Skip to main content
Logo image

Sound Writing

Subsection 2.2.3 Reading in the Sciences

Reading in the sciences (social, earth, hard, soft, or otherwise) can be a whole different beast than reading literature, historical documents, or humanities-based secondary sources. If you’ve ever tried to read a peer reviewed scientific article, you may have found yourself feeling lost and confused by the technical words and abbreviations. But have no fear! By using the following strategies, you can become a savvy reader of scientific articles.
List 2.2.4. Strategies for Reading in the Sciences
  1. Start by reading the title and abstract a few times.
    While you may not absorb it all on a first or even a second reading, the title and abstract of a scientific article offer a snapshot of the whole article. Use the title and abstract as a mental guide to lead you through the text.
  2. Next, skim the introduction to get the context of the project.
    Make sure to read the last paragraph of the introduction because the research question of the paper will usually be there. Then, skim the discussion/conclusion to determine if or how the goals projected in the introduction were accomplished.
  3. Look at the figures.
    While the authors of the paper are motivated to tell a compelling story about their data, it’s harder to manipulate a figure. Spend some time reading the figure captions and understanding how the data matches up with what the authors are saying in the text.
  4. If you want to get a still deeper understanding of the paper, read the methodology section.
    If you read this section carefully and actively, it will allow you to suss out whether the paper stands up to scientific rigor.
  5. Know that you will need to look terminology up along the way.
    Even professors need to do this when they read articles in an unfamiliar research area.