Microsoft Word - HowToReadSciArticle.doc
How to Read a Scientific Article
Mary Purugganan, Ph.D. [email protected]
Jan Hewitt, Ph.D. [email protected]
Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication
Reading a scientific article is a complex task. The worst way to approach this task is to
treat it like the reading of a textbook—reading from title to literature cited, digesting
every word along the way without any reflection or criticism. Rather, you should begin
by skimming the article to identify its structure and features. As you read, look for the
author’s main points. Generate questions before, during, and after reading. Draw
inferences based on your own experiences and knowledge. And to really improve
understanding and recall, take notes as you read. This handout discusses each of these
strategies in more detail.
1. Skim the article and identify its structure.
Most journals use a conventional IMRD structure: An abstract followed by Introduction,
Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each of these sections normally contains easily
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