Reading Between the Lines, or How to Read a Journal Article

Curtis L. Meinert

in An Insider’s Guide to Clinical Trials

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199742967
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897278 | DOI:
Reading Between the Lines, or How to Read a Journal Article

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Results papers are akin to reference books in that they are not meant to be read like novels, from cover to cover. Indeed, it is likely that the only persons reading them from beginning to end are the authors, referees, and copy editors. In everyday life, we usually ignore the “fine print”, but that can be a mistake when reading research papers. This chapter argues that when reading journal articles, the methods section of a results paper is the most important part. If you want to understand the results, you have to understand how they were generated, and for that, you have to comb through the methods section, line by line. But, when reading, you must be as mindful of what is not there as you are of what is there. Authors are not inclined to tell you what they did not do. You have to infer that from what is not said. The most important words in any paper are the few represented in the title of the manuscript. The second most important words are those in the abstract, which gives the conclusion reached by the study investigators. Other tips for reading between the lines are presented.

Keywords: clinical trial; medical journals; journal articles; research papers

Chapter.  2214 words. 

Subjects: Medical Statistics and Methodology

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