Science: How to read a scientific paper

  • Maybe useful


    http://www.sciencemag.org/care…how-read-scientific-paper



  • I placed the paper on a large empty desk. I eliminated all other distractions. To avoid interruptions from friends encouraging alcohol consumption, as friends do in college, I sat in an obscure anteroom with no foot traffic. To avoid interruptions from cellphone calls, I made sure it was 1999.

    Most importantly, if I didn’t understand a word in a sentence, I forbade myself from proceeding to the next sentence until I looked it up in a textbook and then reread the sentence until it made sense.

    I specifically remember this happening with the word “exogenous.” Somehow I had always glossed over this word, as though it was probably unimportant to its sentence. Wrong.

    It took me more than 2 hours to read a three-page paper. But this time, I actually understood it.

    And I thought, “Wow. I get it. I really get it.”

    And I thought, “Oh crap. I’m going to have to do this again, aren’t I?”


    That is a good start. I'd add the following. After having understood what a paper is saying as above you cannot properly evaluate it without the context. That means understanding what you get from forward (citation) and backward (reference) and the two combined searches, and putting the claimed results into your own understanding of what they mean in the context of other work, which allows you to evaluate assumptions and implications, and test things that others disagree with.


    Without that you will inevitably over-estimate the significance of specific results.

  • Another skeptic who believes in his own mind-reading abilities....


    Or are you only referring to papers that you have written?

    zeuss - that is uncalled for and perhaps shows you have never done a big LS in a new field?


    That conclusion is obvious to anyone who has done a big LS. Initially, every paper sounds wonderful. Put into context, a few stand out as making a real contribution, a few are just silly, most are just a little thing sounding (when first read) better than it is.


    No mind reading required - and that you say this shows ignorance or prejudice.


    LS = literature survey

  • Spare me the "You've never done a literature search" shtick, please. It's getting tiresome, and the suggestion that you have done so many yourself, that a great deal of time is saved by shortening it to an acronym, gives a further sense of the importance to which you ascribe yourself...


    ...And for the fourth time, it's 'Zeus'. Like the god, you know?


    I also suppose that, after doing the necessary number of literature searches to arrive at your conclusions about The Motives of Most Writers, you never pondered the notion that another common thread running through the texts, was that it was you yourself that read them all? Each was filtered through your personal schemata, and as such, any (behavioral) conclusions you reach will be highly biased, by definition.


    But, because I reckon you are bright enough to understand such problems - It seems more reasonable to assume that this apparent knowledge must have come from reading their minds instead... No?



    PS. Whenever I see a 'maryyugo likes this' comment, I get this mental image of Mutley snickering, enthralled by his own Dick Dastardly.

  • after doing the necessary number of literature searches to arrive at your conclusions about The Motives of Most Writers, you never pondered the notion that another common thread running through the texts, was that it was you yourselfthat read them all? Each was filtered through your personal schemata, and as such, any (behavioral) conclusions you reach will be highly biased, by definition.


    Well, my observations were in fact related to students who did said searches, so perhaps my view can be somewhat more objective. It seems a very obvious point to me, and though in reality it is not clear to doctoral students who usually don't know what it is to critically appraise new material till they have themselves read and internalised enough related material to be able to do this, I think as an idea it is obvious to anyone.


    As for my own conclusions based on reading any set of papers - yes of course they are biassed. As anyone's must be. I've said that a number of times here. But the expectation is that such third party bias is less than that of any one scientist publishing their own ideas. In reality some people do a better job than others of being unbiassed, whether publishing their own ideas or reviewing others, so this is just an expectation, and may not apply in individual cases.


    As for cartoons and MY - whether from you or her I think personalisation unhelpful.