Teaching Writing

Elisabeth Pain “How to (Seriously) Read a Scientific Paper”

As scholars in our various disciplines, we know that reading papers in our field is the first step in being able to write papers in our field. Many of us integrate these readings into our courses as a way of introducing our students to scholarship in our field – what kinds of claims we make, the evidence needed to make those claims, how we organize information, what kinds of citations and formatting are required –  however, it’s easy to forget that students need instruction on how to read in a new field just as much as they need instruction for how to write in a new field.

In her piece, “How to (Seriously) Read a Scientific Paper,” Elisabeth Pain compiles a number of scholars’ and practitioners’ voices on reading scientific writing: how they approach a paper, what they do when they don’t understand something, if they ever feel overwhelmed, and other tips. The collection provides different perspectives and strategies for reading scientific papers.

As a scholar, these reflections remind us of how many decisions we make when we read – how fast we read, how we filter through important and unimportant information, how we keep track of the paper’s schema, how we interact with the piece in our own research – that we do without even thinking and have developed over years of experience. Pain’s piece could help you consider your own reading experiences so you can better communicate to your students the metacognitive and logistical processes involved with reading scholarship in your field.

Additionally, you could even use Pain’s piece as a resource in your classroom. If you do assign scientific papers to read and/or write, these reflections will give your student’s the inside track on how professionals approach this often tricky genre. Even if you don’t assign scientific papers to your students, this piece could prove helpful in simply showing how reading varies from person to person, discipline to discipline, just like writing does.

Read the full text here: