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Thread: "How to read and understand a scientific paper" (by J. Ruff).

  1. #1 "How to read and understand a scientific paper" (by J. Ruff). 
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Jun 2013
    Last year, Jennifer Raff wrote an article on her blog with the goal of explaining how non-scientists should read scientific papers.
    It contains a step-by-step approach in order to comprehend and use the information for debates, comments and the like.

    Her approach, which I summarized, is as follows:
    1. Read the introduction.
    2. Identify the question that the paper wants to answer.
    3. Summarize the background of the paper.
    4. Identify specific questions (i.e. hypotheses).
    5. Identify the approach used to tackle the questions.
    6. Draw the outline of the methods used (Example).
    7. Summarize the results of each experiment.
    8. Question whether or not the results answer the specific questions.
    9. Read the Discussion/Conclusion section and question it.
    10. Read the abstract (i.e. the summary of the paper) and compare it with your interpretation.
    11. Seek what other researchers have to say about this. Sometimes papers turn out to be faulty (Example).

    I think that the article is very useful and informative for many people on here (including me).
    Nonetheless, one must keep in mind that this method only works if you have access to the full paper.

    How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists Violent metaphors

    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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