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

Institutional repository and student thesis

In the institutional repository DiVA we collect publications from the University of Boras. Researchers have to register their work, but as a student you have to accept the publishing agreement for the thesis to be searchable and available.

If you do not accept the agreement the thesis will not be searchable in DiVA. This can become a problem if future employers want to look at the thesis.

If you approve of the agreement your thesis will be searchable in the following fields: Name, title, abstract, keywords and subject area. Be sure to carefully choose your keywords and write the abstract, do these describe your work well enough for the thesis to be found in DiVA?

Do you have questions about the metadata fields in DiVA or do you want hints on how to choose keywords or structure your abstract, then you should make a visit to the library Search lab.

Text: Thomas
picture: colourbox

Is it time for your student thesis?

We are halfway through the spring semester and for some of our students the final sprint approaches – the student thesis needs to be written – here are some tips on how the library can help you when you’re writing your thesis.

One thing that is common for all students who write their thesis is that they need information to base the thesis on. It may be scientific articles, books on theoretical background or on the methods used by the students. No matter what kind of information you are looking for, it’s important to realize that the information is the foundation for your thesis. And it’s also important to realize that information seeking is often a very time consuming task, filled of setbacks. But if you make sure to structure your search for information it will all be a lot easier.

uppsatsBut do not despair! The librarians at the Library are experts in structuring information searches, and they are more than happy to help. Please, come to the Library and make sure to get a solid foundation to build your essay on.

There are two options if you want help of a librarian in your information search: You can come to our Search Lab – it is open every Thursday between 12: 00-15:00. The Search Lab is staffed by one or two librarians who can help you to structure your searches. During this time the Language Lab is open as well. This means that you can ask language questions, or get tips on how to write your academic text in the same time.

Another option for help in your search for information is to come and get Search Support. Please come to the Information Point at the entrance to the Library, and the librarians manning the Information Point will help you with your searches.

Remember:  Use the Library, and the librarians, to get yourself a good foundation to build your essay on!

We also want to inform you that there are several posts in this blog full of great tips and advice to students writing their thesis. Here are some of them:

uppsats2Text: Katharina Nordling
Bild: Colourbox

An early start on your thesis

HourglassWhen the thesis course starts it is easy for the time to slip away. If you wait until the last moment to think about the research question and the thesis structure, it can affect the end result of your thesis. If nothing else it will make the remaining time of your studies uncomfortable.

There are parts of the thesis that you can start with early, even before the course starts. Parts like: The research question, information retrieval and the thesis template.

Research question 
The research question is something that you can start with as soon as you have something within your field that you find interesting. Well it should at least be interesting enough. Note that it can be worth choosing a topic that you can use while searching for future jobs.

When can you start working on the research question? As soon as you find something that you are interested in. You might need some base knowledge to be able to stay within your field. You can get more hints on how to write the question on How to write research questions.

Don’t put to much effort into making sure your question is perfect. You will have to work on adapting, narrowing down and widening it through out the course.

Information retrieval
When you have something that you find interesting you should also be able to formulate information needs. Information needs in context to your research question, topics that you will have to know more about to be able to formulate a good research question and good searches.

To evaluate if your question and area of interest is relevant you must put this in context to related research. Finding related research can also help you to avoid answering a question that has already been answered (or at least put your answer in context to other answers).

How do we start working on the information searching? Start by breaking out keywords from what you already have. Use encyclopedias and other sources to find synonyms and build search blocks that are interesting for your subject area. Structure these words into search blocks so that you get an overview on what you might find. Chose databases that might be useful to answer your information needs. If you have any trouble with your searches or if you want some input on the whole information retrieval process please ask us in the library or attend our Search lab.


Start working on the thesis template. Write meta-text describing what the different parts of your thesis is going to contain. If you have a template with meta-text it is easier to get an overview on what you want to do and the conversations with the supervisor should become easier.

Text: Thomas Nyström

Think about plagiarism when writing an essay

In these essay times it may be useful to know what obligations you as the author of your essay have regarding plagiarism. On the University web there is a great anti-plagiarism guide where most aspects of this are included. You can access it via Ping Pong, but also open on the web from this page (click on the link in text far down on the page). You can read more about plagiarism and academic integrity here. Think carefully when you deal with sources and references.

Good luck with your writing!


Text: Lena Holmberg

Method books

Are you writing your essay? or perhaps a paper or an assignment where you use a method? We have a large number of method books in the library, shelved by subject. Most of them you will find on floor 2.5, shelf 300.

metod_engA few classics have been around a long time and constantly comes in new editions for example Alan Brymans Social research methods.

DSCN0882Many of our method books are additionally course books. That means that you can find them as course reference books on the 1st floor in the library and its available  when the others are on loan.

kurs_eng2Welcome to the library!

Text and picture: Lena Holmberg

Essay tips – how do I write academic texts

Information searching just isn’t enough – in most cases the information has to be presented to others as well. Here you will find a variety of entrances to web pages, featuring tools to make what you have learned into well written papers and theses or splendid oral presentations.

Writing correct and spell correctly is one of the parts when writing scientific texts. Below are a few tips.

Lund’s University guide on academic writing is an excellent resource and open for all to use.

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University provides resources and instructional materials for academic writing.

The Language Lab offers professional guidance in Swedish, English and Swedish as a Second Language. The Language Lab can provide tools for improving your studies.

Google Translate helps you translate text from one language to another.

Text: Sara Hellberg, translated by Lisa Carlson