Many historians of science regard the real birth of modern science as the rise of scientific societies, mostly in the 17th Century of Europe:

These societies and their many successors allowed scientists (at the time "natural philosophers") to gather, discuss and debate ideas, challenge each other, and publish. These publications became the main way that scientific ideas were presented to the world and preserved for posterity.

Why write & publish papers?

There are at present many different venues in which scientists can present their findings. Here is a sampling of the major ones.

Scientific papers might be very short (1-2 pages), or monographs (dozens to hundreds of pages long), but most are typically between 4 and a few dozen pages long. Monographs are primarily used to thoroughly document a single particular topic: a complete description of the anatomy and biology of a particular species or group of species; a review of the geography or the geology of a particular region; the results of a particular space probe; etc.: in other words, topics with a large amount of observations in a very narrow topic. Very short papers tend to simply announce a new discovery, document an important new observation, or respond to a particular criticism of previous work. The middle range papers are where most the hypothesis testing goes on.

It was once very common to have single-authored papers, or maybe just two authors. These have become fairly rare, and it is common to find papers with a half-dozen or more authors. In fact, in some cases there can be dozens of contributing authors!

How are scientific papers assembled and published? In general, they follow the pattern here:

The actual anatomy of a scientific paper often (although not always) follows a standard model. Unlike creative writing pieces, technical scientific writing is generally not intended to be particularly innovative in style, format, or sequence. Instead, a standardized formula is typically used, to make it easier for the readers to get the relevant information for the paper. (That said, some authors may have a more effective style than others...). Very short papers may not have all the following components, but in general your run-of-the-mill scientific publication will include:

The above description reviews the basic components of a scientific technical paper. There are other sorts of publications in the scientific world which some might confuse for a research report. It is important to bear in mind that these other items are NOT technical research papers, and as such do not have the same weight in terms of their importance in the world of science. In general, these other forms of publication are not tests of hypotheses or reports of new observations. Here are some examples, listed roughly in decreasing order of "significance" in terms of their standing as scientific papers:

Throughout the rest of the program--and indeed, the rest of your academic career--keep these thoughts in mind when evaluating whether a paper you might encounter might be a real technical research report, some other type of scientific account, or something else entirely.

A final note: is peer-review perfect? Of course not, and no one claims that it is! However, the existence of at least this level of checks-and-balance means that scientific technical research reports have had to face a level of criticism that nearly all other forms of publication (news articles, press releases, political tracts, etc.) never have to do before they see the light of day. This is the first main step in the self-correcting nature of Science.

The next main step? If you believe that a previous research article is in error (because of difference in interpretation of methods or observations, or new data that you have uncovered), then you are free to write up a new paper incorporating your new thoughts, and submit it to the same scrutiny. And thus the process continues: what is technically referred to as "reciprocal illumination."

How to Read a Scientific Paper

The above gives you a sense of how scientific research (and other type) papers are constructed. But how should you, as a user of said papers, go about reading them?

One recent tend in undergraduate scientific literacy education is the "C.R.E.A.T.E" approach. This has to do not so much with reading the paper per se, but with attitudes to take when approaching reading science. This (admittedly forced, as are most such things) acronym stands for:

The stereotyped approach to reading a paper is "abstract, then conclusion, then the stuff in between if you are interested in it". This obviously isn't the way the papers are organized, and is a bit unfair to the researchers' work, but at least it is very quick. However, this is by no means the only way. For instance, here is an essay about a different approach to reading a paper.

As with most written documents, there is no one single proper way to read them. Find what works best for you.

Some Relevent Videos
"The Scientific Method Made Easy" (9:54, by YouTuber potholer54):

"Introduction to Scientific Journal Literature" (put together by the library of Dalhousie University in Canada):