To read scientific texts

We have previously written a number of blog posts about how to find scientific articles, how to avoid plagiarism and how to cite correctly but nothing about how to read the texts that you find. This is also a competence in its own right and it is needed to get something out of the texts.

Scientific texts have often the following structure IMR(A)D, introduction, method, results (analysis), discussion, In this blog post you will get a couple of tips on how to read and better understand them.

Abstract has the purpose of giving you a quick indication whether the article is of interest to you or not. It should contain an aim or purpose for the study, how it is done, which results ar presented and which are the conclusions. The introduction has two purposes: create interest and also to set the study in a general and field specific context though presenting previous research. Method describes which methods are used to answer the questions. It is important to read this part carefully to be able to discuss the validity of the results. Results present what the research data shows and it can be visualised with figures and tables. Discussion contains results set in a context by using the previous research. Discussion aims also to answer the questions which the study aimed to answer.

When you are reading a text, try to find the main points of the text. Maybe you can find what is surprising, unexpected, in contrast of previous results or what is rarely addressed.

When you are reading a scientific text you can think of the following questions:

  • What is the problem this text is trying to answer? Why is it important to answer?
  • Is the used method the best to answer the questions or is there a better method?
  • What are the specific results? Can I summarize them in a couple of sentences?
  • Are the results supported by the research data?
  • Are there other ways to interpret the research data which the authors didn’t address?
  • In which way are the results unique/new/unusual/ or supporting compared to other related research in the area?
  • How can the results be related to what I am interested in? To other texts I’ve read?
  • Are there some specific applications presented in the text? Which future experiments could be done? Are the unanswered questions or does the results open for new questions?

You can also draw inferences. E.g. “Rett Syndrome is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder and one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females with an incidence of 1 in 10000-15000.”[1] Comment: Hmmm…can it be related to a gene on the X-chromosome since it one of the most common causes in females… How common is that?

You should also take notes while reading. The best case scenario is that you take notes electronically because you probably will find a specific note easier later. You can make your own template or you can use the one we have created for you to use while taking notes (Word 2010). You can download it to your own computer. We have also created a Google Drive document. You can download the template in a couple of different formats (file-> download as).

Pieta Eklund

[1] Ballestar, E., Yusufzai, T.M., & Wolffe, A.P. (2000) Effects of Rett Syndrome Mutations of the Methyl-CpG Binding Domain of the Transcriptional Repressor MeCP2
on Selectivity for Association with Methylated DNA. Biochemistry, 31, 7100-7106

Source criticism and plagiarism

You might be in the midst of searching for scientific articles for your thesis or assignment. Do not forget to think critically when you do this work!

COLOURBOX1947363Source criticism is a method to examine the information and facts contained in the sources you choose to use. You value the sources and choose carefully what you want to include. Do not forget to use source criticism on other than text. For example pictures and video that nowdays are equally important to source view given how much you can edit and process them. Remember to differentiate between a primary source and secondary source. The Academy is considered primary sources (first-hand) to be more reliable. You can use following questions, irrespective of the material:

  • Who is the author of your source?
  • For what purpose is it published?
  • Is the research still relevant?
  • Where have the research been published? Has it been reviewed? ( peer-review)
  • Can other check the results?
  • What information do you get from other sources at the same event?
  • If others have done similar studies, which results have they reached?
  • Does the timing in movies and audio clips add up?
  • Who funded the research?
  • Does the results seem trustworthy? Are there other sources that are trustworthy to say the same thing?
  • Are the conclusions reasonable based on the theory and methodology used?

Take a look at the web page Källlkritik on the Internet which is a guide that .SE stands behind and which shows how you can review content on web pages.

It can be helpful to know what obligations you as the author of your essay or thesis have regarding plagiarism. On the University web you can find a great anti-plagiarism guide where most aspects of this matter are included. It is available through Ping Pong, but also open on the web from this page (click on the link in the text far down on the page).
And please see the movie where our former librarian Eli Bytoft-Nyaas is talking about the subject and deal critically  with sources and references. The anti-plagiarism tutorial included Urkund, a plagiarism handbook that inlcudes a list to look at if you want to know what actually is plagiarism when writing.

Text: Lena Holmberg
Bild. Colourbox

Free access to research information in a public health emergency

In September 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) set global norms for sharing research data and results when there’s a public health emargency arising, now the norms are being used for the first time.

share-informationIt was after the Ebola outbreak in several countries in West African as it became clear that the current methods of data sharing had major flaws. In order to enhance the data sharing, WHO decided to develop global guidelines that could be used when a major public health threat occurred in the future. The guidelines states that research data and research results should be made public as quickly as possible in order to facilitate further research in the subject. In its guidelines WHO writes, among other things:

Every researcher that engages in generation of information related to a public health emergency or acute public health event with the potential to progress to an emergency has the fundamental moral obligation to share preliminary results once they are adequately quality controlled for release. The onus is on the researcher, and the funder supporting the work, to disseminate information through pre-publication mechanisms, unless publication can occur immediately using post-publication peer review processes.

WHO is also very clear that they want to see a paradigm shift in the approach to sharing information in connection with emergencies. They want to leave the current approach, in which the magazine’s publishing timelines control when the information can be disseminated. Instead, the WHO wants the information to be disseminated openly through what they call “modern fit-for-purpose pre-publication platforms”. They explicitly call researchers, journals and funders to commit to the paradigm shift – to make it happen.

With the Zika virus spreading in South zikaAmerica WHO guidelines came into force for the first time earlier this month. On February 1, WHO declared that there was a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This led to that the guidelines came into force, and the WHO has opened Zika Open, a portal where research data and research results of the Zika virus are made available to the public. Several major journal publishers have created portals to make research on the Zika virus published in their journals available openly.

Hopefully, sharing research results and data will lead to more knowledge about the Zika virus, and maybe even a way to treat it. Couldn’t we think of this as “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”?

Text: Katharina Nordling
Picture: Colourbox

Watch video abstracts!

Instead of reading abstracts to see if an article is of interest for you and your student paper you could see if there might be a video abstract. A number a journals have started providing authors the possibility to post a video abstract in connection with their research paper, i.e. Cell, New Journal of Physics, BMJ, Journal Number Theory. It seems though that it is journals within STM (Science, Technology, Medicine) that have come further with video abstracts than other areas. Those interested in humanities and social sciences will have to wait a while longer. With video abstracts STM research might become a bit a available even to those not so comfortable with the subject areas.

These clips are also an alternative to other Youtube clips that you watch while waiting for the food to be done or for the bus to come. Take this video on emperor penguins and how is it that they are able to breath in the harsh cold of South Pole when other species aren’t.

Or maybe this on on why some mimics are imperfect (e.g. hoverflies look like wasps) and howcome they still are imperfect despite evolution?

Pieta Eklund

Time for student thesis

It is again “that time” of the year for many of our students. Many of you need to choose a subject and formulate research questions for your bachelor’s thesis. You might need help to recognize academic articles and identifying appropriate subject headings.

We have written some blog posts on academic texts, source critism and how to formulate research questions. Maybe those blog posts were not interesting for you back then but now you might find them usefull. We have also written about good information resourcese. When you have come a little further in writing your student thesis you might need help referencing. Check out our posts about referencing to a moving image and what help  there is to get when it comes to referencing. You might also want to work with EndNote – our refrence management tool. On our web site we have some resources to help you get started with Endnote.

Don’t forget that we offer help with information seeking. Every Thursday between 3 om and 1630 pm you can find a librarian in J418 who will help you with your questions regarding information seeking. If you cannot make it to these search labs you are welcome to contact a librarian at the information point. We are there to help you weekdays from 8am  to 6pm.

Pieta Eklund


Prize in Economic Sciences

During this week before the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockolm and Oslo, December 10, we present the Nobel Prize winners and what they have received the prize for.

The Prize in Economic Sciences is awarded to Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller. It is impossible to predict if the prices will go up or down tomorrow or next week but it is possible to foresee the broad course of longer time periods. They receive the prize due to the methods they have developed to study the prices of financial asset prices and have applied them in studies of detailed data on the prices of stocks, bonds or other assets. This has led to theory development and professional investment practice. They have laid the gound for asset price resarch. The Nobel Laureates research has had big impact for research of financial markets.

Eugene Fama is born 1939 in Boston, USA. Today he is Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance vid University of Chicago, IL, USA

Lars Peter Hansen is born 1952 in USA. Today he is David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics & Statistics vid University of Chicago, IL, USA.

Robert J. Shiller is born 1946. Today he is Sterling Professor of Economics vid Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Reading tips and a longer popular science backgound to the Prize in Economic Sciences.

Pieta Eklund

Nobel Prize in Physics

During this week before the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockolm and Oslo, December 10, we present the Nobel Prize winners and what they have received the prize for.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs.It was in 1964 when the two of them, independently of each another suggested a theory on how particles acquire mass. In 2012 the theory was confirmed by the discovery of the so called Higgs particle at CERN laboratory in Switzerland.

The importance with the discovery is that the mechanism for how particles acquire mass is a central part in the Standard Model in physics. This model describes how the world is built. According to it all things consists of matter particles which are governed by force particles which make everything work as it should. The Standard Model needs just one more particle, namely the Higgs particle, to be complete. Like all matter particles have their matter field the force particles have their force field and Higgs particle has Higgs field. This field can be described like a sort of vibration which gives the other particles mass, which in turn is important for how atoms and moleules are built and held together. If Higgs field wasn’t there all materia would collapse.

CERN has been working to find the Higgs particle. Last year, July 4th 2012, they announced the discovery of the Higgs partile and Engelrts and Higgs theory was confirmed.

François Englert is born 1932 in Etterbeek, Belgium. Today he is Professor emeritus at Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgien

Peter Higgsis born 1929 in Newcastle, Storbritannien. Today he is Professor emeritus at University of Edinburgh, Storbritannien.

CERN accounces the discovery of the Higgs particle.

Reading tips and a longer popular science background to the Higgs particle from

Pieta Eklund