Tips For Reading Scientific Papers
Remember when reading a paper be critical but also pay attention to exciting findings, novel insights, and creative ideas. Itís easy to criticize, but hard to praise!
General: Keep in mind the whole time you read the paper.
- What is the central question/hypothesis the author is proposing?
- What critical data/experiment would you do to evaluate this hypothesis?
- You should form an opinion before reading what they in fact did!
- What assumptions are made both when proposing the hypotheses and when evaluating them in light of the data collected.
- What data do they collect to assess their hypothesis?
- What is their conclusion given the data?
- Do you agree with their interpretation or are there other compelling alternatives given the data?
Specific: As you read each section, focus on some of these specifics.
- What is the main question they are interested in pursuing?
- What background research/pattern/theoretical prediction motivates this question?
- Why is this question interesting in light of the background they discuss?
- Do they offer one hypothesis or more than one?
If more than one hypothesis is offered, is each exclusive, meaning that it proposes a distinctly alternative explanation that is incompatible with the others, or could some of these hypotheses operate simultaneously?
- What assumptions are made when proposing the hypotheses?
- What assumptions are made about the effectiveness of their experiments or the accuracy of their data?
- Do their proposed methods critically test their hypotheses?
- Are any of their methods confounded?
- Did the authors use a creative method to evaluate their hypothesis?
- Are their methods simple and elegant or complicated and convoluted?
- Did they come up with a new technique to better evaluate a problem others have struggled with?
- What does the data say about the hypotheses?
- Is there only one interpretation of the data?
- Are there any big surprises / unexpected results?
- Does the author say that they support or reject the hypothesis?
- Do you agree with the author's interpretation of the data?
- What novel insights are gained from the results?
- What do the results imply more generally for the field of interest? For other fields?