6: How to Read a Research Article

ANN ARBOR, MI –

This is my final blog post (yay!); I’ll be back in the states and returning to work in my lab soon. I’ve dedicated most of my blog posts to offer advice from my research experience – in case it’s helpful to anyone. So, this blog post will be no different.

In this case, I’d like to offer advice on how to read a research article. Often, the diction of such articles is beyond that which a freshman or sophomore in college has been exposed. Here are my recommendations for reading a research article:

  1. Don’t: Instead of reading an article, start by reading a review article within that field. Review articles are often a collection of summaries from many articles. They’re a great way to be introduced to the discourse surrounding a research topic.
  2. Research the research: It can be easy to glaze over words we don’t understand. However, doing this slows down the learning process, and you might find yourself re-reading the same sentence several times and still not understanding its meaning. So, rather than skipping over unfamiliar words, it would be beneficial to look them up. This can be a daunting task, since there may be unfamiliar words in every sentence, so I usually start with words that appear a lot throughout the passage.
  3. Read and re-read: There is no shame in re-reading the same article several times. In fact, when I first joined the lab, I would often spend a week trying to understand one article. Speed should not be a priority at first; speed comes with experience.
  4. Mark it up: I prefer reading online, but even so, I would download pdfs of the articles I read in order to mark them up and take brief notes on the document. I found that, this way, it was easier to review the article when I re-read it later.

While these are just a few tips for reading research articles, I advocate for you to try and find what works best for you. Everyone has different learning styles; the key is to be patient with yours.

Thank you for reading.

One thought on “6: How to Read a Research Article

  • August 30, 2018 at 10:57 am
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    Hello Fatima – Thank you for these two most recent posts, which, as usual, were a pleasure to read and full of great insights! So much of what you shared with a first-year or sophomore audience in mind also seemed like great advice to carry with you as you approach medical school and even patient care. You have real talent in breaking up information, providing a tip, and explaining why it’s important. As of this post, you’ve met your blogging requirements for the summer. We’ll hope to see you around the Hub sometime this fall!

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