Reading a Scientific Paper

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Maintained by Harry E. Pence, Professor of Chemistry, SUNY Oneonta, for the use of his students. Any opinions are totally coincidental and have no official en endorsement, including the people who sign my pay checks. Comments and suggestions are welcome (

Last Revised January 23, 2004


For many students, scientific articles combine high information density and an unusual vocabulary with an unfamiliar writing style. When you first look at a journal article, the material may appear to be overwhelming. Don't despair! Reading an article out of the field of your training may be difficult even for college faculty. Use the following questions to help you get started. Your initial goal should be to develop a simple statement describing what the researchers did. This may be all the information you need from a given article, or it may serve as a basis for more extensive study. You'll find that each time you read an article using this approach, your ability to put the material into your own words will improve.

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