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How To Skim Read Journal Articles

Fast-Track Your Literature Review By Focusing On Three Sections

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | May 2020

How to read scientific journal articles quickly and efficiently.

If you’ve just started your literature review process, you’re probably sitting on a pile of scientific journal articles and research papers that are (1) lengthy and (2) written in very dense , academic language that is difficult to digest (at the best of times). It’s intimidating, for sure – and you’re probably wondering how on earth you’re going to get through it all.

You might be asking yourself some of these questions:

  • Do I need to read every journal article to make sure I cover everything?
  • Do I need to read every section of each article to understand it?
  • If not, which sections should I focus on?

First things first, relax (I can feel your tension!). In this post, I’m going answer these questions and explain how to approach your review of the literature the smart way , so that you focus only on the most relevant literature and don’t waste time on low-value activities.

So, grab a nice hot cup of coffee (or tea, or whatever – just no beers) and let’s take a look at those questions, one at a time.

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

Question 1:

Do i need to read every journal article on my topic when doing my literature review.

The good news is that you don’t need to read every single journal article on your topic. Doing so would just be a waste of your time, as you’re generally looking to understand the current state of the literature – not the full history of it.

But… and this is an important but. You do need to read quite a bit to make sure that you have a comprehensive view of the current state of the literature (and of knowledge) in your area of research.

Quality trumps quantity when it comes to reviewing the literature. In other words, you need to focus on reading the journal articles that are most cited (i.e. that other academics have referenced) in relation to your topic keyword(s). You should focus on articles that are recent, relevant and well cited .

But how do I know if an article is well cited?

Thankfully, you can check the number of citations for any article really easily using Google Scholar . Just enter the article title in Google Scholar and it will show you how many citations it has – here’s an example:

How to read journal articles quickly and efficiently

In fact, Google Scholar is a great way to find the key journal articles for any keyword (topic) in general, so chances are you’ll be using this to find your journal articles in the first place. Therefore, be sure to keep an eye on citation count while you’re sourcing articles. It would also be smart to dedicate a column to it in your literature review catalogue (you can download one for free here ) so that you can quickly filter and sort by citation count.

A quick caveat – citation count is not a perfect metric for the quality of a journal article (unfortunately there is no unicorn metric that indicates quality). While its usually a good indicator of how popular an article is, it doesn’t mean the findings of the article are perfect (remember, the Kardashians are popular too – enough said). To the contrary, it could indicate that there’s a lot of controversy regarding the findings (sounds like the Kardashians again).

So, long story short – don’t be conned by citation count alone. Be sure to also pay attention the to quality of the journal each article is published in (you can check journal rank here ), and pay attention to what other articles say about any given popular article.

Need a helping hand?

how to read a research article

Question 2:

Do i need to read the full journal journal article when doing my literature review.

Some more good news – no, you don’t need to read every single word in each journal article you review as part of your literature review. When you’re just starting your literature review, you need to get a big picture view of what each journal article is saying (in other words, the key questions and findings). Generally you can get a good feel for this by reading a few key sections in each article (we’ll get to these next).

That said (ah, there had to be a catch, right?), as you refine your literature review and establish more of a focus, you’ll need to dive deeper into the most important articles. Some articles will be central to your research – but you probably still don’t need to read them from first page to the last.

Question 3:

Which sections of each journal article should i read.

To get a big-picture view of what any article is all about, there are three sections that are very useful. These three sections generally explain both what the article is about (i.e. what questions they were trying to answer) and what the findings were (i.e. what their answers were). This is exactly what you’re looking for, so these three sections provide a great way for you to save time during your literature review.

So, let’s take a look at the three sections:

1 – The abstract (or executive summary)

The abstract (which is located right up front) provides a high-level overview of what the article is about. This is giving you the first little taste of the soup , so to speak. Generally, it will discuss what the research objectives were was and why they were important. This will give you a clear indication of how relevant the article is to your specific research, so pay close attention.

Sometimes the abstract will also discuss the findings of the article (much like a thesis abstract ), but this is not always the case (yeah, the abstract can be such a tease sometimes). If it does, it’s a bonus. But even so, you should still read the other sections, as the abstract only provides a very high-level view, and can miss out on specific nuances of the research.

2 – The introduction section

The introduction section will go into more detail about the topic being investigated and why this is important for the field of research. This will help you understand a bit more detail about what exactly they were investigating and in what context . Context is really important, so pay close attention to that.

For example, they might be investigating your exact topic, but in a country other than your own, or a different industry. In that case, you’d know that you need to pay very close attention to exactly how they undertook their research.

So, make sure you pay close attention to the introduction chapter to fully understand the focus of the research and the context in which it took place . Both will be important when it comes to writing your literature review, as you’ll need to use this information to build your arguments.

3 – The conclusion

While the introduction section tells you what the high-level questions the researchers asked, the conclusion section tells you what answers they found . This provides you with something of a shortcut to grasping the gist of the article, without reading all the dull and dry detail – yeah, it’s a little cheeky, I know. Of course, the conclusion is not going to highlight every nuance of the analysis findings, so if the article is highly relevant to your research, you should make sure to also pay close attention to the analysis findings section.

In addition to the findings of the research, the conclusion section will generally also highlight areas that require further research . In other words, they’ll outline areas that genuinely require further academic investigation (aka research gaps ). This is a gold mine for refining your topic into something highly original and well-rooted in the existing literature – just make sure that the article is recent, or someone else may have already exploited the research gap. If you’re still looking to identify a research topic, be sure to check out our video covering that here .

By reviewing these three sections of each article, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, while still getting a good understanding of what each article is saying. Keep in mind that as your literature review progresses, you focus will narrow and you’ll develop a set of core highly relevant articles, which you should sink your teeth into more deeply.

To fast-track your reading, always start by working through the abstract, the introduction section and the conclusion section.

Let’s Recap

In this post, we looked at how to read academic journal articles quickly and efficiently, to save you many hours of pain while undertaking your literature review.

The key takeaways to remember are:

  • You don’t need to read every single journal article covering your topic – focus on the most popular, authoritative and recent ones
  • You don’t need to read every word of every article. To start, you just need to get a high-level understanding of the literature, which you can get by focusing on three key areas in each journal article.
  • The three sections of each journal article to review are the abstract , the introduction and the conclusion .
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your focus and have a core set of highly relevant, highly authoritative articles, you can dive deeper into them, paying closer attention to the methodology and analysis findings.

And there you have it – now go on and hammer through that pile of articles at warp speed. While you’re at it, why not also check out our other posts and videos covering research topic ideation , dissertation and thesis proposal , literature review , methodology , analysis and more.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Literature review 101 - how to find articles


Aletta Malatji

Thanks Derek for the tips

Reviewing the Literature can be overwhelming if you do not have the plan or the right structure to navigate the pool of information

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome, Aletta. All the best with your literature review.

Dennyson Mulenga

I personally have found these tips as a key to my long standing problem of reading articles. Thanks a million times

Rishen Moodley

Simple and easy to read guidance… funny too

Great to hear that, Rishen 🙂

Mazwakhe Mkhulisi

Much appreciated Derek. I already realized I could not read everything, but you confirming that has brought a lot of relief.

Great to hear that, Mazwakhe 🙂

Sangappa Vaggar

Derek sir, I’m really happy for you.You made me to think very smart and effective way to do the review of literature.

Thank you so much.


Dear Derek, thank you for your easy and straight forward guidance,

Sanoon Fasana

Thanks for the interesting and informative article

You’re most welcome, Sanoon. Glad it was useful.


Thanks for the insights, I am about to start my literature review and this article as well as the other material from GradCoach will help me on the jorney.

You’re most welcome! Good luck writing your literature review

Aimal Waziri Waziri

It was a great and effective information.


Thank you that was very helpful. I am taking a directed studies summer course, and I have to submit a literature review by end of August. That article was short, straight to the point and interesting 🙂 thank you Derek

You’re welcome, Emy 🙂 Good luck with your studies!


Thanks Derek. Reading this article has given me a boost because I have been so stock on how to go about my literature review.Though I know I am not meant to read the whole article.But your explanation has given me a greater insight.


Thank you very much sir for your great explanation 😄 Hopefully I’ve enough diligence and courage to start

You’re most welcome, Felicia. Good luck with your research.

Tamim Adnan

thanks, it was helpful.


Thanks Derek for doing such a wonderful job of helping. Blessings Bro!


Concise and applicable, nice! what a great help. I am now doing a literature review section on my thesis, I used to waste so much time on reading articles that is not relevant back and forth.

M.Tameem Mubarak

Thank for your great help!


Hi Derek, i am busy with my research literature. I submited my 1st draft but it was way irrelevant as per comments made by my supervisor… i gave myself time to find out where i diverted until i lesson to some of your videos. As we speak now, i am starting following the guidelines and i feel confident that i am on the right track now. Thanks a lot my brother

You’re most welcome 🙂


I can’t explain my mood when I realised I had to study more than 40 articles about my study field. It was indeed a game-changer. Thank you very much, Derek. Also, Kardashian was the best example that can be used for this situation :)))


Thank you for posting this. It truly takes a load off! I’m new to Doctoral research and peer review study and “Overwhelmed” doesn’t quite sum up how I felt. This is a tremendous help!


Thank you for the advice. Question, how do one keep count of all the articles considered from starting point to narrowed down. Manually, or is there another way?


  • What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis) - Grad Coach - […] first step of any literature review is to hunt down and read through the existing research that’s relevant to your research…

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How to read and understand a scientific paper

How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists, london school of economics and political science, jennifer raff.

From vaccinations to climate change, getting science wrong has very real consequences. But journal articles, a primary way science is communicated in academia, are a different format to newspaper articles or blogs and require a level of skill and undoubtedly a greater amount of patience. Here  Jennifer Raff   has prepared a helpful guide for non-scientists on how to read a scientific paper. These steps and tips will be useful to anyone interested in the presentation of scientific findings and raise important points for scientists to consider with their own writing practice.

My post,  The truth about vaccinations: Your physician knows more than the University of Google  sparked a very lively discussion, with comments from several people trying to persuade me (and the other readers) that  their  paper disproved everything that I’d been saying. While I encourage you to go read the comments and contribute your own, here I want to focus on the much larger issue that this debate raised: what constitutes scientific authority?

It’s not just a fun academic problem. Getting the science wrong has very real consequences. For example, when a community doesn’t vaccinate children because they’re afraid of “toxins” and think that prayer (or diet, exercise, and “clean living”) is enough to prevent infection, outbreaks happen.

“Be skeptical. But when you get proof, accept proof.” –Michael Specter

What constitutes enough proof? Obviously everyone has a different answer to that question. But to form a truly educated opinion on a scientific subject, you need to become familiar with current research in that field. And to do that, you have to read the “primary research literature” (often just called “the literature”). You might have tried to read scientific papers before and been frustrated by the dense, stilted writing and the unfamiliar jargon. I remember feeling this way!  Reading and understanding research papers is a skill which every single doctor and scientist has had to learn during graduate school.  You can learn it too, but like any skill it takes patience and practice.

I want to help people become more scientifically literate, so I wrote this guide for how a layperson can approach reading and understanding a scientific research paper. It’s appropriate for someone who has no background whatsoever in science or medicine, and based on the assumption that he or she is doing this for the purpose of getting a  basic  understanding of a paper and deciding whether or not it’s a reputable study.

The type of scientific paper I’m discussing here is referred to as a  primary research article . It’s a peer-reviewed report of new research on a specific question (or questions). Another useful type of publication is a  review article . Review articles are also peer-reviewed, and don’t present new information, but summarize multiple primary research articles, to give a sense of the consensus, debates, and unanswered questions within a field.  (I’m not going to say much more about them here, but be cautious about which review articles you read. Remember that they are only a snapshot of the research at the time they are published.  A review article on, say, genome-wide association studies from 2001 is not going to be very informative in 2013. So much research has been done in the intervening years that the field has changed considerably).

Before you begin: some general advice

Reading a scientific paper is a completely different process than reading an article about science in a blog or newspaper. Not only do you read the sections in a different order than they’re presented, but you also have to take notes, read it multiple times, and probably go look up other papers for some of the details. Reading a single paper may take you a very long time at first. Be patient with yourself. The process will go much faster as you gain experience.

Most primary research papers will be divided into the following sections: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Conclusions/Interpretations/Discussion. The order will depend on which journal it’s published in. Some journals have additional files (called Supplementary Online Information) which contain important details of the research, but are published online instead of in the article itself (make sure you don’t skip these files).

Before you begin reading, take note of the authors and their institutional affiliations. Some institutions (e.g. University of Texas) are well-respected; others (e.g.  the Discovery Institute ) may appear to be legitimate research institutions but are actually agenda-driven.  Tip:  g oogle  “Discovery Institute” to see why you don’t want to use it as a scientific authority on evolutionary theory.

Also take note of the journal in which it’s published. Reputable (biomedical) journals will be indexed by  Pubmed . [EDIT: Several people have reminded me that non-biomedical journals won’t be on Pubmed, and they’re absolutely correct! (thanks for catching that, I apologize for being sloppy here). Check out  Web of Science  for a more complete index of science journals. And please feel free to share other resources in the comments!]  Beware of  questionable journals .

As you read, write down  every single word  that you don’t understand. You’re going to have to look them all up (yes, every one. I know it’s a total pain. But you won’t understand the paper if you don’t understand the vocabulary. Scientific words have extremely precise meanings).

Step-by-step instructions for reading a primary research article

1. Begin by reading the introduction, not the abstract.

The abstract is that dense first paragraph at the very beginning of a paper. In fact, that’s often the only part of a paper that many non-scientists read when they’re trying to build a scientific argument. (This is a terrible practice—don’t do it.).  When I’m choosing papers to read, I decide what’s relevant to my interests based on a combination of the title and abstract. But when I’ve got a collection of papers assembled for deep reading, I always read the abstract last. I do this because abstracts contain a succinct summary of the entire paper, and I’m concerned about inadvertently becoming biased by the authors’ interpretation of the results.

2. Identify the BIG QUESTION.

Not “What is this paper about”, but “What problem is this entire field trying to solve?”

This helps you focus on why this research is being done.  Look closely for evidence of agenda-motivated research.

3. Summarize the background in five sentences or less.

Here are some questions to guide you:

What work has been done before in this field to answer the BIG QUESTION? What are the limitations of that work? What, according to the authors, needs to be done next?

The five sentences part is a little arbitrary, but it forces you to be concise and really think about the context of this research. You need to be able to explain why this research has been done in order to understand it.

4.   Identify the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S)

What  exactly  are the authors trying to answer with their research? There may be multiple questions, or just one. Write them down.  If it’s the kind of research that tests one or more null hypotheses, identify it/them.

Not sure what a null hypothesis is? Go read this one  and try to identify the null hypotheses in it. Keep in mind that not every paper will test a null hypothesis.

5. Identify the approach

What are the authors going to do to answer the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S)?

6. Now read the methods section. Draw a diagram for each experiment, showing exactly what the authors did.

I mean  literally  draw it. Include as much detail as you need to fully understand the work.  As an example, here is what I drew to sort out the methods for a paper I read today ( Battaglia et al. 2013: “The first peopling of South America: New evidence from Y-chromosome haplogroup Q” ). This is much less detail than you’d probably need, because it’s a paper in my specialty and I use these methods all the time.  But if you were reading this, and didn’t happen to know what “process data with reduced-median method using Network” means, you’d need to look that up.

Image credit: author

You don’t need to understand the methods in enough detail to replicate the experiment—that’s something reviewers have to do—but you’re not ready to move on to the results until you can explain the basics of the methods to someone else.

7.   Read the results section. Write one or more paragraphs to summarize the results for each experiment, each figure, and each table. Don’t yet try to decide what the results  mean , just write down what they  are.

You’ll find that, particularly in good papers, the majority of the results are summarized in the figures and tables. Pay careful attention to them!  You may also need to go to the Supplementary Online Information file to find some of the results.

 It is at this point where difficulties can arise if statistical tests are employed in the paper and you don’t have enough of a background to understand them. I can’t teach you stats in this post, but  here , and here   are some basic resources to help you.  I STRONGLY advise you to become familiar with them.

Things to pay attention to in the results section:

  • Any time the words “significant” or “non-significant” are used. These have precise statistical meanings. Read more about this  here .
  • If there are graphs, do they have  error bars  on them? For certain types of studies, a lack of confidence intervals is a major red flag.
  • The sample size. Has the study been conducted on 10, or 10,000 people? (For some research purposes, a sample size of 10 is sufficient, but for most studies larger is better).

8. Do the results answer the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S)? What do you think they mean?

Don’t move on until you have thought about this. It’s okay to change your mind in light of the authors’ interpretation—in fact you probably will if you’re still a beginner at this kind of analysis—but it’s a really good habit to start forming your own interpretations before you read those of others.

9. Read the conclusion/discussion/Interpretation section.

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? Do you see any that the authors missed? (Don’t assume they’re infallible!) What do they propose to do as a next step? Do you agree with that?

10. Now, go back to the beginning and read the abstract.

Does it match what the authors said in the paper? Does it fit with your interpretation of the paper?

11. FINAL STEP:  (Don’t neglect doing this)  What do other researchers say about this paper?

Who are the (acknowledged or self-proclaimed) experts in this particular field? Do they have criticisms of the study that you haven’t thought of, or do they generally support it?

Here’s a place where I do recommend you use google! But do it last, so you are better prepared to think critically about what other people say.

(12. This step may be optional for you, depending on why you’re reading a particular paper. But for me, it’s critical! I go through the “Literature cited” section to see what other papers the authors cited. This allows me to better identify the important papers in a particular field, see if the authors cited my own papers (KIDDING!….mostly), and find sources of useful ideas or techniques.)

UPDATE: If you would like to see an example of how to read a science paper using this framework, you can find one  here .

I gratefully acknowledge Professors José Bonner and Bill Saxton for teaching me how to critically read and analyze scientific papers using this method. I’m honored to have the chance to pass along what they taught me.

I’ve written a shorter version of this guide for teachers to hand out to their classes. If you’d like a PDF, shoot me an email: jenniferraff (at) utexas (dot) edu. For further comments and additional questions on this guide, please see the Comments Section on  the original post .

This piece originally appeared on the  author’s personal blog  and is reposted with permission.

Featured image credit:  Scientists in a laboratory of the University of La Rioja  by  Urcomunicacion  (Wikimedia CC BY3.0)

Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the LSE Impact blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our  Comments Policy  if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

Jennifer Raff (Indiana University—dual Ph.D. in genetics and bioanthropology) is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas, director and Principal Investigator of the KU Laboratory of Human Population Genomics, and assistant director of KU’s Laboratory of Biological Anthropology. She is also a research affiliate with the University of Texas anthropological genetics laboratory. She is keenly interested in public outreach and scientific literacy, writing about topics in science and pseudoscience for her blog ( ), the Huffington Post, and for the  Social Evolution Forum .

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Evaluating Information

  • Understanding Primary and Secondary Sources
  • Exploring and Evaluating Popular, Trade, and Scholarly Sources

Reading a Scholarly Article

Common components of original research articles, while you read, reading strategies, reading for citations, further reading, learning objectives.

This page was created to help you:

Identify the different parts of a scholarly article

Efficiently analyze and evaluate scholarly articles for usefulness

This page will focus on reading scholarly articles — published reports on original research in the social sciences, humanities, and STEM fields. Reading and understanding this type of article can be challenging. This guide will help you develop these skills, which can be learned and improved upon with practice.

We will go over:

There are many different types of articles that may be found in scholarly journals and other academic publications. For more, see:

  • Types of Information Sources

Reading a scholarly article isn’t like reading a novel, website, or newspaper article. It’s likely you won’t read and absorb it from beginning to end, all at once.

Instead, think of scholarly reading as inquiry, i.e., asking a series of questions as you do your research or read for class. Your reading should be guided by your class topic or your own research question or thesis.

For example, as you read, you might ask yourself:

  • What questions does it help to answer, or what topics does it address?
  • Are these relevant or useful to me?
  • Does the article offer a helpful framework for understanding my topic or question (theoretical framework)?
  • Do the authors use interesting or innovative methods to conduct their research that might be relevant to me?
  • Does the article contain references I might consult for further information?

In Practice

Scanning and skimming are essential when reading scholarly articles, especially at the beginning stages of your research or when you have a lot of material in front of you.

Many scholarly articles are organized to help you scan and skim efficiently. The next time you need to read an article, practice scanning the following sections (where available) and skim their contents:

  • The abstract: This summary provides a birds’ eye view of the article contents.
  • The introduction:  What is the topic(s) of the research article? What is its main idea or question?
  • The list of keywords or descriptors
  • Methods: How did the author(s) go about answering their question/collecting their data?
  • Section headings:  Stop and skim those sections you may find relevant.
  • Figures:  Offer lots of information in quick visual format.
  • The conclusion:  What are the findings and/or conclusions of this article?

Mark Up Your Text

Read with purpose.

  • Scanning and skimming with a pen in hand can help to focus your reading.
  • Use color for quick reference. Try highlighters or some sticky notes. Use different colors to represent different topics.
  • Write in the margins, putting down thoughts and questions about the content as you read.
  • Use digital markup features available in eBook platforms or third-party solutions, like Adobe Reader or

Categorize Information

Create your own informal system of organization. It doesn’t have to be complicated — start basic, and be sure it works for you.

  • Jot down a few of your own keywords for each article. These keywords may correspond with important topics being addressed in class or in your research paper.  
  • Write keywords on print copies or use the built-in note taking features in reference management tools like Zotero and EndNote.  
  • Your keywords and system of organization may grow more complex the deeper you get into your reading.

Highlight words, terms, phrases, acronyms, etc. that are unfamiliar to you. You can highlight on the text or make a list in a notetaking program.

  • Decide if the term is essential to your understanding of the article or if you can look it up later and keep scanning.

You may scan an article and discover that it isn’t what you thought it was about. Before you close the tab or delete that PDF, consider scanning the article one more time, specifically to look for citations that might be more on-target for your topic.  

You don’t need to look at every citation in the bibliography — you can look to the literature review to identify the core references that relate to your topic. Literature reviews are typically organized by subtopic within a research question or thesis. Find the paragraph or two that are closely aligned with your topic, make note of the author names, then locate those citations in the bibliography or footnote.

See the Find Articles page for what to do next:

  • Find Articles

See the Citation Searching page for more on following a citation trail:

  • Citation Searching
  • Taking notes effectively. [blog post] Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD
  • How to read an academic paper. [video] UBCiSchool. 2013
  • How to (seriously) read a scientific paper. (2016, March 21). Science | AAAS.
  • How to read a paper. S. Keshav. 2007. SIGCOMM Comput. Commun. Rev. 37, 3 (July 2007), 83–84.

This guide was designed to help you:

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How do you read a scientific article?

Published on October 17, 2014 by Bas Swaen . Revised on June 10, 2022.

A scientific article in a journal or scientific publication , if you have little research experience, can seem to be a difficult and complicated text. However, most scientific articles have a clear structure to make reading them just that much easier.

By reading a scientific article in a structured manner, you can better determine if it’s relevant and useful for your dissertation. In this (non-scientific) article, we explain how you should read a scientific article.

Table of contents

Before you start, quality of the article, getting started.

In this article we will use the following scientific article as an example:

Example article

Perrett, D. I., Burt, D. M., Penton-Voak, I. S., Lee, K. J., Rowland, D. A., & Edwards, R. (1999). Symmetry and Human Facial Attractiveness.  Evolution and Human Behavior ,  20 , 295-307. Retrieved from

This article is about the possible link between facial symmetry and the attractiveness of a (human) face. We will concentrate on Experiment 1 in the article.

The very first question that you should ask yourself is, could this article be relevant to my dissertation? You answer this by scanning the article. In other words, read only the title and the headings. If you notice right away that the article is not relevant to your subject, then you are better to look for another article.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Now that you have determined that the article is interesting for your own study, it is worth considering whether the article is of high quality, because you can’t just assume that every scientific article is a high quality one.

When an article of poor quality is used as a source in your dissertation, you run the risk of drawing incorrect or unsubstantiated conclusions. Your supervisor will also always look at the quality of your sources to determine whether your conclusions are well founded.

There are a number of points by which you can determine whether the article is of a high quality.

Now that you know that the article is relevant for your own research and the article is of high quality, you can get started reading the article in more detail.

Step 1: Read the introduction

Many students begin by reading the abstract , but you can better start by reading the introduction. The abstract is concise and often contains difficult language, and it is difficult to understand the abstract if you haven’t yet read anything of the rest of the article.

Step 2: Determine the big question within the research field

What is the “big question” that the researchers in the field of study want to answer?

When you know what the underlying big question is, you understand better why the research in the article was done. The article is, in fact, often just one small part of a much larger study about which more researchers write articles.

Look for the reasons for performing the research. Often, a study builds on a previous study. See which studies were done previously, which limitations these studies had and how this research adds to the prior research. You don’t always have to search for this information yourself, because it is often provided in the paper itself.

In the case of the example article, the big question in the field of research is: “Which factors determine attractiveness?” Possible predictors of attractiveness, such as facial symmetry, are researched. This study focuses on the attractiveness of the human face. Research is being done on the effect of facial symmetry on attractiveness, and a link has been found between symmetry and attractiveness.

Step 3: Determine the research questions

Which research questions are the authors trying to answer, exactly? There could be multiple questions, but there could also be just one. Write down the research questions for yourself.

Sometimes there aren’t any questions but rather hypotheses. with hypotheses instead of research questions, the research determines whether the expectation of the author (the hypothesis) is correct. In that case, write down the hypotheses.

In the article from the example, there are no clear research questions or hypotheses to be found, so you’ll have to determine them yourself from the text. Two experiments are done in the research, studying whether a certain expectation that the authors have is correct. This is, then,  research that assasses hypotheses. It appears from the introduction that the expectation is that people find a symmetric face more attractive than a face that is not symmetric. This brings us to H1 and H0.

H1 = People find a symmetric face more attractive than an asymmetric face.

H0 = People have no preference between a symmetric face and an asymmetric face.

Step 4: Look at the approach

What do the authors do to answer the specific questions? What is the plan of approach?

Surprisingly enough, in prior studies of the attractiveness of human faces, a preference for asymmetry was found. The researchers of this article think that this is due to the fact that the faces in the previous studies were made unnaturally symmetric. With this type of research, a photograph is taken of a face and this is then manipulated to make the face symmetrical. This resulted in unnatural properties and changes in the structure of the skin. It is, then, not strange that the participants had a preference for the naturally asymmetric faces. In this research, therefore, a new manipulation technique was used to make the faces symmetric. The form of the facial features is varied and skin structure is kept constant.

Step 5: Read the methods section

Write down exactly what the authors have done per experiment. Describe it, for example, in a clear outline but make sure that you record all the details so that you can understand the big picture from your outline. This goes more quickly by hand than on the computer, but for clarity we have made an example in Word.


Table – Experiment 1


Plan – Experiment 1

Summary planning

For Experiment 1, two photos were made of each face. A photo was taken of a test subject and this photo was then manipulated using the new technique to make a symmetric face. Thus, there was an original photo and a more symmetrically formed version of the photograph. The photographs were presented in pairs to 49 evaluators. For each pair, they had to choose the most attractive photo.

Step 6: Read the results section

Write one or more sections to summarize the results of each experiment, each figure and each table. Don’t even think about what the results mean; just write them down as they are. Often, the results are summarized in the figures and tables, so look at these carefully!

Also pay particular attention to the words “significant” and “not significant”. These specific words have an important statistical meaning.

A result is significant if the probability is smaller then 5%  that the difference found or the link found is coincidental. If the probability that the observed result is coincidental is equal to or greater than 5% , then the result is not significant. The probability that the result found is coincidental is also indicated with ‘ p = … ’. This means that a result is significant when the number after the ‘ p ’ is smaller than 0.05 (p < 0.05). Some studies speak of significance at only 1%. In these studies, the ‘ p ’ must be smaller than 0.01.

Example significance

Suppose you are researching the influence of studying on the grade of an exam, and you do this research on 100 test subjects. It appears from your research that the average grade increases with more hours of study. Now, your finding doesn’t mean that you can immediately conclude that this result is always the case. It is possible that the results of your research are purely coincidental. That’s why you test for significance. Only when your result is significant may you conclude that more hours of study contribute to a higher average grade on the exam.

Example table 1: Extent of asymmetry in the photographs

Of the 30 faces, the average asymmetry of all 13 facial features is not more than 1 pixel. Only at the height of the outer corners of the eyes was a significant asymmetry observed.

Example piece about preferences

At the end of the experiment, the number of symmetric faces chosen was calculated per evaluator. In 57.8% of the cases, the evaluators preferred a symmetrical face. The t-test shows that the average deviates significantly from 50% (or, no preference). If the result was 50% then this would mean that the evaluator had no preference for symmetry or asymmetry. It was also tested whether the preference for symmetry differed with photos of men or women, and whether there was a difference in the preferences of male and female evaluators. Finally, it was investigated whether the gender of both the evaluator and the person in the photograph had an interactive effect on the number of preferred symmetrical faces. For all of these tests, the ANOVA test was performed and no significant results were observed. The analysis has even been done in reverse as well. Now it was examined per photo whether there was a preference for the symmetrical face more often than for the asymmetrical face. This examination gave the same results. Of all the evaluators, 75% did not realize that the faces were manipulated and did not think that this had influenced their judgment. It turns out that, also with only this group of evaluators, the preference for symmetrical faces is significant and is 56%.

Step 7: Determine if the results answer the specific questions

Form your own interpretations before you read those of the authors (in the discussion ). Ask yourself at this step: what do the results mean? If you are a beginner in reading scientific articles, then this will be more difficult than when you are more experienced.

In the beginning, you will often need to adjust your opinion to that of the authors themselves. Later, you will probably be more critical.

The results show that the evaluators did find that symmetrical faces are more attractive than asymmetrical faces. The gender of the evaluator and of the faces could have perhaps influenced the preference, but this was not evident. Thus, H1 is confirmed.

Step 8: Read the discussion and conclusion

Now read what the authors think that the results mean. Do you agree with their interpretations? Also pay attention to what the authors identify as shortcomings of the research and what they propose for follow-up research. Don’t assume that they have done everything correctly – be critical.

Did you see any shortcomings that they didn’t mention? Do you agree with their proposal for follow-up research?

I agree with the interpretations of the authors. They identify a number of shortcomings whereby they immediately propose follow-up research to improve the completed research. I noticed that the study sample is small and that the ratio between the number of men and women is not very equal. This they don’t identify as a shortcoming, but perhaps the research could be improved with a larger and more equal sample. In addition, they have used only white respondents for the research, but it is naturally interesting to study whether the results also hold for the other races, such as Asians.

Step 9: Go back to the abstract

Now you can read the abstract. Does this reflect what the authors say in the article? Does the abstract match your interpretation of the article?

The abstract fits well with the rest of the article. I have interpreted the article as it was described in the abstract.

Step 10: Save the article and always reference the source

Now that you’ve read the article intensively, is it still relevant and useful for your research? If so, take the following steps:

  • Save the document. As of recently, you can save your found articles in Google Scholar via ‘My library’. You can activate this by clicking on ‘My library’ to the upper left of the search bar. Note: you do need a Gmail account for this.
  • If you don’t have a Gmail account, then save the document preferably in the Cloud (for example, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox ). For a document name, you can use the authors and the title of the article.
  • Immediately note the article in a reference list . Often this must be in the APA Style . You can use the APA Citation Generator , Mendeley or References in Word for this purpose.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

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  • Reading a Scholarly Article Tutorial This interactive tutorial provides practice reading a scholarly or scientific article.

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Attempting to read a scientific or scholarly research article for the first time may seem overwhelming and confusing. This guide details how to read a scientific article step-by-step. First, you should not approach a scientific article like a textbook— reading from beginning to end of the chapter or book without pause for reflection or criticism. Additionally, it is highly recommended that you highlight and take notes as you move through the article. Taking notes will keep you focused on the task at hand and help you work towards comprehension of the entire article.

  • Skim the article. This should only take you a few minutes. You are not trying to comprehend the entire article at this point, but just get a basic overview. You don’t have to read in order; the discussion/conclusions will help you to determine if the article is relevant to your research. You might then continue on to the Introduction. Pay attention to the structure of the article, headings, and figures.  
  • Grasp the vocabulary. Begin to go through the article and highlight words and phrases you do not understand. Some words or phrases you may be able to get an understanding from the context in which it is used, but for others you may need the assistance of a medical or scientific dictionary. Subject-specific dictionaries available through our Library databases and online are listed below.  
  • The abstract gives a quick overview of the article. It will usually contain four pieces of information: purpose or rationale of study (why they did it); methodology (how they did it); results (what they found); conclusion (what it means). Begin by reading the abstract to make sure this is what you are looking for and that it will be worth your time and effort.   
  • The introduction gives background information about the topic and sets out specific questions to be addressed by the authors. You can skim through the introduction if you are already familiar with the paper’s topic.  
  • The methods section gives technical details of how the experiments were carried out and serves as a “how-to” manual if you wanted to replicate the same experiments as the authors. This is another section you may want to only skim unless you wish to identify the methods used by the researchers or if you intend to replicate the research yourself.  
  • The results are the meat of the scientific article and contain all of the data from the experiments. You should spend time looking at all the graphs, pictures, and tables as these figures will contain most of the data.  
  • Lastly, the discussion is the authors’ opportunity to give their opinions. Keep in mind that the discussions are the authors’ interpretations and not necessarily facts. It is still a good place for you to get ideas about what kind of research questions are still unanswered in the field and what types of questions you might want your own research project to tackle. (See the Future Research Section of the Research Process for more information).  
  •   Read the bibliography/references section. Reading the references or works cited may lead you to other useful resources. You might also get a better understanding of the basic terminology, main concepts, major researchers, and basic terminology in the area you are researching.  
  • Have I taken time to understand all the terminology?
  • Am I spending too much time on the less important parts of this article?
  • Do I have any reason to question the credibility of this research?
  • What specific problem does the research address and why is it important?
  • How do these results relate to my research interests or to other works which I have read?  
  • Read the article a second time in chronological order. Reading the article a second time will reinforce your overall understanding. You may even start to make connections to other articles that you have read on this topic.

Reading a Scholarly Article Workshop

This workshop presents effective techniques for reading and understanding a scholarly article, as well as locating definitions related to your research topic.

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Reading a Scholarly Article or Research Paper

Identifying a research problem to investigate usually requires a preliminary search for and critical review of the literature in order to gain an understanding about how scholars have examined a topic. Scholars rarely structure research studies in a way that can be followed like a story; they are complex and detail-intensive and often written in a descriptive and conclusive narrative form. However, in the social and behavioral sciences, journal articles and stand-alone research reports are generally organized in a consistent format that makes it easier to compare and contrast studies and to interpret their contents.

General Reading Strategies

W hen you first read an article or research paper, focus on asking specific questions about each section. This strategy can help with overall comprehension and with understanding how the content relates [or does not relate] to the problem you want to investigate. As you review more and more studies, the process of understanding and critically evaluating the research will become easier because the content of what you review will begin to coalescence around common themes and patterns of analysis. Below are recommendations on how to read each section of a research paper effectively. Note that the sections to read are out of order from how you will find them organized in a journal article or research paper.

1.  Abstract

The abstract summarizes the background, methods, results, discussion, and conclusions of a scholarly article or research paper. Use the abstract to filter out sources that may have appeared useful when you began searching for information but, in reality, are not relevant. Questions to consider when reading the abstract are:

  • Is this study related to my question or area of research?
  • What is this study about and why is it being done ?
  • What is the working hypothesis or underlying thesis?
  • What is the primary finding of the study?
  • Are there words or terminology that I can use to either narrow or broaden the parameters of my search for more information?

2.  Introduction

If, after reading the abstract, you believe the paper may be useful, focus on examining the research problem and identifying the questions the author is trying to address. This information is usually located within the first few paragraphs of the introduction or in the concluding paragraph. Look for information about how and in what way this relates to what you are investigating. In addition to the research problem, the introduction should provide the main argument and theoretical framework of the study and, in the last paragraphs of the introduction, describe what the author(s) intend to accomplish. Questions to consider when reading the introduction include:

  • What is this study trying to prove or disprove?
  • What is the author(s) trying to test or demonstrate?
  • What do we already know about this topic and what gaps does this study try to fill or contribute a new understanding to the research problem?
  • Why should I care about what is being investigated?
  • Will this study tell me anything new related to the research problem I am investigating?

3.  Literature Review

The literature review describes and critically evaluates what is already known about a topic. Read the literature review to obtain a big picture perspective about how the topic has been studied and to begin the process of seeing where your potential study fits within the domain of prior research. Questions to consider when reading the literature review include:

  • W hat other research has been conducted about this topic and what are the main themes that have emerged?
  • What does prior research reveal about what is already known about the topic and what remains to be discovered?
  • What have been the most important past findings about the research problem?
  • How has prior research led the author(s) to conduct this particular study?
  • Is there any prior research that is unique or groundbreaking?
  • Are there any studies I could use as a model for designing and organizing my own study?

4.  Discussion/Conclusion

The discussion and conclusion are usually the last two sections of text in a scholarly article or research report. They reveal how the author(s) interpreted the findings of their research and presented recommendations or courses of action based on those findings. Often in the conclusion, the author(s) highlight recommendations for further research that can be used to develop your own study. Questions to consider when reading the discussion and conclusion sections include:

  • What is the overall meaning of the study and why is this important? [i.e., how have the author(s) addressed the " So What? " question].
  • What do you find to be the most important ways that the findings have been interpreted?
  • What are the weaknesses in their argument?
  • Do you believe conclusions about the significance of the study and its findings are valid?
  • What limitations of the study do the author(s) describe and how might this help formulate my own research?
  • Does the conclusion contain any recommendations for future research?

5.  Methods/Methodology

The methods section describes the materials, techniques, and procedures for gathering information used to examine the research problem. If what you have read so far closely supports your understanding of the topic, then move on to examining how the author(s) gathered information during the research process. Questions to consider when reading the methods section include:

  • Did the study use qualitative [based on interviews, observations, content analysis], quantitative [based on statistical analysis], or a mixed-methods approach to examining the research problem?
  • What was the type of information or data used?
  • Could this method of analysis be repeated and can I adopt the same approach?
  • Is enough information available to repeat the study or should new data be found to expand or improve understanding of the research problem?

6.  Results

After reading the above sections, you should have a clear understanding of the general findings of the study. Therefore, read the results section to identify how key findings were discussed in relation to the research problem. If any non-textual elements [e.g., graphs, charts, tables, etc.] are confusing, focus on the explanations about them in the text. Questions to consider when reading the results section include:

  • W hat did the author(s) find and how did they find it?
  • Does the author(s) highlight any findings as most significant?
  • Are the results presented in a factual and unbiased way?
  • Does the analysis of results in the discussion section agree with how the results are presented?
  • Is all the data present and did the author(s) adequately address gaps?
  • What conclusions do you formulate from this data and does it match with the author's conclusions?

7.  References

The references list the sources used by the author(s) to document what prior research and information was used when conducting the study. After reviewing the article or research paper, use the references to identify additional sources of information on the topic and to examine critically how these sources supported the overall research agenda. Questions to consider when reading the references include:

  • Do the sources cited by the author(s) reflect a diversity of disciplinary viewpoints, i.e., are the sources all from a particular field of study or do the sources reflect multiple areas of study?
  • Are there any unique or interesting sources that could be incorporated into my study?
  • What other authors are respected in this field, i.e., who has multiple works cited or is cited most often by others?
  • What other research should I review to clarify any remaining issues or that I need more information about?

NOTE :  A final strategy in reviewing research is to copy and paste the title of the source [journal article, book, research report] into Google Scholar . If it appears, look for a "cited by" followed by a hyperlinked number [e.g., Cited by 45]. This number indicates how many times the study has been subsequently cited in other, more recently published works. This strategy, known as citation tracking, can be an effective means of expanding your review of pertinent literature based on a study you have found useful and how scholars have cited it. The same strategies described above can be applied to reading articles you find in the list of cited by references.

Reading Tip

Specific Reading Strategies

Effectively reading scholarly research is an acquired skill that involves attention to detail and an ability to comprehend complex ideas, data, and theoretical concepts in a way that applies logically to the research problem you are investigating. Here are some specific reading strategies to consider.

As You are Reading

  • Focus on information that is most relevant to the research problem; skim over the other parts.
  • As noted above, read content out of order! This isn't a novel; you want to start with the spoiler to quickly assess the relevance of the study.
  • Think critically about what you read and seek to build your own arguments; not everything may be entirely valid, examined effectively, or thoroughly investigated.
  • Look up the definitions of unfamiliar words, concepts, or terminology. A good scholarly source is Credo Reference .

Taking notes as you read will save time when you go back to examine your sources. Here are some suggestions:

  • Mark or highlight important text as you read [e.g., you can use the highlight text  feature in a PDF document]
  • Take notes in the margins [e.g., Adobe Reader offers pop-up sticky notes].
  • Highlight important quotations; consider using different colors to differentiate between quotes and other types of important text.
  • Summarize key points about the study at the end of the paper. To save time, these can be in the form of a concise bulleted list of statements [e.g., intro has provides historical background; lit review has important sources; good conclusions].

Write down thoughts that come to mind that may help clarify your understanding of the research problem. Here are some examples of questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I understand all of the terminology and key concepts?
  • Do I understand the parts of this study most relevant to my topic?
  • What specific problem does the research address and why is it important?
  • Are there any issues or perspectives the author(s) did not consider?
  • Do I have any reason to question the validity or reliability of this research?
  • How do the findings relate to my research interests and to other works which I have read?

Adapted from text originally created by Holly Burt, Behavioral Sciences Librarian, USC Libraries, April 2018.

Another Reading Tip

When is it Important to Read the Entire Article or Research Paper

Laubepin argues, "Very few articles in a field are so important that every word needs to be read carefully." However, this implies that some studies are worth reading carefully. As painful and time-consuming as it may seem, there are valid reasons for reading a study in its entirety from beginning to end. Here are some examples:

  • Studies Published Very Recently .  The author(s) of a recent, well written study will provide a survey of the most important or impactful prior research in the literature review section. This can establish an understanding of how scholars in the past addressed the research problem. In addition, the most recently published sources will highlight what is currently known and what gaps in understanding currently exist about a topic, usually in the form of the need for further research in the conclusion .
  • Surveys of the Research Problem .  Some papers provide a comprehensive analytical overview of the research problem. Reading this type of study can help you understand underlying issues and discover why scholars have chosen to investigate the topic. This is particularly important if the study was published very recently because the author(s) should cite all or most of the key prior research on the topic. Note that, if it is a long-standing problem, there may be studies that specifically review the literature to identify gaps that remain. These studies often include the word review in their title [e.g., Hügel, Stephan, and Anna R. Davies. "Public Participation, Engagement, and Climate Change Adaptation: A Review of the Research Literature." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 11 (July-August 2020): wcc.645].
  • Highly Cited .  If you keep coming across the same citation to a study while you are reviewing the literature, this implies it was foundational in establishing an understanding of the research problem or the study had a significant impact within the literature [positive or negative]. Carefully reading a highly cited source can help you understand how the topic emerged and motivated scholars to further investigate the problem. It also could be a study you need to cite as foundational in your own paper to demonstrate to the reader that you understand the roots of the problem.
  • Historical Overview .  Knowing the historical background of a research problem may not be the focus of your analysis. Nevertheless, carefully reading a study that provides a thorough description and analysis of the history behind an event, issue, or phenomenon can add important context to understanding the topic and what aspect of the problem you may want to examine further.
  • Innovative Methodological Design .  Some studies are significant and worth reading in their entirety because the author(s) designed a unique or innovative approach to researching the problem. This may justify reading the entire study because it can motivate you to think creatively about pursuing an alternative or non-traditional approach to examining your topic of interest. These types of studies are generally easy to identify because they are often cited in others works because of their unique approach to studying the research problem.
  • Cross-disciplinary Approach .  R eviewing studies produced outside of your discipline is an essential component of investigating research problems in the social and behavioral sciences. Consider reading a study that was conducted by author(s) based in a different discipline [e.g., an anthropologist studying political cultures; a study of hiring practices in companies published in a sociology journal]. This approach can generate a new understanding or a unique perspective about the topic . If you are not sure how to search for studies published in a discipline outside of your major or of the course you are taking, contact a librarian for assistance.

Laubepin, Frederique. How to Read (and Understand) a Social Science Journal Article . Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ISPSR), 2013; Shon, Phillip Chong Ho. How to Read Journal Articles in the Social Sciences: A Very Practical Guide for Students . 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2015; Lockhart, Tara, and Mary Soliday. "The Critical Place of Reading in Writing Transfer (and Beyond): A Report of Student Experiences." Pedagogy 16 (2016): 23-37; Maguire, Moira, Ann Everitt Reynolds, and Brid Delahunt. "Reading to Be: The Role of Academic Reading in Emergent Academic and Professional Student Identities." Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice 17 (2020): 5-12.

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how to read a research article

How to Read a Scholarly Article

  • Anatomy of an Article
  • Key Reading Strategies
  • Quick Tips for Reading Strategies
  • Reading for Different Disciplines
  • Reference Sources
  • Planning Resources

So Many Articles, So Little Time

Skipping around is encouraged when reading a scholarly article:

  • begin by reading abstract
  • skim the introduction and jump to the end to read the conclusion

Skimming these sections first will allow you to quickly determine if the article is relevant to your research and if you should do an in-depth reading.

1. Abstract

Read the abstract first

The abstract previews the entire article, makes it easier to judge whether it is relevant.

For the sciences:

  • Titles can only tell you so much about the content of the article. The Abstract acts as a preview for the entire article, including the methods and results. By reading the Abstract first, you can get a better idea of what the article is actually about, if it relates to what you are researching, and whether it is worth your time to read the rest of it.

For the humanities:

  • Articles in the Arts and Humanities do not always include an Abstract, and if they do, it might just be the first paragraph of the introduction. If not included, move onto the Introduction. Make sure to skim through the section headings, if they are there. This will give you an idea of the organization of the article as well as a general idea of themes.

2. Intro & Conclusion

Next, read the intro and the conclusion

Learn more about the topic of study and what the authors learned through their research.

Applies to both sciences and humanities:

  • These two sections give you the background information for the topic of the article as well as what happened in the study.
  • The introduction includes info about previous studies/papers that relate to the current one.
  • The conclusion will provide a summary of the the study findings or analysis and an explanation of how their research contributes to their specific field of study.
  • By reading the conclusion you see whether the study answered the original research question and what the authors see as the next steps in their research.

3. Look at the Data

Take a look at results, i.e. tables, charts, graphs or images 

Get a better idea of the results of the research or analytical study. 

For the Sciences:

  • Closely look at the visual representations of the data. See what conclusions you come to and make note of them. When you read through the entire article, compare your own conclusions to what the authors saw in their results and data.

For the Humanities:

  • The article may not present numeric data however, there might be other visual representations of what the scholars are studying. For example, reproductions of art pieces, or excerpts from primary sources or literary pieces.These are worth looking at to see the materials being studied.

4. Read the Article from Start to Finish

Do an in-depth reading

Now that you have pre-read some of the article and are sure it relates to your research topic, do an in-depth reading. 

Applies to both sciences and humanities

  • Read the article from start to finsih.
  • Take notes.
  • Summarize sections or paragraphs.
  • Keep a subject dictionary or the Internet/Wikipedia close by. If you come across any unfamiliar terms, you can quickly look them up.  
  • Keep track of the citation information of the articles you do read and want to use in your research. Look at the References/Works Cited list. You may find additional scholarly articles related to your research. 

Reverse Oreo Method

Scholarly articles are structured in the reverse of an Oreo, meaning that the “good stuff” is on the outside:

how to read a research article

The “dry stuff” is on the inside of the article – the Methodology and the Results. A key point of the scientific method is that results must be able to be replicated to be valid, so Methodology shows exactly how the study might be reproduced, but sheds little light on the big picture, unless you are replicating the experiment. Statistical analysis in the Results are important, but is typically just the math verifying the significance of the results.

From: Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library , Fitchburg State University

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Being critical: a practical guide

  • Reading academic articles
  • Being critical
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"Academic texts are not meant to be read through from beginning to end."

Academic literature is pitched at an ‘academic audience’ who will already have an understanding of the topic. Academic texts can be complicated and difficult to read, but you don't necessarily have to read every word of a piece of academic writing to get what you need from it. On this page we'll take a look at strategies for reading the most common form of academic literature: the academic journal article . But these strategies may also be applied to other forms of academic writing (and in some cases even to non-academic sources of information). We'll ask ourselves why we're doing the reading in the first place, before examining the typical structure(s) of an article , from abstract to conclusion , and considering the best route through . We'll also take a look at the best strategies for reading .

Journal articles

One of the most common academic sources is the journal article . Researchers publish their research in academic journals which usually cover a specific discipline. Journals used to be printed magazines but now they're mostly published online. Some journals have stronger reputations and more rigorous editorial controls than others. 

Types of article

There are all sorts of different types of journal article. The article's title might make it clear what type it is, but other aspects of the article will also give you a clue.

Research / Empirical

Results of studies or experiments, written by those who conducted them. They're built around observation or experiment, and generally start with (or at least have a prominent) methodology.

Descriptions of an individual situation in detail, identify characteristics, findings, or issues, and analyse the case using relevant methodologies or theoretical frameworks.

Summaries of other studies, identifying trends to draw broader conclusions. We look at these in more detail in our section on review articles .


Scholarly articles regarding abstract principles in a specific field of knowledge, not tied to empirical research or data. They may be predictive, and based upon an understanding of the field. They generally start with a background section or a literature review.

Real world techniques, workflows etc. This type of article is generally found in trade / professional journals which are aimed at a professional or practicing audience rather than an academic one.

Peer review

Most good quality journals (and even some bad ones) employ a process called peer-review whereby submitted articles are vetted by a panel of fellow experts in the field. The peer-review panel may demand extensive re-writes of an article to bring it to an acceptable standard for publication. Flaws in the methodology may be highlighted and the author will then have to address these in the text. The result should be that the published work is reliable and of a high standard, and this is usually the case (though not always, as this blog post on the problems with Peer Review explains). Many databases will let you filter to exclude work that hasn't been peer-reviewed.

Finding articles

You could read every journal that's published on your subject, but that's probably a lot of journals. Fortunately, there are databases which catalogue the contents of a selection of journals. You can search these databases to find the articles that will be of use to you.

how to read a research article

What are we reading it for anyway?

Maybe we're reading an academic article or similar text for fun, or for our own personal enlightenment, in which case we'll probably want to savour every word of it. But more often than not there are other interests at play:

  • To update your knowledge on progress in a particular area or field of study
  • To find a solution to a specific problem
  • To understand the causes of a particular issue, problem, or situation
  • To understand certain fundamental aspects, concepts, or theories
  • To inform your own research and help you select an appropriate methodology
  • To find support for your own views and arguments
  • To impress others
  • Because the article has been assigned to you by your tutor and so you've got to read it!

Why we're reading the article will inform how we go about it. If we're after a specific piece of information we just need to find that information; there's no point reading every single word.

Ask yourself:

  • Why am I reading this?
  • What do I want to get out of it?
  • What do I already know?
  • How will I know when I have read enough?

The structure of an academic article

Broadly speaking there are two main categories of academic article: empirical and theoretical . The former tends to be associated with the sciences (including social sciences), and the latter with the arts and humanities, though there may be cases where a science or social science paper is theoretical and an arts or humanities paper is empirical.

The typical sections of an article

These are the typical sections you'll find in an academic article (obviously, these are only a guide, and headings and structures may vary in practice):

Empirical paper

Abstract — a summary of the content.

Introduction — identifies the gaps in the existing knowledge, and outlines the aims of the paper.

Methodology — explains the design of the study, and what took place.

Results — explains what the outcome of the study was.

Discussion & Conclusion — interprets the results and makes recommendations based on that interpretation.

Theoretical paper

Body — considers the background of the topic and any competing analyses.

Summary — considers how the various arguments relate.

Discussion & Conclusion — interprets the analysis and makes recommendations accordingly.

What to get from each section

Each of the sections can tell you some useful information. You don't need to read every section to get what you need.

Abstract — a good starting point for understanding the scope and outcome.

Introduction — you can generally skip an introduction, though it may help give you some context.

Methodology — pay attention to the validity of the study design – is it appropriate?

Results — have any results been ignored?

Discussion & Conclusion — is the analysis valid?

Body — has anything been missed?

Summary — are the arguments well founded?

The route through

You don't need to read every word of an article to get what you need from it. Academic articles are pretty-much always split up into sections, and these sections tend to follow a fairly consistent pattern. Skipping around these sections (rather than reading them in order) allows you to appraise the article more quickly, helping you decide whether or not you need to read any more of it.

Title & abstract

"Let's start at the very beginning / a very good place to start"

– Maria Rainer

If by 'the very beginning' Maria meant 'the title ', then yes, it is a pretty decent starting point. It will give us a clue as to the type of article we're looking at, which will help determine our next steps.

The abstract is another obvious place to begin the journey. The abstract provides a summary of the article, including the key findings, so reading an abstract is a lot quicker than reading a whole article.

But be aware that the abstract will have been written by the authors of the article, and so won’t be a neutral account of the research finding. Don’t be too accepting of what is presented: make sure you think critically about what's being said. The abstract may be glossing over certain shortcomings of the article, or may be spinning a stronger outcome than is reached in the text.

The conclusion

Skip to the end. That's where all the action is! There's not really such a thing as spoilers in academic texts, so if the butler did it it's good to know from the outset. What conclusions are the authors reaching, and do they seem relevant to what you're needing?

Like the abstract, the conclusion may reflect the writers' biases, so we can't rely on it entirely. But, as with all the steps on this journey, it may help us determine whether or not we need to spend any more time reading the article.

Moving on from there...

Your next step depends largely on discipline: for an empirical (science or social science) research paper you'll want to look at the method and results to start to look at what was actually carried out, and what happened. You can then start to think about whether the conclusion being reached is valid given the approaches taken and the observations made.

In a theoretical (arts & humanities, and some social science) paper you'll probably need to pick through the body of the article and maybe focus on the summary section.

Reading strategies

When you’re reading you don’t have to read everything with the same amount of care and attention. Sometimes you need to be able to read a text very quickly.

There are three different techniques for reading:

  • Scanning — looking over material quite quickly in order to pick out specific information;
  • Skimming — reading something fairly quickly to get the general idea;
  • Close reading — reading something in detail.

You'll need to use a combination of these methods when you are reading an academic text: generally, you would scan to determine the scope and relevance of the piece, skim to pick out the key facts and the parts to explore further, then read more closely to understand in more detail and think critically about what is being written.

These strategies are part of your filtering strategy before deciding what to read in more depth. They will save you time in the long run as they will help you focus your time on the most relevant texts!

You might scan when you are...

  • ...browsing a database for texts on a specific topic;
  • ...looking for a specific word or phrase in a text;
  • ...determining the relevance of an article;
  • ...looking back over material to check something;
  • ...first looking at an article to get an idea of its shape.

Scan-reading essentially means that you know what you are looking for. You identify the chapters or sections most relevant to you and ignore the rest. You're scanning for pieces of information that will give you a general impression of it rather than trying to understand its detailed arguments.

You're mostly on the look-out for any relevant words or phrases that will help you answer whatever task you're working on. For instance, can you spot the word "orange" in the following paragraph?

Being able to spot a word by sight is a useful skill, but it's not always straightforward. Fortunately there are things to help you. A book might have an index, which might at least get you to the right page. An electronic text will let you search for a specific word or phrase. But context will also help. It might be that the word you're looking for is surrounded by similar words, or a range of words associated with that one. I might be looking for something about colour, and see reference to pigment, light, or spectra, or specific colours being called out, like red or green. I might be looking for something about fruit and come across a sentence talking about apples, grapes and plums. Try to keep this broader context in mind as you scan the page. That way, you're never really just going to be looking for a single word or orange on its own. There will normally be other clues to follow to help guide your eye.

Approaches to scanning articles:

  • Make a note of any questions you might want to answer – this will help you focus;
  • Pick out any relevant information from the title and abstract – Does it look like it relates to what you're wanting? If so, carry on...
  • Flick or scroll through the article to get an understanding of its structure (the headings in the article will help you with this) – Where are certain topics covered?
  • Scan the text for any facts , illustrations , figures , or discussion points that may be relevant – Which parts do you need to read more carefully? Which can be read quickly?
  • Look out for specific key words . You can search an electronic text for key words and phrases using Ctrl+F / Cmd+F. If your text is a book, there might even be an index to consult. In either case, clumps of results could indicate an area where that topic is being discussed at length.

Once you've scanned a text you might feel able to reject it as irrelevant, or you may need to skim-read it to get more information.

You might skim when you are...

  • ...jumping to specific parts such as the introduction or conclusion;
  • ...going over the whole text fairly quickly without reading every word;

Skim-reading, or speed-reading, is about reading superficially to get a gist rather than a deep understanding. You're looking to get a feel for the content and the way the topic is being discussed.

Skim-reading is easier to do if the text is in a language that's very familiar to you, because you will have more of an awareness of the conventions being employed and the parts of speech and writing that you can gloss over. Not only will there be whole sections of a text that you can pretty-much ignore, but also whole sections of paragraphs. For instance, the important sentence in this paragraph is the one right here where I announce that the important part of the paragraph might just be one sentence somewhere in the middle. The rest of the paragraph could just be a framework to hang around this point in order to stop the article from just being a list.

However, it may more often be that the important point for your purposes comes at the start of the paragraph. Very often a paragraph will declare what it's going to be about early on, and will then start to go into more detail. Maybe you'll want to do some closer reading of that detail, or maybe you won't. If the first paragraph makes it clear that this paragraph isn't going to be of much use to you, then you can probably just stop reading it. Or maybe the paragraph meanders and heads down a different route at some point in the middle. But if that's the case then it will probably end up summarising that second point towards the end of the paragraph. You might therefore want to skim-read the last sentence of a paragraph too, just in case it offers up any pithy conclusions, or indicates anything else that might've been covered in the paragraph!

For example, this paragraph is just about the 1980s TV gameshow "Treasure Hunt", which is something completely irrelevant to the topic of how to read an article. "Treasure Hunt" saw two members of the public (aided by TV newsreader Kenneth Kendall) using a library of books and tourist brochures to solve a series of five clues (provided, for the most part, by TV weather presenter Wincey Willis). These clues would generally be hidden at various tourist attractions within a specific county of the British Isles. The contestants would be in radio contact with a 'skyrunner' (Anneka Rice) who had a map and the use of a helicopter (piloted by Keith Thompson). Solving a clue would give the contestants the information they needed to direct the skyrunner (and her crew of camera operator Graham Berry and video engineer Frank Meyburgh) to the location of the next clue, and, ultimately, to the 'treasure' (a token object such as a little silver brooch). All of this was done against the clock, the contestants having only 45' to solve the clues and find the treasure. This, necessarily, required the contestants to be able to find relevant information quickly: they would have to select the right book from the shelves, and then navigate that text to find the information they needed. This, inevitably, involved a considerable amount of skim-reading. So maybe this paragraph was slightly relevant after all? No, probably not...

Skim-reading, then, is all about picking out the bits of a text that look like they need to be read, and ignoring other bits. It's about understanding the structure of a sentence or paragraph, and knowing where the important words like the verbs and nouns might be. You'll need to take in and consider the meaning of the text without reading every single word...

Approaches to skim-reading articles:

  • Pick out the most relevant information from the title and abstract – What type of article is it? What are the concepts? What are the findings?;
  • Scan through the article and note the headings to get an understanding of structure;
  • Look more closely at the illustrations or figures ;
  • Read the conclusion ;
  • Read the first and last sentences in a paragraph to see whether the rest is worth reading.

After skimming, you may still decide to reject the text, or you may identify sections to read in more detail.

Close reading

You might read closely when you are...

  • ...doing background reading;
  • ...trying to get into a new or difficult topic;
  • ...examining the discussions or data presented;
  • ...following the details or the argument.

Again, close reading isn't necessarily about reading every single word of the text, but it is about reading deeply within specific sections of it to find the meaning of what the author is trying to convey. There will be parts that you will need to read more than once, as you'll need to consider the text in great detail in order to properly take in and assess what has been written.

Approaches to the close reading of articles:

  • Focus on particular passages or a section of the text as a whole and read all of its content – your aim is to identify all the features of the text;
  • Make notes and annotate the text as you read – note significant information and questions raised by the text;
  • Re-read sections to improve understanding;
  • Look up any concepts or terms that you don’t understand.

Google Doc

In conclusion...

Did you read every word of this page up to this point, or did you skip straight to the conclusion? Whichever approach you took, here's our summary of how to go about reading an article:

  • Come up with some questions you need the text to answer – this will help you focus;
  • Read the abstract to get an idea about what the article is about;
  • Scan the text for signs of relevance, and to get an understanding of the scope of the article – which parts might you need to read?
  • Skim through the useful parts of the article (e.g. the conclusion) to get a flavour of what's being said;
  • If there are any sections of interest, read them closely ;
  • Consider the validity of the research process (method, sample size, etc.) or arguments being employed;
  • Make a note of what you find, and any questions the text raises.

How to read an article

Where do you start when looking at academic literature ? How can you successfully engage with the literature you find? This bitesized tutorial explores the structure of academic articles , shows where to look to check the validity of findings , and offers tips for navigating online texts.


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How to Read an Academic Journal Article

  • What Is in an Academic Journal
  • Anatomy of a Journal Article

How to Read an Article

How you read an academic journal article depends on why you are reading it, or where you are in your own research. Rather than reading the whole thing from beginning to end, you can save time and effort by focusing on the parts relevant to your needs at the time, and skim or skip other parts. If you approach your reading strategically, you can read a lot without actually reading all that much. You should end up reading more abstracts than articles, skimming more articles than you read, and reading more articles than you cite.

Consider why and when you are reading:

Why: Are you constructing an original experiment of your own? Building on the work of others to construct your own argument? Writing a critical or analytical review of work done on a topic? Looking for a methodology or a theoretical approach for your own study?

When: Are you new to the topic? Formulating ideas for your own research? Evaluating articles to select the best ones to use? Writing up your results?

In general, your research and reading will be in three stages:

Search – Familiarize yourself with a topic and the work done on that topic.

Select – Pick the articles most likely to be useful for your own project.

Study – In-depth analysis of content you will be using in your own project.

But note that these are not exclusive steps. While searching, you may want to jump right into an in-depth reading of a particularly interesting article. While studying your selected articles, you may think of more ideas you want to find articles about.

non-Standard – Articles in humanities often look different from most science and social science articles, so, though the general strategies for reading are the same, specifics can vary and what to look for may be different, so use this section below for how to apply the general strategies to read humanities articles.

Stages of Reading an Academic Journal Article

  • non-Standard

At this stage, you are casting a broad net to find many possibly relevant articles.

Think of keywords to describe your idea for a topic or your proposed hypothesis. Use OneSearch or select an appropriate subject database and try different combinations of keywords. 

Before even retrieving any articles, read titles, abstracts, and keywords in your search results. Find the broad questions concerning the topic: what is being studied, what is being found, what are the current controversies, how has research on the topic changed and developed over time, what language do researchers use? Look for more terms to use for more and better focused searches.

Look for review articles (the word ‘review’ is usually in the title) on the topic. If you find any, read them first: they will give you a systematic overview of work done on the topic, and list possible sources you can use.

After reading enough abstracts to get a broad overview of what’s out there, pick the most interesting articles based on titles and abstracts.

But don’t read those articles start to finish. Just read the introduction and especially the literature review section (usually part of the Introduction, but sometimes in a separate section following the introduction). The introduction explains the purpose and the broader context of the study, and the literature review provides a brief systematic summary of what others have published on the article’s topic to show how this study relates to other work on the topic.

Then scan the bibliography to see who they are citing. If any titles look especially interesting, look up those articles. Note if the same articles or authors keep showing up in lots of bibliographies – these are likely key sources for the topic.

Use what you learn during the ‘search’ phase to revise/refine your topic, research question, or hypothesis, and also for more searching.

After reading enough abstracts to get a broad overview of what’s out there, use those abstracts to pick the articles potentially most useful for your project. But, again, don't read them from start to finish. At this point, you want to narrow down the potentially most interesting articles to the actually most interesting which will be worth a lot of time and effort to focus on.

Read (or re-read) the introduction, focusing on the specific purpose of the study: what question(s) is it trying to answer? What is the main argument and hypothesis? What is unique about this study, what does it contribute to existing knowledge? And, does this matter for your project?

Next, read the discussion and conclusion sections. Now that you have used your initial searching phase to construct a good general mental framework for the topic, you can better recognize the significance of an article's conclusions, and better grasp the author's discussion of the findings. You are looking to answer the questions: what does this study mean and why is it important? Also, is it important for your project?

Somewhere in the discussion or conclusion section, the author should address the limitations of the study, i.e. not just what can be concluded but what cannot be concluded, along with any potential weaknesses of the methodology or results for supporting the conclusions. This can help you judge how useful the article will be for your project. In addition, authors usually point out new further questions resulting from the current study. You can use this part to come up with ideas for your own project to explore.

At this point, you are most likely not interested in the contents of the methodology or results section, at least not enough to read them carefully, but they may be worth quickly skimming, especially if you know of something specific to look for. For example, if you have a particular methodology in mind for your own study, you can see whether others have used that methodology. If you know you will need data of a particular type, you can check to see if it is included. In fact, if you are, for example, investigating a particular methodology you want to use, you may want to search specifically for studies using that methodology, even if they are not about a related topic; in that case, you would be interested only in the methodology section of a paper.

Now you can select the best articles from your scanning and skimming for careful study.

On this reading, skip the abstract and introduction and go straight to the methodology section. Read it with at least enough attention to understand how they carried out the study. If it is a methodology you want to use, read it with even more care, enough to be able to apply the methodology to your study (you may need to consult other sources with more extensive instructions on the methodology; if so, see if the article cites such sources). 

Next, read the results section closely and carefully. Before you go on to read the authors' discussion and conclusions, do your own analysis of the results. You can use their method of analysis or apply another appropriate method for analyzing the type of results generated by the study and reported in the article. What can you conclude, and not conclude, from your analysis of the results?

Now, carefully and critically read the authors' discussion and conclusion in conjunction with the methodology and results. Consider, for example, whether their methodology is appropriate for what they are trying to establish (e.g., sample size and selection, variables, procedures, equipment). Are the data presented clearly, and do the data make sense given their methodology? Are their analyses and arguments supported by the data? Have they missed any confounding variables? Are the results reliable (same results over time) and valid (measure what it is supposed to measure)? The specific questions you ask will depend on the type of study, but be as rigorous as you can in your critique.

Also consider: how well do their conclusions match yours?

Read through the bibliography to see if there are any significant or interesting looking titles you didn’t find in earlier searches.

By now, you should know the article well enough to quickly scan through it and whatever notes you have taken to find relevant and important parts to focus on and use as you work on your project.

Research in the humanities is different from scientific research, so the format of journal articles is also often different. Scientists typically conduct experiments on or observations of some part of the natural world, whereas humanists analyze the meanings of human creations. Social scientists studying the social world typically do experimental or observational research but may do analytical research, and sometimes both.

Humanities (and some social science) articles are thus more typically in the form of essays rather than reports of experiments or observations. Their goal is to establish a point or defend a thesis by logical argumentation and analysis of textual etc. evidence. Humanities articles are also typically referred to as “secondary literature” which critically analyzes primary sources (artistic creations or original records of the object, event, phenomenon, etc., being studied), whereas science and most social science articles are referred to as “primary literature” which present the authors’ original analysis of the data (experimental results, field measurements, surveys, etc.) which they collected or created.

Without an experiment to report, a humanities article will not have sections for experimental methods and results, though it will often at least briefly discuss the analytical method(s) the author used. It will typically have:

  • An introduction posing a question to be answered or a problem to be addressed. Generally, this includes a literature review putting the question in context by pointing out a problem or gap in previous explanations or interpretations. Then the article states the thesis it will argue for. You may find a single sentence stating the thesis, but the thesis is often described over several sentences or a paragraph or two.
  • A discussion presenting a detailed analysis of evidence from primary sources used to build an argument to support the thesis.  
  • A conclusion to summarize the results of the analysis and explain the significance of the argument. Limitations and qualifications of arguments, or interesting observations not central to the argument, are often presented in footnotes here and through the discussion.
  • A bibliography listing sources used.

But the sections may not be labeled that way, or there may be many sections or sub-sections labeling different aspects of the analysis or steps of the argument presented. Also, the introduction, discussion, and conclusion can blend into each other rather than being separate sections. So in general, searching for, selecting, and studying humanities articles is not as systematic as for science and most social science articles. Here are some modifications of the standard steps:

Search: Humanities articles often do not include abstracts, so you cannot always rely only on what is presented in the database you are searching to judge whether it is worth retrieving the full article. If there is no abstract, there may at least be subject tags in the database record, but you may need to open the full article and scan the introductory section to get a better idea of what the article is about and to get more ideas for terms to search.

You may find review articles (the phrase “literature review” or “review of the literature” is usually in the title), but these are not as common in humanities. 

Select: Quickly page through the article to see how it is structured. This is easier if there are many labelled sections and sub-sections, but you may need to skim around in the first and last pages of the article to find where the introductory thesis and resulting conclusions are explicated. Skim/read the introduction and conclusion enough to determine whether the article as a whole is relevant to your project, or scan the full article to see whether it includes topics significant to your project.  

Study: Start with a relatively quick skim/read through the full article, noting the general structure of the argument: what is it using for evidence, how is it analyzing that evidence and connecting the pieces into an argument, etc. Now you can conduct a close reading of the article and its argument to see how the details fit, and analyze how well the argument supports the thesis. Or, if you are interested only in one or a few topics covered in the article, you know what sections to focus on for a close reading. Also, read the footnotes in any section of the article relevant to your project.

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How to read a scientific manuscript.

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Last Update: September 12, 2022 .

  • Definition/Introduction

The Statistics and Healthcare Economics section of StatPearls seeks to provide a framework for learners to engage with evidence-based medicine (EBM) in order to maintain high standards of clinical practice.

The father of EBM, Dr. David Sackett, describes EBM as “conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients … integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research." [1]  “Good doctors use both individual clinical expertise and the best available external evidence, and neither alone is enough .” [1] (Italics provided)

  • Issues of Concern

Evidence-based medicine involves “life-long, self-directed learning in which caring for our own patients creates the need for clinically important information about diagnosis, prognosis, therapy, and other clinical and health care issues, and in which we [1] :

  • Convert this information needs into answerable questions
  • Track down, with maximum efficiency, the best evidence with which to answer them (whether from the clinical examination, the diagnostic laboratory from research evidence, or other sources)
  • Critically appraise that evidence for its validity (closeness to the truth) and usefulness (clinical applicability)
  • Integrate this appraisal with our clinical expertise and apply it in practice
  • Evaluate our performance."

The above establishes the paradigm that clinicians must maintain curiosity and continuous learning to ensure effective care for all patients regardless of competence and experience. Please refer to the StatPearls overview chapter on evidence-based medicine for more background.

  • Clinical Significance

This article will cover the approach to reading, digesting, and applying content from scientific manuscripts to optimize patient care for all providers.

Original research manuscripts have the following sections (in chronologic order) [2] :

  • Title and Abstract
  • Introduction (Background and Objectives)
  • Methods (Design, Setting, Participants, Variables, Statistics)
  • Results (Participants, Descriptives, Outcomes, Subgroups)
  • Tables and Figures     
  • Discussion (Key findings, Limitations, Interpretations)
  • Conflict of Interest (COI), Author affiliations, Acknowledgments, Funding

Though less likely to follow a standardized outline, review articles typically consist of the following sections [3] :

  • Context/Objective
  • Methods (Data Sources, Study Selection, Data Extraction)
  • Results (Tables and Figures)

Literature Search

The first step in answering a question about clinical management (and the first step in embarking upon one’s own research) is searching for the existing literature on a topic. The fundamental skill in evaluating the results of a literature search is understanding and interpreting a scientific paper. Other StatPearls chapters cover different types of studies (retrospective, prospective, cohort, case-control, blinded, epidemiologic, etc.). This chapter focuses on the practical aspects of reading a paper.

One main distinction involves whether a study describes a quality improvement project (measuring adherence to the current standard of care) or presenting new data (potential changes to the standard of care). One, two, or a handful of papers cannot establish a new standard of care; thus, one must always exercise caution in rushing to adopt practices gleaned from limited evidence that may prove false in subsequent research. [4]

The literature search is a crucial feature of practicing EBM. Tactics are described elsewhere, but one should explore different tools such as OVID, Pubmed, and Google Scholar. [5] Unlike a general Google web search, Pubmed Clinical Queries and Google Scholar perform very well, though different users will have different preferences. [6]  You can filter the search by year, subject type (human or animal), article type (trials, review), etc. Pay close attention to the journal in which papers appear. For instance, when using Google Web search, you may find non-peer-reviewed papers and non-indexed manuscripts, which likely will have less reliability. If you find and spend time reading ten low-quality papers from obscure predatory journals, you will not draw accurate conclusions about your clinical question. Again, garbage in, garbage out. Sadly, scientific literature becomes less and less readable over time, with authors lacking the skill or motivation to write concisely and straightforwardly. [7]

Efficient Manuscript Reading

  • Effective literature search methods
  • Introduction if needed
  • Tables and Figures
  • Results and Discussion
  • Abstract again
  • Methods and COI
  • Write down notes, consider implications for practice, discuss with a colleague.

The first and most lasting impression readers have of a scientific publication is the Title. Because much of the audience only read the Title, it should convey the main take-home point. [8]  The other component of the paper that most readers will attend to is the Abstract. One should read the title and Abstract first to establish a blueprint for what the author(s) wants to convey related to their research.

The next step in reading a manuscript will depend upon one’s prior knowledge of the topic, goals of reading the paper, level of concentration/time to devote to reading, and overall interest. If one has a limited background knowledge on the topic, one should begin with the Introduction. The Introduction should establish what is already published/known on the topic, what gaps exist in the literature, and what this study intends to accomplish / hypotheses the researchers intend to test. Typically, the last paragraph of the introduction clearly states the aims of the study; thus, one can skip to this paragraph if desired.

The most efficient next step in reading the manuscript is reviewing the Tables and Figures. Tables should present data on the study subjects, their characteristics, and possibly how the subject sample or population was divided for the study. If done well, Figures will visually capture the larger themes of the paper, the most important findings presented in a visuospatial form (compared to word form in the conclusions).

After reviewing the Tables and Figures, move next to the Results section. Here, the author summarizes the objective results, ideally with no opinion as to the significance. You should begin to interpret the results and how they relate to the Tables and Figures. You can use your own background knowledge to compare the results to what has already been established in the literature. Even with limited background in statistics, attempt to critique the analysis, ensuring it makes sense. Consult and scrutinize the methods section with any questions on techniques, regardless of your background in statistics. Refer to other publications on tips to detect misleading or inaccurate statistical claims. [9]

Next, read the Discussion section. The first paragraph of the Discussion will usually highlight the most important findings of the study. The Discussion should interpret the results in light of stated hypotheses, citing within reason all prior (both remote and recent) studies directly relevant to these results. Look for gaps in citations – did the authors leave out any seminal papers? Do they make connections that seem reasonable, logical? Follow the given References; use this paper to explore prior similar papers. You will often find Reference(s) that is more precisely addressing the clinical question you seek to answer for your practice.

The Discussion (and Conclusion) sections can be fraught with bias, as the authors move from statement of objective data to interpretation. As the reader, our role is to beware of and detect biases or unsubstantiated conclusions that do not directly follow from the data presented. Do not simply accept conclusions without this critical evaluation. 

At this point, you may refer back to the Abstract to consider if the authors captured the most salient background, results, and conclusions. Did they take too much liberty with the conclusions? Did they downplay something of significance? To address questions about methodology, refer to the Methods section. Does the precise patient population allow for the generalization of the conclusions? Do the settings and participants look similar to your practice environment? Could you apply these findings to your patients? 

Finally, you should review the authors’ affiliations, contributions (if provided), and especially the conflicts of interest (COI). Authors with extensive COI may have difficulty objectively assessing their own data and making reasonable conclusions.

Once you have read the entire paper and feel comfortable with understanding, write down notes, think about how this research could impact your practice, and go explain the study to someone! This will test your comprehension and lead to better retention of the material, as with any new content in preparation for a licensing examination. [10]  Follow the other references you found in the paper and take notes from them. Put together a well-rounded answer to your original question. Exercise caution in adopting new practices to reduce iatrogenic harm from overzealous attempts at progressive practice. [11]  Maintain a balance between knowledge of new findings and the need for the reversal of disproven practices. [12]

  • Nursing, Allied Health, and Interprofessional Team Interventions

The plural of anecdote is data, but don’t forget, garbage in, garbage out. Aggregating patient data can yield important insight superior to the recollection of individual patient encounters. However, poor methodology, bias, or a combination of both can lead to erroneous conclusions that eventually hurt patients. Continue to practice this skill of reading the literature, and review more papers related to this topic. [13]

If you have answered your clinical question and weighed the risk of harm and benefits, you can begin to integrate this new knowledge into clinical practice. If there is a gap in the literature related to your question, consider conducting your own research. Your ability to critically read a manuscript will equip you with the skills to write your own (covered in a separate StatPearls chapter).

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  • Comment on this article.

Disclosure: Martin Huecker declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

Disclosure: Jacob Shreffler declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

This book is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) ( ), which permits others to distribute the work, provided that the article is not altered or used commercially. You are not required to obtain permission to distribute this article, provided that you credit the author and journal.

  • Cite this Page Huecker MR, Shreffler J. How To Read A Scientific Manuscript. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-.

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  • How To Write And Publish A Scientific Manuscript. [StatPearls. 2024] How To Write And Publish A Scientific Manuscript. Huecker MR, Shreffler J. StatPearls. 2024 Jan
  • The effect of capacity building evidence-based medicine training on its implementation among healthcare professionals in Southwest Ethiopia: a controlled quasi-experimental outcome evaluation. [BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2023] The effect of capacity building evidence-based medicine training on its implementation among healthcare professionals in Southwest Ethiopia: a controlled quasi-experimental outcome evaluation. Ngusie HS, Ahmed MH, Mengiste SA, Kebede MM, Shemsu S, Kanfie SG, Kassie SY, Kalayou MH, Gullslett MK. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2023 Aug 31; 23(1):172. Epub 2023 Aug 31.
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  • Review A real-world approach to Evidence-Based Medicine in general practice: a competency framework derived from a systematic review and Delphi process. [BMC Med Educ. 2017] Review A real-world approach to Evidence-Based Medicine in general practice: a competency framework derived from a systematic review and Delphi process. Galbraith K, Ward A, Heneghan C. BMC Med Educ. 2017 May 3; 17(1):78. Epub 2017 May 3.
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How to read a journal article

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Reading this guide will help you read and understand journal articles. It explains how they are structured, where to find specific information, what peer review is and how you can critically assess the content.

This guide is part of a collection of resources that we have produced for students using journal articles. You can find more resources in our Reading and understanding journals resource collection.

Additional information

It was commissioned by the Royal Society of Chemistry and written by Katharine Thompson at Imperial College London. Resource image © iStock / Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • Comprehension skills


  • Learners understand and interpret a variety of scientific texts.
  • 6. Conduct research relevent to a scientific issue, evaluate different sources of information including secondary data, understanding that a source may lack detail or show bias.

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How to Read Research Articles: Home

How to read research articles.

Scholarly articles can be intimidating, but if you understand the different sections and what you can find within each section, its a lot easier! Watch this short video to get some tips.

Steps for Reading Research Articles

1.  Read the abstract:  This will allow you to get a framework of the article before you dive into it. Understanding the purpose of the article will help guide you as you read it. 

2.  Skim the entire article:  Read the article all the way through without taking notes and get the gist of the article. Get familiar with the topic. 

3. Take notes:  Read the article again - this time more focused and take notes. Highlight key points, jot down any questions.

4. Relevancy?  Jot down anything that stands out as relevant to you and why. This will help you later if you need to utilize this information in a report, etc.

5.  Identify & summarize key info:  What are the key findings? How did they prove this? Did they prove this? Were there limitations? Are there lingering questions? Implications for further research?

6.  Check the sources:  Who does the author cite? Are they relevant to your topic? You can look up the articles' citations and utilize the research as well.

Anatomy of a Research Article

Understanding the different sections of a research article is also helpful. 

Abstract:  General overview of the purpose and findings.

Introduction:  Rationale and introduction to the study's hypothesis.

Methods:  How data was gathered and tested.

Results:  What was found from the testing. 

Discussion:  Implications from the results and areas for further research.

Conclusion:  Summary of the article and discussion of limitations. 

References:  A list of all the other research cited throughout the work.

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Reading a Scientific Paper

Reading a scientific paper can seem like a daunting task. However, learning how to properly read a scholarly article can make the process much easier! Understanding the different parts of a scientific article can help the reader to understand the material. 

  • The title of the article can give the reader a lot of information about its contents, such as the topic, major ideas, and participants. 
  • Abstracts help to summarize the article and give the reader a preview of the material they are about to read. The abstract is very important and should be read with care. 


  • What is the article's purpose being stated in the introduction?
  • Why would this article be of interest to experts in the field?
  • What is already known, or not known, about this topic? 
  • What specifically is the hypothesis? If one is not given, what are the expectations of the author?
  • Having these questions in mind when reading the introduction can help the reader gain an understanding of the article as a whole. A good research article will answer these questions in the introduction and be consistent with their explanation throughout the rest of the article. 
  • What are the specific methods used by the researcher?
  • Does the researcher provide a coherent and viable plan for their experiment?
  • Has the author missed any variables that could effect the results of their findings?
  • How do the methods in this article compare with similar articles?
  • Ex: they are correlated and support the hypothesis, they contradict they hypothesis, ect. 
  • If there are differences from the hypothesis, what differences did the researcher find?
  • Are the findings described in an unbiased way?
  • Is there new information presented that wasn't known before?
  • Is the researcher unbiased in their presentation?
  • Ex: More research needs to be done, the findings show a solution to a known problem, etc.
  • What suggestions are made about future research? If no suggestions are made, should there be?
  • The conclusion points out the important findings from the experiment or research. Occasionally, it will incorporated into the discussion section of the paper. 

General Tips

  • Fully comprehending a scientific article will most likely take more than one read. Don't be discouraged if you don't understand everything the first time, reading scientific papers is a skill that is developed with practice. 
  • Start with the broad and then to the specific. Begin by understanding the topic of the article before trying to dig through all the fine points the author is making. 
  • Always read the tables, charts, and figures. These will give a visual clue to the methods and results sections of the paper and help you to understand the data. The author put these in the paper for a reason, don't dismiss their importance. 
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions or look up definitions. If you do not understand a term or concept, do not be afraid to ask for help or look up an explanation. 
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How to Read a Scholarly Article: Order of Reading

  • Layout of a Scholarly Article

Order of Reading

  • Reading Strategies

You don't necessarily need to read an article straight through from beginning to end.  This isn't a mystery--you won't spoil anything by skipping straight to the conclusion if you want.  Reading articles in the following systematic manner can help you understand their complexities and arguments.

1. Start with the Title and Abstract  - These will tell you about the article's focus and let you know if it's relevant to your research question.

  • Look for keywords that may tell you what the article is about or be useful while conducting additional research.

2. Next, read the Introduction and Conclusion  - These will give you the article's main arguments and its thesis/hypothesis, as well as what the author believes they proved through their study.

  • Will this article tell me anything new about the topic?
  • What have other people already written about this topic, and what is left to discover? (Literature Review)
  • What does this study mean, and why is it important?
  • Do you find the author's conclusions to be valid?

3. Jump back to the Methods & Results  - These sections tend to be heavier on details, and you may be able to skim them if they don't focus entirely upon your research question.

  • How did the author do their research? Is this a quantitative or qualitative study?
  • Could you repeat the author's work or experiment based on the information provided?
  • What did the author find, and how did they find it?
  • Are the results presented in a factual and unbiased way?

4. Move onto the Discussion  - This is arguably the most important part of the article, because it's here that the author explains what everything means. This is also where reading the Introduction and Conclusion first can pay off, since you already know the author's arguments and what they proved.

  • Does the author's analysis agree with the data they provided in the Results section?
  • What conclusions can you draw from this data? Do they agree with the author's conclusions?

5. Finish with the Citations/References  - Don't just ignore these--if you need additional sources for your research, you may find them here. The author has made a list of other works on this topic, so make use of it.

  • While reading the article, take note of any citations that may seem relevant to your research question, and track them down using this section.
  • Also remember to use the Literature Review for ideas on other work about this subject. The author has done some of your work for you by explaining what others have written on the topic, so you can track them down, too.

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White-sounding names get called back for jobs more than Black ones, a new study finds

Joe Hernandez

how to read a research article

A sign seeking job applicants is seen in the window of a restaurant in Miami, Florida, on May 5, 2023. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

A sign seeking job applicants is seen in the window of a restaurant in Miami, Florida, on May 5, 2023.

Twenty years ago, two economists responded to a slew of help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers using a set of fictitious names to test for racial bias in the job market.

The watershed study found that applicants with names suggesting they were white got 50% more callbacks from employers than those whose names indicated they were Black.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago recently took that premise and expanded on it, filing 83,000 fake job applications for 11,000 entry-level positions at a variety of Fortune 500 companies.

Their working paper , published this month and titled "A Discrimination Report Card," found that the typical employer called back the presumably white applicants around 9% more than Black ones. That number rose to roughly 24% for the worst offenders.

The research team initially conducted its experiment in 2021, but their new paper names the 97 companies they included in the study and assigns them grades representing their level of bias, thanks to a new methodology the researchers developed.

"Putting the names out there in the public domain is to move away from a lot of the performative allyship that you see with these companies, saying, 'Oh, we value inclusivity and diversity,'" said Pat Kline, a University of California, Berkeley economics professor who worked on the study. "We're trying to create kind of an objective ground truth here."

From Jobs To Homeownership, Protests Put Spotlight On Racial Economic Divide

America Reckons With Racial Injustice

From jobs to homeownership, protests put spotlight on racial economic divide.

The names that researchers tested include some used in the 2004 study as well as others culled from a database of speeding tickets in North Carolina. A name was classified as "racially distinctive" if more than 90% of people with that name shared the same race.

Applicants with names such as Brad and Greg were up against Darnell and Lamar. Amanda and Kristen competed for jobs with Ebony and Latoya.

What the researchers found was that some firms called back Black applicants considerably less, while race played little to no factor in the hiring processes at other firms.

Dorianne St Fleur, a career coach and workplace consultant, said she wasn't surprised by the findings showing fewer callbacks for presumed Black applicants at some companies.

"I know the study focused on entry-level positions. Unfortunately it doesn't stop there. I've seen it throughout the organization all the way up into the C-suite," she said.

St Fleur, who primarily coaches women of color, said many of her clients have the right credentials and experience for certain jobs but aren't being hired.

"They are sending out dozens, hundreds of resumes and receiving nothing back," she said.

What the researchers found

Much of a company's bias in hiring could be explained by its industry, the study found. Auto dealers and retailers of car parts were the least likely to call back Black applicants, with Genuine Auto Parts (which distributes NAPA products) and the used car retailer AutoNation scoring the worst on the study's "discrimination report card."

"We are always evaluating our practices to ensure inclusivity and break down barriers, and we will continue to do so," Heather Ross, vice president of strategic communications at Genuine Parts Company, said in an email.

AutoNation did not reply to a request for comment.

The companies that performed best in the analysis included Charter/Spectrum, Dr. Pepper, Kroger and Avis-Budget.

Workplace Diversity Goes Far Past Hiring. How Leaders Can Support Employees Of Color

Workplace Diversity Goes Far Past Hiring. How Leaders Can Support Employees Of Color

Several patterns emerged when the researchers looked at the companies that had the lowest "contact gap" between white and Black applicants

Federal contractors and more profitable companies called back applicants from the two racial groups at more similar rates. Firms with more centralized human resources departments and policies also exhibited less racial bias, which Kline says may indicate that a standardized hiring workflow involving multiple employees could help reduce discrimination.

When it came to the sex of applicants, most companies didn't discriminate when calling back job-seekers.

Still, some firms preferred one sex over another in screening applicants. Manufacturing companies called back people with male names at higher rates, and clothing stores showing a bias toward female applicants.

What can workplaces — and workers — do

Kline said the research team hoped the public would focus as much on companies doing a bad job as those doing a good one, since they have potentially found ways to remove or limit racial bias from the hiring process.

"Even if it's true, from these insights in psychology and behavioral economics, that individuals are inevitably going to carry biases along with them, it's not automatic that those individual biases will translate into organizational biases, on average," he said.

St Fleur said there are several strategies companies can use to cut down on bias in the hiring process, including training staff and involving multiple recruiters in callback decisions.

Companies should also collect data about which candidates make it through the hiring process and consider standardizing or anonymizing that process, she added.

St Fleur also said she often tells her job-seeking clients that it's not their fault that they aren't getting called back for open positions they believe they're qualified for.

"The fact that you're not getting callbacks does not mean you suck, you're not a good worker, you don't deserve this thing," she said. "It's just the nature of the systemic forces at play, and this is what we have to deal with."

Still, she said job candidates facing bias in the hiring process can lean on their network for new opportunities, prioritize inclusive companies when applying for work and even consider switching industries or locations.


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Research: How to Close the Gender Gap in Startup Financing

  • Malin Malmström,
  • Barbara Burkhard,
  • Charlotta Sirén,
  • Dean Shepherd,
  • Joakim Wincent

how to read a research article

Three ways policymakers, financiers, and other stakeholders can mitigate gender bias in entrepreneurial funding.

A global analysis of previous research over the last three decades shows that women entrepreneurs face a higher rate of business loan denials and increased interest rates in loan decisions made by commercial bankers. Interestingly, the data also reveals that the formal and informal standing of women in a particular society can provide clues to some of the true hurdles to positive change. This article reviews these hurdles, and offers three recommendations for change.

Gender disparities persist in entrepreneurship and statistics reveal the severity of the issue. Globally, only one in three businesses is owned by women . In 2019, the share of startups with at least one female founding member was a mere 20% .

  • MM Malin Malmström is a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Luleå University of Technology, and a director of the research center Sustainable Finance Lab in Sweden.
  • BB Barbara Burkhard is a postdoctoral researcher of entrepreneurship at the Institute of Responsible Innovation at the University of St.Gallen.
  • CS Charlotta Sirén is an associate professor of management at the Institute of Responsible Innovation at the University of St.Gallen.
  • DS Dean Shepherd is a professor of entrepreneurship, management, and organization at The Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame.
  • JW Joakim Wincent is a professor of entrepreneurship and management at the Hanken School of Economics and the Global Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of St.Gallen.

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7 facts about americans and taxes.

A tax preparer, left, discusses finances with a customer who is completing her return at a Miami tax service on April 17, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Spring reliably brings a whirlwind of number-crunching and form-filing as Americans finish their tax returns. Altogether, the IRS expects to process more than 160 million individual and business tax returns this season.

Ahead of Tax Day on April 15, here are seven facts about Americans and federal taxes, drawn from Pew Research Center surveys and analyses of federal data.

Ahead of Tax Day 2024, Pew Research Center sought to understand Americans’ views of the federal tax system and outline some of its features.

The public opinion data in this analysis comes from Pew Research Center surveys. Links to these surveys, including details about their methodologies, are available in the text.

The external data comes from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and the IRS Data Book . Data is reported by fiscal year, which for the federal government begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30. For example, fiscal 2024 began Oct. 1, 2023, and ends Sept. 30, 2024.

A majority of Americans feel that corporations and wealthy people don’t pay their fair share in taxes, according to a Center survey from spring 2023 . About six-in-ten U.S. adults say they’re bothered a lot by the feeling that some corporations (61%) and some wealthy people (60%) don’t pay their fair share.

A bar chart showing Americans' frustrations with the federal tax system.

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to feel this way. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, about three-quarters say they’re bothered a lot by the feeling that some corporations (77%) and some wealthy people (77%) don’t pay their fair share. Much smaller shares of Republicans and GOP leaners share these views (46% say this about corporations and 43% about the wealthy).

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of Americans (65%) support raising tax rates on large businesses and corporations, and a similar share (61%) support raising tax rates on households with annual incomes over $400,000. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say these tax rates should increase.

Just over half of U.S. adults feel they personally pay more than what is fair, considering what they get in return from the federal government, according to the same survey.

A stacked bar chart showing that, compared with past years, more Americans now say they pay 'more than their fair share' in taxes.

This sentiment has grown more widespread in recent years: 56% of Americans now say they pay more than their fair share in taxes, up from 49% in 2021. Roughly a third (34%) say they pay about the right amount, and 8% say they pay less than their fair share.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they pay more than their fair share (63% vs. 50%), though the share of Democrats who feel this way has risen since 2021. (The share among Republicans is statistically unchanged from 2021.)

Many Americans are frustrated by the complexity of the federal tax system, according to the same survey. About half (53%) say its complexity bothers them a lot. Of the aspects of the federal tax system that we asked about, this was the top frustration among Republicans – 59% say it bothers them a lot, compared with 49% of Democrats.

Undeniably, the federal tax code is a massive document, and it has only gotten longer over time. The printed 2022 edition of the Internal Revenue Code clocks in at 4,192 pages, excluding front matter. Income tax law alone accounts for over half of those pages (2,544).

A stacked bar chart showing that the tax code keeps getting longer and longer.

The public is divided in its views of the IRS. In a separate spring 2023 Center survey , 51% of Americans said they have an unfavorable opinion of the government tax agency, while 42% had a favorable view of the IRS. Still, of the 16 federal agencies and departments we asked about, the IRS was among the least popular on the list.

A diverging bar chart showing that Americans are divided in their views of the IRS.

Views of the IRS differ greatly by party:

  • Among Republicans, 29% have a favorable view and 64% have an unfavorable view.
  • Among Democrats, it’s 53% favorable and 40% unfavorable.

On balance, Democrats offer much more positive opinions than Republicans when it comes to most of the federal agencies we asked about. Even so, the IRS ranks near the bottom of their list.

Individual income taxes are by far the government’s largest single source of revenue, according to estimates from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The federal government expects to collect about $2.5 trillion in individual income taxes in fiscal year 2024. That accounts for nearly half (49%) of its total estimated receipts for the year. The next largest chunk comes from Social Security taxes (including those for disability and retirement programs), which are projected to pull in $1.2 trillion this fiscal year (24%).

By comparison, corporate income taxes are estimated to bring in $612.8 billion, or 12% of this fiscal year’s federal receipts. And excise taxes – which include things like transportation trust fund revenue and taxes on alcohol, tobacco and crude oil – are expected to come to $99.7 billion, or 2% of receipts.

A chart showing that income taxes are the federal government's largest source of revenue.

American tax dollars mostly go to social services. Human services – including education, health, Social Security, Medicare, income security and veterans benefits – together will account for 66% ($4.6 trillion) of federal government spending in fiscal 2024, according to OMB estimates.

An estimated 13% ($907.7 billion) will go toward defense spending. Another 13% ($888.6 billion) will repay net interest on government debt, and 10% ($726.9 billion) will fund all other functions, including energy, transportation, agriculture and more.

A bar chart showing that your tax dollars mostly go to social services.

Related: 6 facts about Americans’ views of government spending and the deficit

The vast majority of Americans e-file their taxes, according to IRS data . In fiscal 2022, 150.6 million individual federal income tax returns were filed electronically, accounting for 94% of all individual filings that year.

A line chart showing that the vast majority of Americans e-file their taxes.

Unsurprisingly, e-filing has become more popular since the turn of the century. Fiscal 2000, the earliest year for which comparable data is available, saw 35.4 million individual income tax returns filed electronically (including those filed over the phone). These accounted for just 28% of individual filings that year.

By fiscal 2005, more than half of individual income tax returns (52%) were filed electronically.

Note: This is an update combining information from two posts originally published in 2014 and 2015.

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Top tax frustrations for Americans: The feeling that some corporations, wealthy people don’t pay fair share

Growing partisan divide over fairness of the nation’s tax system, public has mixed expectations for new tax law, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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  • 10 April 2024

How to supercharge cancer-fighting cells: give them stem-cell skills

  • Sara Reardon 0

Sara Reardon is a freelance journalist based in Bozeman, Montana.

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

A CAR T cell (orange; artificially coloured) attacks a cancer cell (green). Credit: Eye Of Science/Science Photo Library

Bioengineered immune cells have been shown to attack and even cure cancer , but they tend to get exhausted if the fight goes on for a long time. Now, two separate research teams have found a way to rejuvenate these cells: make them more like stem cells .

Both teams found that the bespoke immune cells called CAR T cells gain new vigour if engineered to have high levels of a particular protein. These boosted CAR T cells have gene activity similar to that of stem cells and a renewed ability to fend off cancer . Both papers were published today in Nature 1 , 2 .

The papers “open a new avenue for engineering therapeutic T cells for cancer patients”, says Tuoqi Wu, an immunologist at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas who was not involved in the research.

Reviving exhausted cells

CAR T cells are made from the immune cells called T cells, which are isolated from the blood of person who is going to receive treatment for cancer or another disease. The cells are genetically modified to recognize and attack specific proteins — called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) — on the surface of disease-causing cells and reinfused into the person being treated.

But keeping the cells active for long enough to eliminate cancer has proved challenging, especially in solid tumours such as those of the breast and lung. (CAR T cells have been more effective in treating leukaemia and other blood cancers.) So scientists are searching for better ways to help CAR T cells to multiply more quickly and last longer in the body.

how to read a research article

Cutting-edge CAR-T cancer therapy is now made in India — at one-tenth the cost

With this goal in mind, a team led by immunologist Crystal Mackall at Stanford University in California and cell and gene therapy researcher Evan Weber at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia compared samples of CAR T cells used to treat people with leukaemia 1 . In some of the recipients, the cancer had responded well to treatment; in others, it had not.

The researchers analysed the role of cellular proteins that regulate gene activity and serve as master switches in the T cells. They found a set of 41 genes that were more active in the CAR T cells associated with a good response to treatment than in cells associated with a poor response. All 41 genes seemed to be regulated by a master-switch protein called FOXO1.

The researchers then altered CAR T cells to make them produce more FOXO1 than usual. Gene activity in these cells began to look like that of T memory stem cells, which recognize cancer and respond to it quickly.

The researchers then injected the engineered cells into mice with various types of cancer. Extra FOXO1 made the CAR T cells better at reducing both solid tumours and blood cancers. The stem-cell-like cells shrank a mouse’s tumour more completely and lasted longer in the body than did standard CAR T cells.

Master-switch molecule

A separate team led by immunologists Phillip Darcy, Junyun Lai and Paul Beavis at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia, reached the same conclusion with different methods 2 . Their team was examining the effect of IL-15, an immune-signalling molecule that is administered alongside CAR T cells in some clinical trials. IL-15 helps to switch T cells to a stem-like state, but the cells can get stuck there instead of maturing to fight cancer.

The team analysed gene activity in CAR T cells and found that IL-15 turned on genes associated with FOXO1. The researchers engineered CAR T cells to produce extra-high levels of FOXO1 and showed that they became more stem-like, but also reached maturity and fought cancer without becoming exhausted. “It’s the ideal situation,” Darcy says.

how to read a research article

Stem-cell and genetic therapies make a healthy marriage

The team also found that extra-high levels of FOXO1 improved the CAR T cells’ metabolism, allowing them to last much longer when infused into mice. “We were surprised by the magnitude of the effect,” says Beavis.

Mackall says she was excited to see that FOXO1 worked the same way in mice and humans. “It means this is pretty fundamental,” she says.

Engineering CAR T cells that overexpress FOXO1 might be fairly simple to test in people with cancer, although Mackall says researchers will need to determine which people and types of cancer are most likely to respond well to rejuvenated cells. Darcy says that his team is already speaking to clinical researchers about testing FOXO1 in CAR T cells — trials that could start within two years.

And Weber points to an ongoing clinical trial in which people with leukaemia are receiving CAR T cells genetically engineered to produce unusually high levels of another master-switch protein called c-Jun, which also helps T cells avoid exhaustion. The trial’s results have not been released yet, but Mackall says she suspects the same system could be applied to FOXO1 and that overexpressing both proteins might make the cells even more powerful.


Doan, A. et al. Nature (2024).

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Chan, J. D. et al. Nature (2024).

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Guest Essay

You Don’t Just See a Total Solar Eclipse. You Feel It Completely.

Illustration of a person in a desert sitting next to a truck, with the total solar eclipse in the sky reflected in the windshield.

By Ryan Milligan

Dr. Milligan is a senior lecturer in astrophysics at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Almost one year ago, in the middle of the night, I drove from my hometown, Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Dublin to catch an early morning flight to Munich. From there I caught another plane to Bangkok, another to Singapore and yet another to Perth in Western Australia. There, I rented a camper van and began a drive of more than 750 miles north to the town of Exmouth on a remote peninsula on the northwest coast of the continent.

This was the only reasonably accessible location on the planet with decent weather prospects from which to view the total solar eclipse on April 20, 2023. The entire event lasted 62 seconds. It was the 10th total solar eclipse I’d traveled to witness.

Even as a professional solar physicist, I find it difficult to convey why eclipse chasers like me go to such extraordinary lengths to witness such a fleeting phenomenon, again and again. I was extra determined to make the pilgrimage last year after I was thwarted by clouds in Chile in December 2020, and I couldn’t afford the eye-watering cost of traveling to Antarctica in 2021. I needed to whet my appetite before embarking on another expedition to see the totality of the April 8 eclipse in Mazatlán, Mexico.

It may sound absurd, but there is no other celestial event that anyone I know would devote so much time and effort to seeing. If you wish to see the northern lights, you can hop on a plane to Iceland or Norway and have a fairly decent chance of seeing them in the winter months. If you are on the nightside of the planet during a lunar eclipse and the skies are clear, you just need to go outside and look up to see it happening. But unless you are fortunate enough to live within or close to the path of totality, witnessing a total solar eclipse will probably require meticulous planning and marshaling time and money to get you to an optimal location and a bit of luck to make sure the weather forecasts you’ve pored over hold true.

Believe me, it is worth the effort.

A total solar eclipse is not something that you see — it’s something that you experience. You can feel the temperature around you begin to drop by as much as 15 degrees over the five to 10 minutes that lead up to the eclipse. The birds and other animals go silent. The light becomes eerie and morphs into a dusky, muted twilight, and you begin to see stark, misplaced shadows abound. A column of darkness in the sky hurtles toward you at over 1,000 miles per hour as the moon’s shadow falls neatly over the sun, turning day into temporary night — nothing like the calming sunset we take for granted every day. Sometimes, a few stars or planets begin to appear faintly in the sky as your eyes get used to the new darkness.

The hairs stand up on the back of your neck and the adrenaline kicks in as your brain tries to make sense of what is going on. But it cannot. It has no other point of reference to compare these sensations to. A total eclipse elicits a unique, visceral, primeval feeling that cannot be evoked by a photograph or a video or a newspaper article, and that can be experienced only within the path of totality when the moon completely obscures the disk of the sun.

And then of course there is the crowning glory: the sun’s corona, the pearly white outer atmosphere of our nearest star that we can otherwise see only using a fleet of dedicated solar-observing spacecraft. It has an ethereal beauty that is challenging to articulate.

For those brief few moments when the corona appears bright in the sky, all the effort made to experience the totality becomes worth it. You want to soak up every second of it and process every feeling, because it is over all too soon. Once the moon’s shadow has passed you feel both exhilarated and deflated because the next opportunity to experience this sensation again could be years away and on the other side of the world. And it is something that you will crave.

There is also, of course, the professional motivation for me to gaze upon the subject of my research with my own eyes. Most other astrophysicists only get to look at exploding stars or distant comets through gargantuan telescopes, where they appear as mere pixels on a computer screen or a squiggle on a graph. It’s easy to get detached from the beauty of astronomy when your job becomes more focused on securing grant funding, teaching, administrative duties and bureaucracy. Eclipse chasing reminds me why I chose this field of work in the first place and reignites my passion — and I want to inspire my students with that same passion.

Each eclipse is different. The shape and structure of the solar corona varies over the course of each solar cycle. The longer the duration of the eclipse, the darker one’s surroundings are likely to seem. And sandwiched between the sun’s “surface” and the corona is the crimson red chromosphere, the layer of the sun’s atmosphere that I have been researching for almost 20 years to understand its relationship to solar flares. In Australia the briefness of totality meant that this region was exceptionally bright and distinguished, and one could even spot some solar prominences (clouds of hydrogen gas suspended above the chromosphere) with the naked eye. That may also be the case on Monday.

People mistakenly think that a partial eclipse is good enough. It is not. When outside the path of totality, the visibility of even 1 percent of the sun’s disk is enough to outshine the entire corona. The buzz around this year’s eclipse through North America has reached a fever pitch not seen since the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017. The duration of totality will be almost twice as long — almost four and a half minutes. (Whether the weather will cooperate is still an open question .)

This is far from the first time I’ve tried to cajole people into experiencing the totality in full. In 2017, I persuaded several of my friends in the United States to join me in Nebraska to enjoy the spectacle without forcing them to traipse halfway across the globe. They later told me that they at first thought I may have been somewhat exaggerating the experience because of my professional bias, but when the eclipse was over, I knew that they finally got it. Their faces were overcome with emotion and they struggled to articulate how they were feeling. Because it wasn’t just about what they had seen — it was about what they had experienced.

Ryan Milligan is a solar physicist at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He has held research fellowships at NASA and the Science and Technology Facilities Council in Britain and was affiliated with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for over a decade.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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Many say Biden and Trump did more harm than good, but for different reasons, AP-NORC poll shows

Americans generally think that President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump did more harm than good on a range of key issues while holding the White House, according to a new poll from the AP NORC Center for Public Affairs research.

In this combination photo, President Joe Biden speaks in Milwaukee, March 13, 2024, left, and former President Donald Trump speaks in New York, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo)

In this combination photo, President Joe Biden speaks in Milwaukee, March 13, 2024, left, and former President Donald Trump speaks in New York, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s a reason why President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are spending so much time attacking each other — people don’t think either man has much to brag about when it comes to his own record. Americans generally think that while they were in the White House, both did more harm than good on key issues.

But the two candidates have different weak spots. For Biden, it’s widespread unhappiness on two issues: the economy and immigration. Trump, meanwhile, faces an electorate where substantial shares think he harmed the country on a range of issues.

A new poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that more than half of U.S. adults think Biden’s presidency has hurt the country on cost of living and immigration , while nearly half think Trump’s presidency hurt the country on voting rights and election security, relations with foreign countries , abortion laws and climate change.

“Considering the price of gas, the price of groceries, the economy — I did very well during those four years,” Christina Elliott, 60, a Republican from Texas, said of the Trump presidency. “I didn’t have to worry about filling up my tank or losing half of my paycheck to the grocery store.”

Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, Sunday, April 14, 2024. Iran launched its first direct military attack against Israel on Saturday. The Israeli military says Iran fired more than 100 bomb-carrying drones toward Israel. Hours later, Iran announced it had also launched much more destructive ballistic missiles. (AP Photo/Tomer Neuberg)

Elliott wasn’t too keen on Trump’s handling of abortion and said that when it comes to the former president’s rhetoric, “He just needs to learn how to be tactful and shut his mouth.”

“But other than that, like I said, I did very well during the Trump years,” she added.

The polling underscores why certain issues — such as abortion for Biden and immigration for Trump — have been persistent focal points for each of the campaigns. The former president regularly decries the number of asylum-seekers who have arrived in the U.S. under Biden, describing the situation in apocalyptic and dark terms. And Biden has gone on the offensive against Trump on abortion, especially after this week’s ruling from the Arizona Supreme Court that essentially criminalized the procedure in the state.

When asked which president did more to help people like them, roughly one-third say Donald Trump and about one-quarter say Joe Biden. Yet 30% of adults said neither Biden nor Trump benefitted them. It’s another data point reflecting an electorate that has been largely disappointed with this year’s general election choices , generating little enthusiasm among key parts of the Biden and Trump political coalitions.

Americans rate Biden particularly negatively on a few specific issues. Only about 2 in 10 Americans think Biden’s presidency helped “a lot” or “a little” on cost of living, and 16% say that about immigration and border security. Nearly 6 in 10 say his presidency hurt a lot or a little on these issues. Nearly half, 46%, of Americans, by contrast, say that Trump’s presidency helped a lot or a little on immigration or border security. Four in 10 say it helped on cost of living.

Texas resident Trelicia Mornes, 36, said she feels the Biden presidency has hurt a lot when it comes to everyday expenses.

“Now that he’s in the office, the cost of living has spiked out of control, and there’s nothing being done about it,” Mornes, a Democrat, said, pointing to rising costs of rent and food. She said she believes Biden can do more, “He just chooses to do other things.”

The pandemic hurt Trump in terms of employment as the economy lost 2.7 million jobs under his watch. But the pandemic lockdowns also dramatically curbed inflation as the consumer price index dipped from an annual rate of 2.3% to as low as 0.1%. At the same time, low interest rates and historic levels of deficit-funded government stimulus left many households feeling better off under Trump.

Coming out of the pandemic, Biden gave the economy a boost with additional aid that helped spur job gains of 15.2 million under his watch. But supply chain issues, Russia’s war in Ukraine and Biden’s aid package are judged by many economists as having contributed to rising inflation, hurting the Democrat’s approval ratings.

Trump’s advantage on the cost of living and immigration is driven partially by Democrats’ lack of enthusiasm about Biden’s performance. About one-third of Democrats, for example, think Biden’s presidency hurt on cost of living, and another third think Biden neither helped nor hurt. Just one-third of Democrats think Biden’s presidency helped on cost of living. About 3 in 10 Democrats think Biden’s presidency helped on immigration and border security, a similar share think his presidency hurt, and about 4 in 10 think it made no difference.

Nadia Stepicheva, 38, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, is unhappy with how Biden has handled immigration.

“The problem is, I really don’t like illegal type of immigration,” Stepicheva said. She thinks that people who enter the U.S., even if they come in illegally, should be allowed to work so that taxpayer dollars aren’t used to care for them and house them.

Stepicheva said she has always leaned in favor of Democrats and the party’s policies, “But the last four years, I feel like it’s getting too much in terms of money spent for immigration, forgiving all these student loans.” She said she’s torn in terms of who she will vote for this November.

But independents also rate Biden low on these issues: Nearly 6 in 10 independents say Biden’s presidency has hurt the country on cost of living. About 4 in 10 independents say Biden’s presidency has hurt the country when it comes to the cost of health care and relations with other countries.

Trump has a different problem.

The former president doesn’t have any asked-about issues where more than half of Americans think he did more to hurt things than to help, but the overall sense of harm is somewhat broader. Nearly half of Americans think his presidency did more to hurt than help on climate change, voting rights and election security, abortion laws and relations with foreign countries.

Catherine Scott, a Republican who recently moved to New York from Florida, said she found Trump’s approach to foreign policy particularly concerning.

“I understand that some people really admire Trump’s ability to be a spitfire and just say whatever is at the top of his mind,” said Scott, 30. But, pointing to Trump’s complimentary comments toward autocrats like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Scott said, “I don’t think he has all the foresight to understand that might not always be the thing to do.”

The best issue for both Biden and Trump overall is job creation. Trump has a small edge here: Nearly half say his presidency helped, while 36% say Biden’s presidency helped. About half of Americans also think Trump’s presidency helped on immigration and 4 in 10 think his presidency helped on cost of living.

On every other issue, the share of Americans who say that Biden or Trump helped the country a lot or a little is around 3 in 10 or less. But Republicans, overall, tend to see more of a benefit from Trump’s presidency than Democrats do from Biden’s — even on issues where Biden has worked to highlight his victories.

For example, only about half of Democrats say that Biden’s presidency has helped on climate change or the cost of health care. On abortion laws, 77% of Democrats think that Trump’s presidency was at least a little harmful, but only about 4 in 10 say that Biden’s presidency helped a lot or a little, and a similar share think Biden’s presidency hasn’t made a difference.

Meanwhile, around 8 in 10 Republicans say that Trump’s presidency helped on immigration and border security, creating jobs and cost of living.

The poll of 1,204 adults was conducted April 4-8, 2024, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.



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    Because scientific articles are different from other texts, like novels or newspaper stories, they should be read differently. Research papers follow the well-known IMRD format — an abstract followed by the Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. They have multiple cross references and tables as well as supplementary material, such as ...

  11. Key Reading Strategies

    Do an in-depth reading. Now that you have pre-read some of the article and are sure it relates to your research topic, do an in-depth reading. Applies to both sciences and humanities. Read the article from start to finsih. Take notes. Summarize sections or paragraphs. Keep a subject dictionary or the Internet/Wikipedia close by.

  12. Reading academic articles

    The abstract provides a summary of the article, including the key findings, so reading an abstract is a lot quicker than reading a whole article. But be aware that the abstract will have been written by the authors of the article, and so won't be a neutral account of the research finding.

  13. How to Read a Research Article

    3. Specify what question(s) the current study addressed. 4. Describe how the study was conducted. 5. Discuss results of the study (including description of the subjects), how the data were analyzed. 6. Conclude with a discussion on interpretation of the results/findings and the implication of the findings to clinical practice. An easy way to ...

  14. How to Read an Academic Journal Article

    In general, your research and reading will be in three stages: Search - Familiarize yourself with a topic and the work done on that topic. Select - Pick the articles most likely to be useful for your own project. Study - In-depth analysis of content you will be using in your own project. But note that these are not exclusive steps.

  15. PDF How to Read a Scientific Article

    Then decide the order in which you will read the sections. 2. Distinguish main points. Because articles contain so much information, it may be difficult to distinguish the main points of an article from the subordinate points. Fortunately, there are many indicators of the author's main points: Document level. • Title.

  16. How to Read a Scholarly Article

    Infographic: How to read a scientific paper "Because scientific articles are different from other texts, like novels or newspaper stories, they should be read differently." How to Read and Comprehend Scientific Research Articles

  17. How To Read A Scientific Manuscript

    One should read the title and Abstract first to establish a blueprint for what the author(s) wants to convey related to their research. The next step in reading a manuscript will depend upon one's prior knowledge of the topic, goals of reading the paper, level of concentration/time to devote to reading, and overall interest.

  18. How to read a journal article

    How to read a journal article. Reading this guide will help you read and understand journal articles. It explains how they are structured, where to find specific information, what peer review is and how you can critically assess the content. This guide is part of a collection of resources that we have produced for students using journal articles.

  19. How to Read Research Articles: Home

    1. Read the abstract: This will allow you to get a framework of the article before you dive into it. Understanding the purpose of the article will help guide you as you read it. 2. Skim the entire article: Read the article all the way through without taking notes and get the gist of the article. Get familiar with the topic.

  20. Library Research Guides: STEM: How To Read A Scientific Paper

    Start with the broad and then to the specific. Begin by understanding the topic of the article before trying to dig through all the fine points the author is making. Always read the tables, charts, and figures. These will give a visual clue to the methods and results sections of the paper and help you to understand the data.

  21. How to Read a Scholarly Article: Order of Reading

    1. Start with the Title and Abstract - These will tell you about the article's focus and let you know if it's relevant to your research question. Look for keywords that may tell you what the article is about or be useful while conducting additional research. 2. Next, read the Introduction and Conclusion - These will give you the article's main ...

  22. PDF How to Read a Research Article

    Abstract. Introduction. Puts the study into context of broader research. Introduces the importance of the topic. Background information on the issues at hand. Hypotheses being tested and any predictions. Materials and Methods. Sample being used.

  23. White-sounding names get called back for jobs more than Black ...

    The research team initially conducted its experiment in 2021, but their new paper names the 97 companies they included in the study and assigns them grades representing their level of bias, thanks ...

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    Summary. A global analysis of previous research over the last three decades shows that women entrepreneurs face a higher rate of business loan denials and increased interest rates in loan ...

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    This sentiment has grown more widespread in recent years: 56% of Americans now say they pay more than their fair share in taxes, up from 49% in 2021. Roughly a third (34%) say they pay about the right amount, and 8% say they pay less than their fair share. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they pay more than their fair share (63 ...

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    The bioengineered immune players called CAR T cells last longer and work better if pumped up with a large dose of a protein that makes them resemble stem cells. The papers "open a new avenue for ...

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    A total solar eclipse is not something that you see — it's something that you experience. You can feel the temperature around you begin to drop by as much as 15 degrees over the five to 10 ...

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    Only about 2 in 10 Americans think Biden's presidency helped "a lot" or "a little" on cost of living, and 16% say that about immigration and border security. Nearly 6 in 10 say his presidency hurt a lot or a little on these issues. Nearly half, 46%, of Americans, by contrast, say that Trump's presidency helped a lot or a little on ...