How to Read and Review a Scientific Journal Article:
Writing Summaries and Critiques
Definition of Genre
Summaries and critiques are two ways to write a review of a scientific journal article. Both types of writing ask you first to read and understand an article from the primary literature about your topic. The summary involves briefly but accurately stating the key points of the article for a reader who has not read the original article. The critique begins by summarizing the article and then analyzes and evaluates the author’s research. Summaries and critiques help you learn to synthesize information from different sources and are usually limited to two pages maximum. Actions to Take
1. Skim the article without taking notes:
Read the abstract. The abstract will tell you the major findings of the article and why they matter.
Read first for the “big picture.”
Note any terms or techniques you need to define.
Jot down any questions or parts you don’t understand.
If you are unfamiliar with any of the key concepts in the article, look them up in a textbook.
2. Re-read the article more carefully:
Pay close attention to the “Materials and Methods” (please note that in some journals this section is at the very end of the paper) and “Results” sections. Ask yourself questions about the study, such as:
o Was the study repeated?
o What was the sample size? Is this representative of the larger population? o What variables were held constant? Was there a control?
o What factors might affect the outcome?
3. Read the “Materials and Methods” and “Results” sections multiple times: Carefully examine the graphs, tables, and diagrams.
Try to interpret the data first before reading the captions and details. Make sure you understand the article fully.
4. Before you begin the first draft of your summary:
Try to describe the article in your own words first.
Try to distill the article down to its “scientific...
Links: How to read a scientific paper (biology):
Finding and reviewing appropriate scientific articles. This site will help you select up-todate and relevant articles for your review (biology):
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