How to Read a Research Paper; 8 Steps

To get the most out of any research article, it’s best to follow certain steps, else you might get bored reading it. Below are the steps to follow when reading a research paper;

The Steps

Examine the publication date

Knowing when the research was published allows you to determine whether these are the most recent findings and how likely it is that additional studies have been conducted since.

Skim all of the paper’s sections

Make notes as you go, and look up the definitions of any words you’re unsure of. If you come across an acronym later in a paper, use ctrl F on the keyboard to search for the first time it is mentioned, as this is where it will be defined.

Read the introduction

Read this thoroughly to learn more about the topic, including previous research in this area and why the researchers decided to conduct this study. Spend more time on this if you’re unfamiliar with the subject.

If you want to learn more, read some of the references in the introduction.

Determine how this paper fits into the field

What is the big question that the field is attempting to answer? Answering this will help you understand the significance of the work and why it was carried out.

Take a look at the discussion

This section will help you understand the paper’s findings. You might find it useful to take notes on the main findings and to jot down any questions you have so that you can find the answers when you read the rest of the paper.

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Critically Read the abstract

To gain a general understanding of the paper, you have to read this section with a questioning mind. The abstract typically summarizes the overall reasons for carrying out the study, how the topic was investigated, major findings, and a summary of the interpretations/conclusions of these findings. This is a good way to get a quick overview of the study before diving in deeper.

Examine the sections on results and methods

The methods section is frequently the most technical section of the paper. You will most likely need to go over this section several times to fully understand the procedures and results.

When reading the results and methods sections, it is critical to keep the following factors in mind:

Firstly, the sample size

Secondly, statistical importance; and

Thirdly, look up any terms you don’t understand and write them down.

Make a brief summary of the research

Write a brief summary of the research to test your understanding. This will also be useful if you plan to write about the paper in an essay, dissertation, thesis, or literature review later on. As prompts, consider the following steps:

What is the research looking into?

Why did the study look into this?

What was discovered?

Are the findings surprising, or do they corroborate previous research in the field?

What are the ramifications of the findings?

What experiments could be conducted to answer any remaining questions?

Do you have any additional recommendations for reading and critically evaluating research papers? Leave a comment and let us know!

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