It may be tempting to read an article from start to finish, but this isn't usually the best method for understanding a research report.
Instead, try getting into the habit of reading articles like this:
- Start by reading the title and abstract. The abstract will contain the major points of the article. Is this report relevant to what you want to learn?
- Read the introduction section next. This section usually gives a literature review up to the date of publishing, but if there are concepts you are unfamiliar with, you may need to do some background reading. Try finding some other sources to help.
- Next, read the conclusions. Identify what the main findings of the paper were and get an idea of where the authors are going with the text.
- Finally, read the results and discussion. Take notes as you go!
- If you need more data to compare with your own research than is included in the experimental section, check if the paper has "Supplementary Material." This file usually contains spectra and other experimental details.
Ask yourself these questions as you gather information:
- What is the purpose of this research? Why should we as readers be interested?
- What work has been previously done? How does this paper fit in with the bigger picture?
- What was the main finding? How did the experiments support the authors' conclusions?
- What new questions does the paper raise?
- Could the work be improved? What additional experiments should be done?
Try using the note-taking guide on this page as a template while you read research articles.