How to read and learn from scientific literature, even if you’re not an expert

Reading scientific literature can be overwhelming, even to the best of us. They are often full of technical terms and jargon, specific to that field of study. Yet, in an era of greater transparency and open access, journals are making it easier to view these articles. Before starting, ensure the scientific articles you are reading are worth the effort. Seek out journals endorsed or put out by reputable sources. Find those that the experts/writers have appropriate credentials in that field. Many databases require a fee to get the full article. View the free previews carefully before committing to a buy the full paper. Scientific articles always include an abstract. This is a summary of the paper and may indicate whether the entire paper is worth reading. The more you read and the more you get familiar with the terms the better you will get at understanding scientific articles.

Key Takeaways:

  • Search for articles published in reputable journals instead of those where authors can pay to have work published.
  • Abstracts of articles are free; read these and decide if you want to pay for the entire article.
  • Familiarize yourself with the standard sections in most journal articles- introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion.

“As more and more journals embrace the principles of open access and more information becomes freely available online, curious readers are more likely to start engaging with scientific literature.”

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