Among the perks that come with being a life science student, there are some skills that can be difficult to acquire. One of these is the ability to read and fully understand a scientific paper. And hence, in this blog, I would like to share some interesting tips that I use/ came across for developing the skill of reading a scientific paper.
Before we start, the most important thing to remember is that everyone has their own pace with acquiring a skill, and hence, don’t be too harsh on yourself – give yourself some time and practice.
- Have a clear goal in mind and don’t hesitate to look up new pathways/ ideas. Unless you are not sure about what you plan to take from the paper for your work, you will not be able to emphasize the ideas that are of your interest.
- SKIM. Skim through the paper while giving extra attention to the graphs and figures. This helps you to build a very rough idea about the focus of the paper while at the same time the graphs give you an idea about the quality of the statistics that went into proving/disproving the hypothesis of the paper. Following this, move to read the introduction and try and identify the big questions and the variables that might be associated with these questions.
- Focus on the results/ discussion and interactions section. Among the professors that I interact with, the most frequent answer that I get for the question: “What has changed in the way you read research papers? ”is the fact that they focus more on the results/discussion section of the paper. Knowing this, we can train our minds to better analyze the conclusion section from the very beginning of our scientific career and hence learn to grasp more from a given paper.
Reading a paper and understanding every aspect it tries to cover is a skill that bridges the gaps between textbooks and real-world science and hence the more your practice, the better you become at it.
Although I am yet to master this skill, I hope you find some of these tricks helpful!