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How To Read A Research Paper? (for Dummies)

Discussion in 'Education & Personal Growth' started by Kaput, May 9, 2018.

  1. Kaput

    Kaput Gold IL'ite

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    How can a layman read and understand a scientific research paper?
    How to begin to understand research methods, results, and their validity? How to tell if a paper is peer reviewed?
    Any recommendations on books, articles?
     
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  2. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    This will vary with the field and the level of knowledge with which you start. If you clarify what exactly you are trying to read, with what goal in mind, someone may be able to help.
     
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  3. Kaput

    Kaput Gold IL'ite

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    Some are medical papers, related to neurology or genetics. Some are about autism, early education or mental health issues.

    With medical papers, knowledge level is zero.

    For the others, there is some basic understanding, but I have no idea about research methods, so I am not sure that I should trust the conclusions of a study (studies quoted in a magazine or by a service provider)

    The eventual goal is to keep up to date on developments on a certain topic.
    That will take years but have to start somewhere.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
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  4. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    Good, that's a start.
    Next question: Is that goal of "keeping up to date" born out of intellectual interest or is it for medical decision-making?
    Also: Do you have a technical background or did you study arts or business (B.A./B.Com.) in college? If B.Com., do they teach basic maths/statistics - say, something like Calculus for Business or Business Statistics ? Forgive me for asking that - I haven't lived in India for a long time. I am somewhat out of touch.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
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  5. Kaput

    Kaput Gold IL'ite

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    For decision making. Medical and also everyday life and parenting decisions.

    I am a programmer, I don't think we had any statistics courses. Even if we did, I don't remember anything. :flushed:
     
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  6. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    Ha! You're not going to make it any easier on me, are you?:lol:
    I'm asking these questions not to pry, but to figure out at what level I should pitch my answer to you. An HTML or SAP programmer or a database programmer is a different beast than a scientific programmer trained in C++. :wink1: In any case, can I assume that you won't freak out upon seeing exponents and logs?
    Good. That's useful information.

    I'll try to answer your questions as thoughtfully as I can, but in the meantime, you may want to check out this thread that Rihana started, along somewhat similar lines.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
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  7. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    Easy questions first: stick to journals listed on Pubmed. This is the primary listing of biomedical literature in the world.
    Here is a list of peer-reviewed journals.
    If you want to keep up with medical literature, learn to use Pubmed effectively, with the help of the tutorials here.
     
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  8. Kaput

    Kaput Gold IL'ite

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    You can lump me along with the HTML/SAP/DB programmers :nomouth:
    Exponents, logs? o_O I am sure I can find an introductory tutorial.
     
  9. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    Forgive me if I sounded patronizing. I did not intend it that way. If you want to read the primary research literature with medical decision-making in mind, then I want to prioritize your safety and write accordingly, highlighting the caveats. If you were approaching it as a student or a beginning researcher, then I would arrange the priorities differently. Hence the questions.

    Last one for now: Do you live in India or the US/UK/Europe/Australia?
     
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  10. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    Here is the first caveat, one that even scientists and physicians have to reckon with.

    Ioannidis JPA (2005) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Med 2(8): e124.

    Look to the right of the page linked to above to get a PDF of this famous paper.

    Here is a good article for the layperson, discussing that meta-research paper (i.e. research about research).
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
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