Struggling to read your scientific scholarly article, even though it looks like it might be a perfect fit for your topic?
Try using the info below as a guidepost to help you understand the article. Not sure what you're looking at? If so, begin by figuring out if you're reading a Research Article or a Review Article.
When you begin reading a scientific research article, you'll want to remember that each section of the article has a distinct purpose. When reading a scientific research article, you'll see most (if not all) of the following distinctive sections:
Some of these sections may be merged with other sections, have slightly different names, be combined together (results and discussion often share a single section) or may not be labeled, but all should be present in one way or another.
Confused? Take a look at a scholarly research article found in PubMed:
Cladophora (Chlorophyta) spp. Harbor Human Bacterial Pathogens in Nearshore Water of Lake Michigan is a research article found on PubMedCentral, the government-sponsored free article database.
The Introduction is unlabeled, but the Materials and Methods section is labeled (and broken into subsections), and Results and Discussions are merged. The Conclusions are the very last paragraph before the references.
Review articles tend to be a good summary of current research on a topic.
Make sure that you pay good attention to the introduction of a research article (what question are the scientists trying to address?), and that you pay attention to the major headings in the article, which will tell you how the information was broken down.
Finally, look at the materials and methods section to get a sense of the study as well: how were articles in the review included or excluded? What does that tell you about the review?
Trying to find a scholarly article? Here are some specialized guides to searching databases for scientific information:
Have questions about what research or review articles are, how to read research articles, or how to evaluate them? Take a look at the following guides for more information.
And, as always, you're welcome to contact me using the information on the right, or schedule a research appointment with a librarian whenever the library is open by clicking "Ask Us for Help" on the right of the page.