How to Read a Research Paper?

First, don’t torture yourself by reading a research paper from cover to cover as you would a novel or magazine article. A dissertation mainly consists of the following parts:

  • Abstract – Located at the top of the paper under the heading and author information, it is the author’s brief description of the purpose, findings, and significance of the study in their own words. Readers can distinguish the type of research by reading the abstract; for example, they can determine whether the research discussed in the paper is an animal study or a study conducted on humans. The abstract is only a rough description and does not reveal the full picture of the research, but we can decide whether it is necessary to continue reading by reading the abstract.
  • The introduction part introduces the findings of previous research, the gaps that exist at present, and the author’s research goals.
  • The materials and methods section describes how the study was designed and performed and the basic profile of the subjects (human or animal). This is the most important part of a research paper and arguably the only safe area in the paper, and in most cases, this part is not subject to author bias, which would otherwise be apparent to readers at a glance. From this part alone, we can know exactly how the research was conducted and what exactly was found.
  • The results section shows the data collected by the study, such as various charts. Even with our steely wills, it’s hard not to be swayed by what other people think about the data, so it’s a good idea to skim this section before reading the author’s interpretation of his findings. Before being “brainwashed” by the paper’s authors, we should ask ourselves: What does the data say? It’s like buying a car, We should read the product manual carefully before the salesperson blows the hype.
  • The discussion part is the author’s opinion on the research published, including the advantages and disadvantages of the research. This part of the content is often mixed with the author’s prejudice or preconception, so we must be careful when reading this part. Don’t forget, that the main purpose of reading a research paper is to check its validity. Otherwise, we only need to look at the abstract. What exactly the researchers did, what they found, and whether the conclusions were plausible are the main points we need to pay attention to. Reading this section does not necessarily require knowledge of biostatistics; we only need to focus on the following questions:

Are there trends in the data that the authors did not point out?

Are the authors casting anomalous findings into the mold of conventional wisdom?

For example, are they emphasizing that because there are some flaws in their design, they are not finding the results they expected?

Which companies or institutions do researchers get their research funding from, and will the research results affect the interests of these companies or institutions?

  • References List: Certain words in the paper are followed by a number in superscript or in square brackets to indicate that the author is citing another study or paper in support of their claims. Readers can refer to References: Query the List to access related content.

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