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(The New York Times)   Scientific papers, like Shakespeare and text threads, are their own literary genre. Here's how to grok them   (nytimes.com) divider line
    More: Interesting, Academic publishing, Open access, Peer review, scientific papers, Publishing, Scientific literature, Research, Literature  
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217 clicks; posted to Geek » on 03 Jun 2020 at 1:06 PM (15 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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2020-06-03 12:52:33 PM  
Don't read it linearly.

1) Abstract
2) Conclusions
3) Introduction
4) Results
5) Conclusions again
6) Abstract again
7) Methods
8) Supplementary Materials haha just kidding no one reads Supplementary Materials
 
2020-06-03 1:08:32 PM  
It's written in the third-person.
 
2020-06-03 1:12:29 PM  
If you know anything about the topic, jump to the methodology. This will help you decide whether any of the rest will be worth reading.
 
2020-06-03 1:19:03 PM  

Mentat: Don't read it linearly.

1) Abstract
2) Conclusions
3) Introduction
4) Results
5) Conclusions again
6) Abstract again
7) Methods
8) Supplementary Materials haha just kidding no one reads Supplementary Materials


I usually go:

1) Abstract
2) Figures*
3) Figure Legends
4) Discussion
5) Introduction
6) Results (skim this section, since everything important here is in the figures)

*(If anything fishy or red flags in the data shown in the figures, go straight to the Methods to try to figure out WTF they did)
 
2020-06-03 1:21:11 PM  
It's easy. First you skim the abstract to see if it contradicts your beliefs. Then to read the last sentence of the conclusion to see how wrong they were. Then you go over the methodology to complain how bad it was when the conclusion doesn't match your world view.

There might be some interpretation of numbers involved, but stats are for commies.
 
2020-06-03 1:27:01 PM  

Doc Daneeka: Mentat: Don't read it linearly.

1) Abstract
2) Conclusions
3) Introduction
4) Results
5) Conclusions again
6) Abstract again
7) Methods
8) Supplementary Materials haha just kidding no one reads Supplementary Materials

I usually go:

1) Abstract
2) Figures*
3) Figure Legends
4) Discussion
5) Introduction
6) Results (skim this section, since everything important here is in the figures)

*(If anything fishy or red flags in the data shown in the figures, go straight to the Methods to try to figure out WTF they did)


Wow, that sounds like a lot of work.

1) Abstract (skim)
 
2020-06-03 2:39:07 PM  

Mentat: 1) Abstract
2) Conclusions
3) Introduction
4) Results
5) Conclusions again
6) Abstract again
7) Methods
8) Supplementary Materials


Depends on how familiar the topic is.  Is it in MY area?
1) Last author
2) Title
3) Abstract after "Here we..."
4) Methods (WTF did they do this time)
5) Figures/Tables
6) IF something is screwy/interesting read relevant parts of discussion to figure out their explanation
7) IF it's truly innovative and has nice results, go back to beginning and go through linearly.
I find if I skip to 5 before 4, I inevitably have to go back to 4 to figure out WTF did they do to get the figure anyway.
 
2020-06-03 3:27:38 PM  

jibjabjobu: 1) Last author


This is much less of a thing than it used to be. Citations are fast becoming first author or bust.
 
2020-06-03 4:38:17 PM  
1) Skim abstract to see if it's interesting
2) Tables and figures to confirm interest
3) See if they included any good data I can use in the Supplemental Materials, if not end here
4) Read methods so I can judge if the data I'm taking from the SM is any good
5) Skim Discussion and Conclusions to see if there are any important caveats in interpretation of the data I'm taking from the SM

/why yes I am a modeller
 
2020-06-03 4:56:04 PM  

This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author

This is much less of a thing than it used to be. Citations are fast becoming first author or bust.


Except in my field I know all the groups, give or take, but I can't keep track of all their students. So I have context about the paper from the group's PI and their history.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, though. Do you mean that PI are now choosing to be first author?
 
2020-06-03 5:15:52 PM  

jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author

This is much less of a thing than it used to be. Citations are fast becoming first author or bust.

Except in my field I know all the groups, give or take, but I can't keep track of all their students. So I have context about the paper from the group's PI and their history.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, though. Do you mean that PI are now choosing to be first author?


Yes.

The prestige position has shifted from last author to first author, because increasingly indices and citation formats only fully reference the first author.
 
2020-06-03 5:27:55 PM  

This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author


The prestige position has shifted from last author to first author, because increasingly indices and citation formats only fully reference the first author.


Interesting. What is the field in general? I've not seen it in my neck of the woods but I don't hang out in the high impact neighborhoods...
 
2020-06-03 6:29:52 PM  
After the abstract, you can look at the conclusion, methods, or results in any order, but the important thing is to skip that boring-ass "introduction" in the front.
 
2020-06-03 7:48:42 PM  

This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author

This is much less of a thing than it used to be. Citations are fast becoming first author or bust.

Except in my field I know all the groups, give or take, but I can't keep track of all their students. So I have context about the paper from the group's PI and their history.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, though. Do you mean that PI are now choosing to be first author?

Yes.

The prestige position has shifted from last author to first author, because increasingly indices and citation formats only fully reference the first author.


How do you get students to do the work if they don't get first author status?  We're more often having co-first and co-senior authorships, so two students (clinical and research) and two PIs.
 
2020-06-03 7:52:02 PM  

jengen: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author

This is much less of a thing than it used to be. Citations are fast becoming first author or bust.

Except in my field I know all the groups, give or take, but I can't keep track of all their students. So I have context about the paper from the group's PI and their history.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, though. Do you mean that PI are now choosing to be first author?

Yes.

The prestige position has shifted from last author to first author, because increasingly indices and citation formats only fully reference the first author.

How do you get students to do the work if they don't get first author status?  We're more often having co-first and co-senior authorships, so two students (clinical and research) and two PIs.


I've been screwed by a last author taking the first author spot.  Never do this unless you're the only author or everyone is a PI.
 
2020-06-03 7:54:50 PM  

jengen: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author

This is much less of a thing than it used to be. Citations are fast becoming first author or bust.

Except in my field I know all the groups, give or take, but I can't keep track of all their students. So I have context about the paper from the group's PI and their history.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, though. Do you mean that PI are now choosing to be first author?

Yes.

The prestige position has shifted from last author to first author, because increasingly indices and citation formats only fully reference the first author.

How do you get students to do the work if they don't get first author status?  We're more often having co-first and co-senior authorships, so two students (clinical and research) and two PIs.


Yeah, if I did the experimental work, I would refuse to write the paper if someone else was demanding to be first author. (In fact, I actually did this once.)
 
2020-06-03 8:30:26 PM  

jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author


The prestige position has shifted from last author to first author, because increasingly indices and citation formats only fully reference the first author.

Interesting. What is the field in general? I've not seen it in my neck of the woods but I don't hang out in the high impact neighborhoods...


Various engineering journals, but also Pubmed.
 
2020-06-03 8:31:41 PM  

jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: This text is now purple: jibjabjobu: 1) Last author


The prestige position has shifted from last author to first author, because increasingly indices and citation formats only fully reference the first author.

Interesting. What is the field in general? I've not seen it in my neck of the woods but I don't hang out in the high impact neighborhoods...


Incidentally, Maryland used to give publications credit towards continuing education, but only for first authors. Other authors got nothing.
 
2020-06-04 1:18:54 AM  
How to read it? Easy. First get annoyed at the fact that articles are written in the third person, as if the people who wrote it weren't involved in the research. With the added benefit that it makes for a boring style.

Then get annoyed at the fact that references are in the text, rather than in a footnote so you'll have to skim a sentence with a lot of references for the parts you can skip before reading it.

Then read the important bits. Methods, results, discussion. Maybe the introduction if you want to know how they got to their hypotheses.
 
2020-06-04 6:22:38 AM  

DerAppie: Maybe the introduction if you want to know how they got to their hypotheses.


Nah, that is always a lie.

The formation of hypotheses never happens the way it is described in grants or papers.

In papers: "We studied the literature, formed our hypothesis, designed our experiments, and lo and behold, the results confirmed our hypothesis."

In reality: "We are already invested in these resources and techniques we already have on hand, so we we did some experiments with some half-baked ideas in mind.  Those ideas were wrong, but the experiments did generate some interesting data that we thought about, generated some new hypothesis, and then ran some follow-up experiments to confirm.  Then we wrote up the paper as if that had been our idea all along."

In my experience, real science never starts with hypotheses, the way they teach kids in school.  It always starts with just trying stuff and generating data.  The hypotheses come after.
 
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