How Graduate Students Can Quickly Read And Comprehend A Scientific Paper
The coronavirus continues to dominate the news now with cities limiting gatherings to no more than ten people. Restaurants, bars, and local businesses are shutting down in the meantime to stop the spread of the virus. Colleges included. Classes continue for many graduate students as they move to a streaming platform, and researcher papers are still due despite the shift in venue. Though the library is off-limits, there are plenty of credible online research papers to follow the progress toward finding a resolution to this unimaginable epidemic society has found itself in.
As you begin to write your next dissertation or final essay of the year, you’ll want to follow these steps when reading a scientific paper as we use coronavirus research as an example.
How to determine whether a study is legitimate
In the effort to give people the most up to date and accurate information about the coronavirus, news outlets, bloggers, and universities are all promoting that they have the latest information. As with all graduate papers assigned to you, you need to make sure what you are reading is accurate. The University of Washington says to review the following before using that study to cite in your paper:
- Did you receive an email solicitation which was grammatically incorrect, seemed unprofessional or promised you rapid publication?
- Does the journal website contain fuzzy or distorted images that may have been used without authorization?
- Does the journal website refer to its Index Copernicus Value, its Systematic Impact Factor, or its CiteFactor (not considered legitimate metrics)?
- Does the journal website say “indexed by Google” or “indexed by ResearchGate” (neither of which use editorial staff to select content)?
- Is the journal’s title or publisher referred to inconsistently in emails or on the journal website?
Especially when it comes to a health crisis like the one we are in, go straight to the source for the most accurate information. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) before believing what you read from a post you see on social media.
Studies on the coronavirus
The news is the first to alert you about the latest studies and vaccine trials related to the coronavirus. The problem is that you will hear someone’s opinion come through when relaying the information of the study. Many online networks cite the study, and that is where you should begin your research, at the source itself.
The China CDC Weekly published a paper in February, Vital Surveillances: The Epidemiological Characteristics of an Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19). The paper intended to provide an exploratory analysis of all cases diagnosed as of February 11, 2020. Scrolling to the end, there are graphs, tables, and twelve sources the paper cites. All of this is excellent data to review to gain a complete understanding of what researchers knew as of February 11 about the virus. The references included are references you should review to further your knowledge and be sure there is a shared agreement based on the data that scientists have.
Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) published Chest Imaging Appearance of COVID-19 Infection in February as well. The paper is unique in that it shows chest CT images and chest radiographs from three different coronavirus cases. Researchers explain each one in-depth before a series of images. A quick description accompanies each image beneath it. To better understand what you are looking at, scroll through the photos first before reading the beginning paragraph. Then, look at the pictures again. While that seems counterproductive, it prevents you from rereading the descriptive paragraphs.
“Should I be using hand sanitizer?” is the question many are asking themselves. The CDC has come out and explained that hand washing with warm water and soap is more effective at killing all germs harmful to humans. In their effort to back up their statement, they cited Cambridge University’s 2015 paper, Hand Hygiene with Soap and Water Is Superior to Alcohol Rub and Antiseptic Wipes for Removal of Clostridium difficile. The CDC also refers to serval other studies that came to the same conclusion, which leads us to the last part of effectively reading and comprehending research papers.
Take time to answer the following questions:
- What are the researchers’ hypotheses?
- What are the independent and dependent variables?
- What is the unit of analysis?
- How well does the study design address causation?
- What are the study’s results?
- How generalizable are the results?
- What limitations do the authors note?
- What conclusions do similar studies draw?
If you can answer all of these questions, you succeeded in your endeavor of reading and understanding a scientific research paper you can use at a later date in your studies. The same concept applies when reading research papers on history, literature, and social experiments.
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