As you go through college you will most likely read many scientific journals, and there is definitely a technique to understanding what the researcher is doing and what the statistics mean. Below are some things that I do so that I am better able to understand what the study is and why it is important. I also however, think that it is important to critically evaluate the research and not take what is said and done to be the best way to do something. Make sure to look to see if there is a control and if the sample size is large enough. This can give you a lot of information right from the beginning about how valid the study is.
How to get the most out of a scientific journal:
- Save the abstract for last. This way after you have read the details of the study you can summarize it for yourself and use the abstract to refresh your memory and see if your summary of what the study was is similar to the abstract. This will really tell you if you understood what the study was doing and why.
- Look at some of the papers referenced. If you really want to gain a better idea and really understand the paper it may be very helpful to look over the papers that are referenced in the study. This will help with understanding the theories and ideas that led to the study that is in the journal that you are reading.
- Understand the tables and graphs. This is a very important part of the paper, but many times people will just skim over the figures and images without trying to see what they convey. Tables are a great way to understand the data and see where the researcher is making his/her conclusion.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand something write a question down and see if you can answer it by rereading or by talking to a professor/expert. Asking questions is a great way to really ingrain the information in your brain, and it aids in helping you think critically about a paper.
- Don’t highlight. I know it may seem like a really good idea to read through and highlight what you think is important, but most of the time what ends up happening is you highlight a lot o things that actually are not important. Additionally, this is not a really active way to read so you could go through the whole paper and not remember what you have actually read.
Hope these tips help, and it is always a good idea to start practicing now. Reading these journals will also give you a better idea of the field of study you are looking to get into and the material my even relate to your classes.