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by: Jaden Stiedemann


Marketplace > Rice University > Biological Sciences > BIOS 311 > ADVANCED EXPERIMENTAL BIOSCIENCES
Jaden Stiedemann
Rice University
GPA 3.78


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Class Notes
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Jaden Stiedemann on Monday October 19, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to BIOS 311 at Rice University taught by Staff in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 9 views. For similar materials see /class/225028/bios-311-rice-university in Biological Sciences at Rice University.

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Date Created: 10/19/15
How to Read a Scienti c Article Mary Purugganan PhD ma priceedu Jan Hewitt PhD jhewittriceedu 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 re ection 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 1 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 39 purpose or rationale of study why they did it 39 methodology how they did it 39 results what they found 39 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 rst 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 Atypical Structure Some articles you read will deviate from the conventional content of IMRD sections For instance Letters to Nature appear to begin with an abstract followed by the body of the article Upon reading however you will see that the abstract is a summary of the work filled with extensive introduction for the purpose of catching the attention of a wide audience and the next paragraph begins a description of the experiments Therefore when you begin to read an article for the first time skim the article to analyze the document as a whole Are the sections labeled with headings that identify the structure If not note what the structure is Decide which sections contain the material most essential to your understanding of the article Then decide the order in which you will read the sections 2 Distinguish main points Because articles contain so much information it may be difficult to distinguish the main points of an article from the subordinate points Fortunately there are many indicators of the author s main points Document level 39 Title 39 visuals especially figure and 39 Abstract table titles 39 Keywords 39 first sentence or the last 1 2 sentences of the Introduction Paragraph level words or phrases to look for 39 surprising 39 unexpected in contrast with previous work has seldom been addressed 39 we hypothesize that 39 we develop 39 we propose 39 the data suggest 39 we introduce 3 Generate questions and be aware of your understanding Reading is an active task Before and during your reading ask yourself these questions 39 Who are these authors What journal is this Might I question the credibility of the work 39 Have I taken the time to understand all the terminology 39 Have I gone back to read an article or review that would help me understand this work better 39 Am I spending too much time reading the less important parts of this article 39 Is there someone I can talk to about confusing parts of this article After reading ask yourself these questions 39 What specific problem does this research address Why is it important 39 Is the method used a good one The best one 39 What are the specific findings Am I able to summarize them in one or two sentences 39 Are the findings supported by persuasive evidence 39 Is there an alternative interpretation of the data that the author did not address 39 How are the findings uniquenew unusual or supportive of other work in the field 39 How do these results relate to the work I m interested in To other work I ve read about 39 What are some of the specific applications of the ideas presented here What are some further experiments that would answer remaining questions 4 Draw inferences Not everything that you learn from an article is stated explicitly As you read rely on your prior knowledge and world experience as well as the background provided in the article to draw inferences from the material Research has shown that readers who actively draw inferences are better able to understand and recall information As an example in the box below is an excerpt from the Introduction of an article in the journal Biochemistry Ballestar et al 2000 The comments in italics are questions and inferences that might be drawn by a student reader Rett Syndrome is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder and one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females Comment Hmmm must be related to a gene on the X chromosome with an incidence of 1 in 10000 15000 Comment How common is that Not too likely to happen to me but there must be several such children born in Houston every year Rett syndrome patients are characterized by a period of normal growth and development 6 18 months followed by regression with loss of speech and purposeful hand use Comment What happens Something must be triggered or activated at late infancy Patients also develop seizures autism and ataxia After initial regression the condition stabilizes and patients survive into adulthood Studies of familial cases provided evidence that Rett is caused by X linked dominant mutations in a gene subject to X chromosome inactivation Recently a number of mutations in the gene encoding the methyl CpG binding transcriptional repressor MeCPZ have been associated with Rett Syndrome Comment MeCP2 mutations probably cause Rett Syndrome This must be an important masterregulator to affect so many processes in the brain I wonder what they know about it 5 Take notes as you read Effective readers take notes it improves recall and comprehension You may think you ll remember everything you read in researching class assignments professional papers proposals or your thesis but details will slip away Develop a template for recording notes on articles you read or adapt the template below for use As you accumulate a large collection of articles this template will help you distinguish articles and quickly locate the correct reference for your own writing The time spent filling out the form will save you hours of rereading when you write a Background Related Work or a Literature Review section Template for Taking Notes on Research Articles Easy access for later use Whenever you read an article pertinent book chapter or research on the web use the following format or something similar to make an electronic record of your notes for later easy access Put quotation marks around any exact wording you write down so that you can avoid accidental plagiarism when you later cite the article Complete citation Authors Date of publication Title book or article Journal Volume Issue pages If web access url date accessed Key Words General subject Specific subject Hypothesis Methodolo g1 Resultg s1 Surnrna of key points Context how this article relates to other work in the field how it ties in with key issues and findings by others including yourself Significance to the field in relation to your own work Important Figures andor Tables brief description page number Cited References to follow up on cite those obviously related to your topic AND any papers frequently cited by others because those works may well prove to be essential as you develop your own work Other Comments References Ballestar E Yusufzai TM and Wolffe AP 2000 Effects of Rett Syndrome Mutations of the Methyl CpG Binding Domain of the Transcriptional Repressor MeCP2 on Selectivity for A 39 quot with l J DNA quot39 39 39 y3l 7100 7106 Burnett R 2001 Technical Communication 5 11 ed San Antonio Harcourt College Publishers Zeiger M 2000 Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers 2nd Ed St Louis McGraw Hill Supported by the Cain Project for Engineering and Professional Communication Rice University 2004


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