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CHEM 3920 Communication Skills in Chemistry

This guide accompanies the course offered in the Chemistry Department at the University of Central Missouri.

Tips for Reading Journal Articles

Skim the Article 


Pay attention to the overview of the article, at this point, do not try to comprehend the entire research. Focus on the structure of the article (headings, data, figures).


Note the Vocabulary


Write down the vocabulary that is unfamiliar. Some words or phrases might have to be searched in a scientific dictionary.


Identify the Structure of the Article 


Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion. 


Read the Introduction and Discussion / Conclusion First


These sections offer the main argument of the article. Introduction includes a rationale for conducting the study. This will help you think about the big question. Discussion and conclusion is important as this is where the research question is answered and analysis and interpretation of the data are presented.


Questions for the introduction:

What is this paper about? Write down your thoughts about the main theme of the paper. This helps you focus on why the research is being done.


Questions for the discussion and conclusion:

What do the authors think the results mean? Do you agree with them? Can you come up with

any alternative way of interpreting them? Do the authors identify any weaknesses in their own study? What do they propose to do as a next step?


Read Methods and Results


Summarize the methodology that the authors used to answer their questions, is it a literature review, is it an experiment? Include as much detail as you need to fully understand the work. 


Read the Results Section

Summarize the results of the experiment. Do not try to decide what they mean, write what they are.  

Do the results answer specific questions?

What do you think they mean?