Any scientist worth his or her salt should be reading the latest studies and advancements being released in their field. Of course, keeping up with current scientific writing isn’t always easy. Not only are there many journals which publish scientific writing, but these journals are often hard to acquire, both because of their obscurity and because many of them are kept behind expensive paywalls.
How should an enterprising and intellectually curious scientific researcher go about finding and reading the latest scientific journal articles? We’ve got a few tips on where to start.
Take Advantage of University Libraries
Academic institutions play an incredibly important part in developing scientific research. Even when certain research isn’t being done on a campus, the results of that research and much of the important discussion around it will be taking place in universities.
As such, school libraries are one of the best sources for scientific journals. Not only are they likely to have a large collection of new and old scientific journals and articles, but they are a good resource for finding out which journals, in particular, are the most worth reading. If you’re not taking advantage of your local university library, you’re letting a wonderful resource go to waste.
Use Online Search Tools
While doing a regular Google search for academic articles will get you a lot of chaff to wade through before you find what you’re looking for, there are several online search tools made specifically for locating academic writing. These include Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, and IEEE Xplore. All of these tools are great resources for searching out articles on specific subjects or doing a general search to find articles that pique your interest.
Understand the Structure
Scientific journal articles all tend to follow the same structure. First is the abstract, or the summary, of the entire paper. This is followed by the introduction, a section on material and methods, the explanation of the results, a discussion of said results, and, last, a section for any references to other published work that was included. Understanding this structure will not only allow you to make better sense of articles but to find the information you’re most interested in more quickly.
Read Both Research and Review Articles
Once you find a good source of scientific articles, it’s important to recognize what kind of article you’re reading. There are two basic types of article in scientific journals: the research article and the review article. The first type is what scientists write when they want to publicize the results of their experiments, and where they explain and defend their findings.
The second type, the review article, is where other scientists who have studied the data related to another group of scientists’ research articles go over the data and either confirm or question the findings. You probably recognize this as the peer review process, which is the heart of scientific research. To get the full range of what is happening in your field of study, it’s important to find not just the original research articles, but to read the responses to them as well.
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