Last week, I read a post about ‘How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists’ by Jennifer Raff in her blog VIOLENT METAPHORS.

In her post, Jennifer Raff explains that the reading of a scientific paper is not easy for non-scientists due to their nature and their own style focused on the scientific community more than other audiences.


The reading of a scientific paper is an rare process for many people because the sections are in a different order they expect, and you  have to take notes, read it multiple times, and probably go to read other cited papers.

Step-by-step instructions for reading a primary research article:

  1. Begin by reading the introduction, not the abstract.
  2. Identify the BIG QUESTION.
  3. Summarize the background in five sentences or less.
  4. Identify the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S)
  5. Identify the approach
  6. Now read the methods section. Draw a diagram for each experiment, showing exactly what the authors did.
  7. Read the results section.
  8. Do the results answer the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S)? What do you think they mean?
  9. Read the conclusion/discussion/Interpretation section.
  10. Now, go back to the beginning and read the abstract.
  11. FINAL STEP: (Don’t neglect doing this) What do other researchers say about this paper?

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