Skip to main content
UMass Amherst Libraries

COMM 319 Health Communication

helpful resources for assignments for Dr. Greyson's Comm 319 Health Communication

How to Read a Scientific Article

When you read a scientific article, you do not want to read it straight through in order - at least not on the first time through. There are different ways to go through an article.

Here is how I usually approach scientific articles to get a basic understanding of what the article is about:

  • I read the title and abstract to identify articles of interest. 
  • I look at the authors and their affiliations, as well as funding disclosures to look for potential slants or biases.
  • Next, I skip to the last paragraph of the Introduction, where the authors typically state what they plan to do in their study and their objectives.
  • Then, I skim through the Methods (sometimes called Materials & Methods) and Results sections, focusing on the charts, images, and tables to get a basic understanding of what they did and what they measured.
  • The Discussion/Conclusion section is what I read through after that, to get an understanding of whether the authors felt they met their objectives and what it means. In this section, they should mention limitations of their study and possibly suggest next steps for research.
  • If I still want to know more, I go back and read through the full Introduction, Methods, and Results sections. 

Advice from a Scientist

Dr. Jennifer Raff, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Kansas, wrote a blog post about how non-scientists should read and understand scientific articles that was then featured in several online news sources. Below is a link to her guide.