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I should point out that the opinions expressed here are my own and that I accept no liability for mistakes and/or omissions: caveat lector. A Standard disclaimer applies.

How to read a scientific paper

(Extract from Lecture Notes [LN])Reading a scientific paper is not like reading a novel. Scientific papers are very highly structured documents. There is, Consequently there is a structured way to read them:

  1. Read the title.
  2. Read the abstract. Ask yourself the question 'What is this paper trying to tell us'?' Now you have a general idea of what the paper is about.
  3. Flick to the back of the paper, reading only the headings. This gives you an idea of the structure of the paper, and an impression of how the paper tells you about what it tells you about.
  4. Read the conclusion. Ask yourself the question 'What was actually achieved in the paper'?'
  5. Look at the references. 'These tell you what other work was used to construct the current work.
  6. Go back to the beginning and read the paper carefully. Don't be afraid to skip sections at the first reading.

A well-written scientific paper encourages the reader to move through these steps.

Last updated 26-Jul-2006, Contact Page Author.