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Authors: Mary Purugganan, Ph.D. e-mail: maryp@rice.edu; Jan Hewitt, Ph.D. e-mail: jhewitt@rice.edu

Reading a scientific article is a complex task. The worst way to approach this task is to treat it like the reading of a textbook—reading from title to literature cited, digesting every word along the way without any reflection or criticism. Rather, you should begin by skimming the article to identify its structure and features. As you read, look for the author’s main points. Generate questions before, during, and after reading. Draw inferences based on your own experiences and knowledge. And to really improve understanding and recall, take notes as you read. This handout discusses each of these strategies in more detail.

Skim the article and identify its structure

Most journals use a conventional IMRD structure: An abstract followed by Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each of these sections normally contains easily recognized conventional features, and if you read with an anticipation of these features, you will read an article more quickly and comprehend more.

Features of abstracts

Abstracts usually contain four kinds of information:

  • purpose or rationale of study (why they did it)
  • methodology (how they did it)
  • results (what they found)
  • conclusion (what it means)

Most scientists read the abstract first. Others—especially experts in the field—skip right from the title to the visuals because the visuals, in many cases, tell the reader what kinds of experiments were done and what results were obtained. You should probably begin reading a paper by reading the abstract carefully and noting the four kinds of information outlined above. Then move first to the visuals and then to the rest of the paper.

Features of introductions

Introductions serve two purposes: creating readers’ interest in the subject and providing them with enough information to understand the article. Generally, introductions accomplish this by leading readers from broad information (what is known about the topic) to more specific information (what is not known ) to a focal point (what question the authors asked and answered). Thus, authors describe previous work that led to current understanding of the topic (the broad) and then situate their work (the specific) within the field.

Features of methods

The Methods section tells the reader what experiments were done to answer the question stated in the Introduction. Methods are often difficult to read, especially for graduate students, because of technical language and a level of detail sufficient for another trained scientist to repeat the experiments. However, you can more fully understand the design of the experiments and evaluate their validity by reading the Methods section carefully.

Features of results and discussion

The Results section contains results—statements of what was found, and reference to the data shown in visuals (figures and tables). Normally, authors do not include information that would need to be referenced, such as comparison to others’ results. Instead, that material is placed in the Discussion—placing the work in context of the broader field. The Discussion also functions to provide a clear answer to the question posed in the Introduction and to explain how the results support that conclusion.

Questions & Answers

what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
learn
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
learn
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
LITNING Reply
What is STMs full form?
LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Santosh
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
Mahi
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
Rafiq
if virus is killing to make ARTIFICIAL DNA OF GRAPHENE FOR KILLED THE VIRUS .THIS IS OUR ASSUMPTION
Anam
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Anam
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
Hafiz
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
?
Kyle
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
Adin
why?
Adin
what school?
Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
research.net
kanaga
sciencedirect big data base
Ernesto
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Plagiarism and scientific writing. OpenStax CNX. Nov 16, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10604/1.1
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