The Anatomy of a Scientific Paper

Adapted from an assignment by Thomas Holtz. (Thanks, Tom!)

Now for something completely different:

While the hypothetico-deductive method is the heart and soul of science, the transmission of research resuts is how Science grows. The principal means of transmitting scientific work is the scientific (or technical) research paper. These are normally published in periodical journals (which may come out weekly, monthly, or on a longer schedule). Each paper is a discussion about a particular new discovery and analysis, giving the background information, what was studied, and the results. Let's see how they are organized.

Access for students:

First, a word about accessing the technical literature. While some journals (such as the Public Library of Science series, ) are freely available to everyone (i.e. "Open Access"), most journals (and even their electronic versions) require paid subscription. The good news is that YOU don't have to pay for them (directly), since the University has subscriptions to thousands of these. But getting to them may be a bit of a pain until you learn the drill.

If you encounter a situation where the site is asking you to pay for an article, stop! We do not want you to pay for any article that you should get to for free.

The Papers Themselves:

There are many publication formats: fiction, essays, reports, blogs, press releases, and so on. One of the most important for Science is the technical research report (aka a "scientific paper"). This is the sort of paper, typically published in a regular journal but occasionally in an edited book or other volume, where a scientist or team of scientist put forth their discoveries, ideas, hypotheses, tests of their hypotheses, and conclusions.

Consider a recent one:

A few notes:

Whether they are labeled or not, most technical research papers contain the following sections:

Take a look at the Long et al. (2015) paper mentioned above and see if you can identify these. (The abstract isn't directly labeled, but it is in bold and is at the top of the paper.)

Varieties of Scientific Publications:

There are a number of types of articles in science beside technical research papers. Some are published in the very same journals as the scientific research papers, and some in different venues. Here are some of the major types you may encounter when researching information. You must be able to distinguish them: