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How to Read a Scientific Paper

How to use this page

Use this page to learn more about how to get started reading a scientific paper.  Every researcher has their own way that they like to approach reading scientific papers. This guide will give you some suggestions on where to start, as well as other resources to check out.

Parts of a Scientific Paper

Parts of a Scientific Paper Infographic

So how do you read a scientific paper?

There are as many suggestions for ways to read a scientific paper as there are scientists! That is to say that everyone has a methodology that they prefer.  Here are some suggestions on getting started:

  1. Start by skimming the entire article.  Focus on headings and subheadings, and note anything that you have questions about.
  2. Next, read the abstract: reading this give you a sense of whether the paper is going to be relevant and/or interesting to you. You'll get an overview of the entire paper.
  3. Skip down to the discussion: the discussion usually pulls out and explains the major findings in the paper. This will help you understand what the outcome of the research was.
  4. Go back to the introduction: the introduction provides guidance on the purpose or goal of the research.  This will help you understand why the research is being conducted in the first place.
  5. Finally, take a look at the results: looking at the results provides you with the raw data.

As you read:

  1. Take notes! Taking notes on the material can often help you understand it better. Plan to revisit any questions you have.
  2. Answer these questions to help with your understanding:
    1. What problem is the studying trying to solve or answer?
    2. Are the findings supported by the evidence collected?
    3. Is the study repeatable? How specific or clear are the methods?
    4. Are there any factors that might affect the results?
  3. Is there any information referenced that seems like it might be interesting or relevant to you? Use the reference list as a jumping off point for further research.

Don't be afraid of reading the article multiple times!



How to READ a Scientific Paper Main Menu. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Rodriguez, N. Infographic: How to read a scientific paper