How to Read a Scientific Paper

Read the full post at the Open Notebook.

It’s one of the first, and likely most intimidating, assignments for a fledgling science reporter. “Here,” your editor says. “Write up this paper that’s coming out in Science this week.” And suddenly you’re staring at an impenetrable PDF—pages of scientific jargon that you’re supposed to understand, interview the author and outside commenters about, and describe in ordinary English to ordinary readers.

Fear not! The Open Notebook is here with a primer on how to read a scientific paper. These tips and tricks will work whether you’re covering developmental biology or deep-space exploration. The key is to familiarize yourself with the framework in which scientists describe their discoveries, and to not let yourself get bogged down in detail as you’re trying to understand the overarching point of it all. As a specific example, we’ve marked up a Science paper in the accompanying image.

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