the information collected by the study, which tries to answer the research problem. When they are presented in the form of graphs and tables, you need to know how to interpret it.
- Conclusion : it is in this part of the work that the author makes it clear whether the research problem has been solved or not.
As the second reading takes place, it is essential to look for unknown terms and expressions, that is, those that were identified in the superficial reading. In this way, you will become more familiar with the concepts underlying the text.
In a critical reading, you need to know how to evaluate the work that was done. In this analysis, a tip is to be careful with excessive data coherence, that is, data completely in accordance with the theory. This can indicate disguised and even false information, so pay attention.
The analysis of the results is one of the most important steps in reading a scientific article, after all, you can identify the essential points of the work, such as solved problems, limitations and gaps. In addition, it verifies whether the study confirms or goes against other research that already exists (comparison exercise).
When analyzing the last part of the scientific text, pay attention to the author’s conclusions. Check if they are aligned with the presented results.
7 – Make markings with different colors
Yellow : author’s argument;
Green : arguments that converge with your theme;
Red : arguments that diverge from your topic;
Blue : fetch the original reference.
There are many reading techniques , here we present a path that usually works for those who do not have much experience with scientific writing.
In the article “ How to carry out a critical analysis of a scientific article ”, written by UFMG Dentistry students, you will find some more instructions on how to read publications, considering the most important parts of the text. It is worth checking out this material, which is useful for different areas of knowledge.
We hope that after reading this article you have understood how to read a scientific article?