How to read and comprehend scientific research articles

Here is a good tutorial from the University of Minnesota libraries about how to read, take effective notes and find the main points in scientific resarch articles.


key findings in the tutorial

How to read a scientific article

Skim for key findings

The structure of most scientific articles

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion

The most effective order to read an article

  1. Abstract
  2. Discussion
  3. Introduction
  4. Results
  5. Methods

Is the article interesting and relevant enough to my research assignment?

The Abstract

  1. Purpose of the study (why)
  2. Methodology (how)
  3. Results (what they found)
  4. Conclusion (what it means)

Is this article worth reading or should I move into another one

The Discussion

  1. Clearly answers the question posed in the introduction
  2. Explains how the results upport the conclusion

Do I understand and believe the author´s claims?


  1. Stimulate interest
  2. Put the article in larger context

General -> Specific -> Focused Question the authoer is asking.

Authors describe previous work and how their work relates to it.

Why did the reasearchers do this study?

Does the research question match up with the conclusions read int he discussion?

The Results

  1. What the authors found
  2. Key data, often in figures or tables

Is the data collected appropriate to answer the research question?

Does the data support the conclusions?


The Methods

  1. What experiments were done
  2. Can be difficult to read dut to technical language and details

How to find the main points of an article

Key places to look

  1. Title
  2. Abstracts
  3. Keywords
  4. Figure and table titles
  5. First and last sentences of the Introduction

Within the articles the authors main point

  1. “We hypothesize that …”
  2. “We propose…”
  3. “We introduce…”


How to take effective notes

Effective note-taking will save you time and help you clarify your thoughts.

Creating a standard template for taking notes will  help you organize your research

Enable you to make quick comparisions, and will save you time rereading articles

Screenshot 2018-01-30 17.42.34


This text and screenshots are from the tutorial from the University of Minnesota libraries,