A Primer of Research, Publication and Presentation Shahul Ameen, Sandeep Grover
Page numbers followed by b refer to box, f refer to figure, fc refer to flowchart, and t refer to table.
Amisulpride 42
Analyze data 95
descriptive statistics 100
inferential statistics 103
statistics 95
Animal preclinical studies 193
Annual conferences of various medical specialties 209
analysis of variance 109
interpretation, one way 107
output of 108f
two way 108
submitting 215
types of 157
corresponding 133
first 133
ghost 132
Authorship, order of 133
Automatic term mapping 30
Automatically exploding 27
administration 67
attrition 172
confirmation 192
construct 67
detection 172
instrument 68
item 68
method 67
performance 172
publication 172, 192
reporting 172
sample 67
selection 9, 172
types of 67, 172t
understanding 67
Bibliographic databases 18
Body mass index 121
Boolean or logical operators 21
Case conference 254
aim of presentation 255
behavior 260
chief complaints 255
demographic details 255
family history 257
general appearance 260
introductory statement 255
mental status examination 259
past history 257
personal history 257
physical examination 259
premorbid personality 258
presentation 255
presenting history 255
Case presentation
common pitfalls during 264
formulation 263
management 263
Case reports 149, 193
abstract 152
concluding statements 153
description of 152
discussion 153
structure of 152
Case series 151
characteristics of 155b
formal 151
informal 151
Categorical data, comparison of 111fc
Categorical variables 109
Central tendency 102
Chi-square test 110, 111
SPSS output in 112f
Citation searching and author searching 24
Clinical practice guideline 193
Cochran's Q test 110
Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test 110
Coding 128
Coefficient of variance 102
Common journals, impact factor of 212t
Comorbid illnesses 45
Comparing groups 109
Conference, present a case 254
Confounding 9
Consciousness, level of 261
Content 224
Continuous scale 84
Correlation 111
analysis (or processing) 122
and variable 96
assessing normality of 97
born digital 126
budget 124
cleaning 127
collection and assessments 10
collection of 86
designing coding plan for 87
documentation or recording 126
element 121
extraction 169
imputation 128
in SPSS, check normality of 100f
information 124
ingestion, transformation, and analysis 122
into software, entering 91
making calculations 92
normality 122
policies 124
pooling of 183
rechecking 91
recoding 92
sharing 128
sheets 125
standardization 128
storage 124
to generate frequency, analyze 104f
types of 178
view, location of 88f
visualization 122
Data entry
double 127
operators 127
Data lifecycle 123
components of 123
analyse 123
assure 123
collect 123
describe 123
discover 123
integrate 123
plan 123
preserve 123
Data management
and statistical analysis 11
plan 124
components of 124t
Dealing with biases 9
Decision letters, examples of 207t
Decision-making ability 262
Depression 223
Diagnostic studies 193
Discrete scale 84
Double-blind 42
study 46
Down's syndrome, search with 22f
Duncan's test 107
Dunnett's test 107
Economic evaluation database 165
Economic evaluations 193
Editorial decision 196
Equivalence and bias 66
Ethical issues 264
Ethics in publishing 131
conflict of interest 134
misconduct 135
fabrication 135
falsification 135
plagiarism 135
reporting conflicts of interest 134
Ethics of peer review 136
Evaluating the results 24
Excel sheet 90f
Filtered and unfiltered resources 17
Fisher's LSD test 107
Font 222
bad 223
good 222
Foreground and background questions 16
Forest plot 179
interpretation of 186
Formulating clear question 18
Friedman's test 109
Getting full-text articles 38
Gift authorship 132
Google scholar 33
button 33
Google search settings 36
Graphs 225
Greenhouse-Geisser factors 108
Halo effects 68
Handouts 229
Health research 1
Heterogeneity 181
assessment of 184
History tab 32
Hunyh-Feldt factors 108
Illness, severity of 45
Inferential statistics 104t
bias 9
primary, sources of 15
secondary, sources of 15
tertiary, sources of 15
Ingelfinger rule 214
Insight 262
Instruments 65
adaptation 65, 71
methods 71
and scales 75
(non-)disclosure of limitations of 78
administration of 77
ethical issues in use of 76
ethical use of 79
in psychiatric research, use of 75
inappropriate 76
informed consent 78
proxy observations 78
qualification and training of 77
supervision of the research staff 77
validity and reliability of 76
and scales, use of 75, 78
culturally insensitive 76
pilot study 78
back translation 71
cognitive interviewing 71
conceptual equivalence 70
content equivalence 69
criterion equivalence 69
development of 65
establishing cultural equivalence 69
expert panel translation 71
final version 71
forward translation 71
pretesting 71
semantic equivalence 69
technical equivalence 69
translation 65
variety of 65
Intelligence 67, 262
tests of 262
Intelligent character recognition 127
Internet search, carry out proper 15
Interval scale 85
and publish article, select 209
contents of 214, 215t
indexing agencies for 213t
of Australia 150
peer review process 190
Journal club 232
audit 237
choosing articles for discussion 234
critical rules and regulations 232
effective 232
format 235
movie-based 236
research into 237
skype-based 236
Judgment 262
Kendall's tau 114
Keywords, combining 21
Kolmogorov-Smirnov test 100, 101f
Kruskal-Wallis test 109
Language difference 68
bad 220
good 221
Levene's test 105, 106
Limits and specialized filters 24
Line diagrams 226
Literature, grey 17
Logistic regression, SPSS output for 117f
Magnetic ink character recognition 127
Man versus machine 230
Mann-Whitney U test 108
in journals, rejection of 203t
review 201
structure of 137
discussion 142
methods 138
results 141
submitted to biomedical journals 214
types of 157
writing good 137
Mapi research institute's methodology 72
Mauchly's test 108
McNemar's test 110
Measurement 75
Media and reporting 136
Medical Council of India 212
Medical subject headings (MESH) 26
Medknow 35
Mentor, finding 210
Mesh database 29
Mesh search 29f
Mesh system, tree structure of 28f
basic steps in 187
basic terminologies in 179
carry out 177
choice of effect size 181
combines 177
commonly used effect sizes in 182t
data extraction 178
effect estimate 179
effect size 179
forest plot 179
individual patient data 178
network 178
pooling of effect size 179
precision 179
range of 189
software packages for 187
tabulation 178
traditional 178
types of 178
data 178
Metadata 121, 124
process 122
Metasearch engines 35
Microsoft academic 33
Microsoft excel 89
Microsoft office, part of 89
Microsoft word 89
Misconduct related to authorship, types of 132
Mood and affect 260
Murphy's law 247
NCBI bookshelf 32
Neuroimaging and biomarkers in depression 221
Neurological basis of depression 219
Newman-Keul's test 107
Non-parametric tests 108
Observational studies 193
Olanzapine, randomized controlled trial of 42
Open-label studies 46
Optical character recognition 127
Optical mark recognition 127
Oral cancer increases with smoking, risk of 42
Organize data prior to analysis 83
Original article
common mistakes in 147b
how to write 137
Original data 121
Original research, conducting 137
Orthopedics articles on bipolar splint 23f
Paid resources 37
clinical key 37
psycINFO 37
science direct 37
scopus 37
web of science 37
Paper and authors, title of 42
Parametric statistics, assumptions of 108
Pearson correlation
analysis 114
output of 115f
test 119
Pearson's test 110
Peer review 201
closed 191
cycle 190
do's and don'ts in 198t
ethical principles in 197
open 191
training in 199
Perception 261
Phi and Cramer's test 111
Photos and videos 228
Phrase searching 21
Pico question, component of 35f
Pie chart 227
Pisa syndrome, clozapine-associated 152
Planning research 1
Population 53, 54
accessible 54
theoretical 54
PowerPoint 89, 230
advent of 218
presentation 219
layout 220
message of the talk 220
plan your time 219
prepare and make 218
Pre-journal club meeting preparation 233
Preparing talk 228
Presentation skills 263
Prisma guidelines 173
Probability distributions 99f
Professional publications 210
types of 210t
Protocol 193
outline of 166t
uses of 166t
Proximity operators 23
Psychiatry, statistical tests in 118
Psychomotor activity 260
Publication bias 181
assessment of 185
Publication from same data 135
Publication, duplicate 135
Publication, part 135
clinical queries 32
introduction to 25
on automatically exploding search 29f
builder 29f
builder box 28
information box 31f
through libraries 32
through vendors 33
Qualitative studies 193
Quality improvement studies 193
Randomized trials 193
Ratio scale 85
Read and analyze paper 40
Reading 209
essentials for good 50
professional publications 209
tips for good 51b
Recent activity 32
Recruitment process 10
Regression 115
Relationship between variables 98fc
Reporting guideline 193
Reporting research, guidelines for 193t
Re-review 196
Research data 121
management 121
Research notes 125
Research paper
abstract 144
acknowledgments 145
conflicts of interest 146
elements of the original 144
figures 146
references 144
tables 146
title and title page 145
Research project
analysis 122
collection 125
dynamics 125
lifecycle 123
management planning 123
security 129
storage 129
manage data of 121
publication and data sharing 128
Research protocol, developing 3
abbreviations and acronyms 4
aims and objectives 6
appendices 14
ethical aspects 12
finance and resources 13
hypothesis/research questions 5
introduction/background 4
methodology 7
references 13
review of literature 4
title 3
Research topic, selecting 209
guideline for 131
tips for junior 216t
Review 158, 190
accepting to 191
article 158, 191
essentials of writing 162
history of 160
steps in publishing 163t
types of 159, 159t
blind 191
double-blind 191
guidelines for 192
hidden agenda 197
mixed-signal 197
comments for authors 195
comments for editors 194
structure of 194
systematic 193
comments 202
recognition 199
respond to 201
responsibilities of 197
Rule of 6's 220
Sample 54
and population, relation between 63
size and margin of error 62t
Sample T-test
output of
independent 107f
paired 106f
paired 106
Sampling 9, 53
area 57
chain referral 60
cluster 57
context of 63
convenience 58
distribution 63
error 63
expert 59
external validity 62
frame 54
heterogeneity 60
margin of error 61
heterogeneity 60
variation 60
modal instance 59
multistage 58
nonprobability 55
non-proportional quota 60
probability 55
proportional quota 60
purposive 59
quota 60
simple random 56
size 61
snowball 60
statistics 62
stratified 57
subtypes of
nonprobability 58
probability 56
systematic random 56
technique 53
final remarks 64
key terms 54
major steps 55
miscellaneous concepts 61
subtypes 55
types 55
unit 54
voluntary 58
Saving and recording 25
Scatter diagrams 228
Scatter plot 113f
Scheffe's test 107, 118
and genetics, search with 22f
negative symptoms of 42
Scientific article, basic facts
about writing 161
to kept in mind while writing 162t
Scientific paper 210
aims and objectives 44
anatomy of 42
characteristics of good 40b
conclusions 49
ethical aspects 47
instruments used 46
materials 45
methodology 45
methods 45
miscellaneous segments 49
references 49
results 47
sample 45
size 45
technique 45
segment of 48
statistical analysis 46
study design 45
advanced 36
engines 167t
academic 18
academic 18
terms, try changing order of 36
tips for efficient online 36b
Semantic inference 34
Seminar 239
arriving early 248
audience 246
being with the audience 242
controlling nervousness 250
depth of presentation 241
emphasis in presentations 242
eye contact 249
gathering the literature 242
guidelines for typography, color, and layout 243
handling questions 251
handouts 244
improve delivery 248
making the right speech 245
occasion 246
organization of presentation 241
paying attention 248
to time 249
preparing and delivering 240f
presenting it right 247
purpose 246
rehearsing 248
seeking supervision 241
source of words 247
structuring 240
taking feedback 252
use correct logic 246
Sensitive/taboo topics 68
Shapiro-Wilk test 100, 101f
Single citation matcher 32
Single-blind studies 46
Skewed distribution
negatively 99f
positively 99f
Skills 67
Slides 243
Snapshot verdicts 197
Social desirability 68
Social sciences, statistical
package for 83, 95
program for 126
Sort ascending and sort descending options 92f
Speech 260
output for
checking normalcy of data 101f
multiple linear regression 117f
worksheet, variable view in 88f
Standard deviation 102
Statistical analysis software 83, 95
Student's T-test 106
design 7
procedure 10
types 193
Switch to ‘private’ browsing 35
Systematic errors 9
Systematic review 157, 167
characteristics of 160, 161t
commonly extracted data for 170t
critical appraisal of studies 170
data synthesis 172
picos model for writing 165t
uses of 160
write 157
Tables 224
Template of consort 141fc
Thinking 261
Truncation symbols 21
Tukey's test 107, 118
and data, type of 83
binary 85
comparing different types of 104t
confounding 9
correlations between different types of 105t
dependent 104
dichotomous 85
independent 104
nominal 84
numerical 84
ordinal 85
second type of 84
type of 105
Wilcoxon signed-rank test 108, 109
Wildcard symbols 21
World Health Organization 71
Write research protocol 1
Writing article 214
Writing protocol 165
Writing report/review 173
Chapter Notes

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How to Read and Analyze a Paper3

Ajit Avasthi,
Swapnajeet Sahoo
A scientific paper is a piece of original research carried out by a researcher or a group of researchers with an aim to provide new information to fellow researchers, students, and the general public. Scientific papers are critical for the advancement of modern science. The utmost important goal of a scientific paper is to inform the medical fraternity about the results of a study. The information intended to be passed on should be clear, lucid, readable, concise and accurate, as it is most likely to be cited by other researchers when they carry out their own research of similar nature. A good paper should never be self-centered and should highlight both positive and negative findings.
In general, the audience of scientific papers includes two groups of people: The first group is that of the referees/reviewers who help the editor of the journal to decide whether the paper is suitable for publication or not in a particular journal, and the second group is the innumerable readers who intend to benefit from the paper by gaining knowledge about the topic it addresses. A good paper should be able to convince both these groups that the research is authentic, valid, and relevant to the scientific community. The characteristics of a good paper are summarized in Box 1.
41It has now become quite essential for the clinicians, researchers, and students to read articles from scientific journals. Common reasons for reading a paper are: (1) to update oneself with the progress in a particular specialty of study, (2) to find out a solution for a specific problem which could be diagnostic (tests/methods) or therapeutic, (3) to know about causation, clinical features and course of a disorder/disease, (4) to understand certain fundamental aspects like pathophysiology, (5) to get an idea for carrying out a research work, (6) if the article has been assigned to be read (e.g., by an instructor to a postgraduate student), (7) to find support for one's views while preparing a base for his/her research, and (8) to write a good review of literature for his/her dissertation, thesis, etc.
When one looks into PubMed, the widely used database of scientific papers, one can find that, as of 11th July 2017, it has more than 27.3 million records, and about 5,00,000 new records are added each year (Wikipedia.org). Scientific papers can be grouped into two major types: primary literature and secondary literature. While original research articles, surveys, case report/series, conference proceedings, and letter to the editor are usually categorized under primary literature; narrative reviews, systematic reviews, meta-analysis, book reviews, practice/treatment guidelines and commentaries are categorized under secondary literature. All these types of papers have different ways of representation of findings/data. Hence, it is utmost essential to understand how to read a paper efficiently.
Depending on the study design, available evidence can be divided into a hierarchy in which randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are placed at the top, followed by controlled trials without randomization, and other prospective experimental studies. This is followed by prospective cohort studies, case-control studies, and case series. However, one should always remember that this hierarchy is only a guide to evaluate the strength of the evidence, and is not a substitute for the critical appraisal of various types of studies.
In this chapter, we discuss how to read and analyze an original research paper, as it is an essential part of postgraduate training.42
The basic anatomy or structure of a scientific paper includes the following parts: title, author names with their affiliations, abstract, introduction, aims and objectives, methodology, statistical analysis, results, discussion, conclusions, limitations, future directions, and references.
Some journals mention that the abstract should comprise 3–5%, introduction 10–15%, aims and methodology 15–20%, results and discussion 45–50%, conclusions 3–5% and references 7–10% of the entire paper. Each part of a paper is described below:
Title of the Paper and Authors
The title of a paper attracts its potential readers in the very first look, like the way a title of a movie/play attracts filmgoers/audience. A good title informs the reader a great deal about the study, and manyatimes helps in deciding whether to go ahead with the paper or dismiss it. Most readers prefer titles that are descriptive and self-explanatory and save the need to have a look at the entire paper to know what it is exactly about. At times, one can find titles which are very descriptive and state their main findings in their titles (e.g. “Risk of oral cancer increases with smoking”). Some titles also provide clear information about the study design and intervention done (e.g., “Double-blind, randomized controlled trial of olanzapine and amisulpride for treatment of negative symptoms of schizophrenia”). Clearer the title, the more readers it attracts.
The order of authors is important to note, along with their affiliations. At times, knowing about the area/region/country in which the study was conducted can provide some additional information about the paper/topic (e.g. the prevalence of a specific disease in a specific community/region). Additionally, one should note the departments/streams of authors involved (statisticians, PhD students, nursing staff, social workers, etc.), as it can help in understanding the methodology of data collection and analysis. It is a common notion that well-known persons in a specific field conduct good quality research and that their research is published in journals with 43high impact factor. However, a good reader should not be carried away by this notion and should try to critically evaluate the paper, as many times many good papers have been found to have trivial mistakes.
After the title, it is the abstract which helps the reader to determine whether to read the entire article or not. Most journals provide the abstract free of cost online, allowing the readers to decide whether to purchase the entire article or not. A well-structured abstract should have a background/introduction of the subject, aim/purpose of the study, methods used, results/major findings of the study, and conclusions derived. There is usually a restriction on the number of words, which helps the readers to read the abstract rapidly and decide quickly. A good abstract should be limited to 250–300 words and should be written in a manner to draw the attention of the reader to the study and be able to instigate a desire or interest to read the entire paper. However, many times, an abstract may not be written skilfully and may not exactly convey what the paper is about. So, one should try to note the study design and methodology well.
Purpose of the introduction is to provide the rationale for conducting the study. It usually starts with the existing knowledge and previous research available on the topic. A good introduction should provide the proper background for the study and should conclude with the identification of gaps in the literature and how these gaps stimulated the researcher to design the new study. The reader should also determine whether a research hypothesis (study hypothesis) was stated and later check whether it was answered properly under the discussion.
One should approach the introduction part of a paper with good preparation. A good reader should take notes, draw figures and should search for various terminologies from proper sources (for example, can use Wikipedia) to understand the beginning of the paper. It is a good practice to be well-versed 44with the terminologies/definitions used in the topic before reading further, as, many times, the paper does not define all the terminologies used in it due to the word limits imposed by the journals. After reading the introduction, one should be able to say the currently accepted state of knowledge regarding the topic, the data/question that had led directly to the work of the paper, and the exact hypothesis being tested through the paper. Unless one is quite clear about these basic facts, one should not read further, but rather reread the introduction till he/she gets answers to these questions.
Aims and Objectives
The primary focus of the paper is frequently expressed in terms of aims and objectives. Usually, the authors state their aims and objectives towards the end of the introduction; though a few papers can have a separate segment in which the aims and objectives are listed. Many readers often find it difficult to understand the difference between aims and objectives. As per scientific literature, in simple words, aims of a paper suggest what the authors hope to find/achieve from the study; and objectives suggest the actions needed to be taken to achieve the aim. In other words, aims are statements of intent and are usually mentioned in broad terms, while objectives are specific statements that define the outcomes to be measured by the study. As per the requirement of the study, there can be primary objectives and secondary objectives. A good paper should have well-defined objectives which are specific, measurable, realistic, and achievable at the end of the stipulated study period. One should go through the aims and objectives of the study meticulously to interpret whether the paper has attempted to answer a well-defined question/hypothesis or not.
For example, a study can aim to study the risk factors of suicidal ideation in patients with bipolar depression, and the objectives can be (1) to study the suicidal behavior in subjects with bipolar depression, and (2) to compare the clinical profile of subjects of bipolar depression with and without suicidal ideation.45
Methodology/Materials and Methods
This section gives the technical details of how the study/experiment was carried out. It should be detailed enough for another researcher to replicate the work. Studies conducted as a replication of any previous study should have a better methodology in the form of adequate sample size, improved interventions, more stringent assessment procedure, focus on any particular group of population, etc. A reader should be curious about how the new study differs from the previous studies and should try to compare the new study with the previous ones.
All details are rarely included, but there should be enough information to understand how the study was carried out. Information about the number of subjects included, categorization of patients into groups, the sampling methods/technique, and the inclusion and exclusion criteria should be mentioned adequately. While reading the paper, due importance should be given to the following areas:
Study Design
The study design needs to be looked upon; which can be prospective study, retrospective study, double-blind study, single-blind study, randomized controlled trial, etc. The study design should be evaluated to see if it is appropriate or not for the type of intervention used or studied.
Sample, Sample Size and Sampling Technique
The study sample is one of the main determinants of the entire study. Exact details of the study participants about the severity of illness, comorbid illnesses, sociodemographic profile, etc. should be noted, as participants of a study may differ from real-life clinical situations. One should read keenly to detect if there was any selection/recruitment bias. Usually, a good paper mentions its inclusion and exclusion criteria clearly. From the various features of the study sample, one can make out the applicability of the study findings to clinical practice.
The sample size is an important parameter of a study. The power of the study is determined by the sample size, which should be large enough to estimate a particular outcome. 46Usually, the sample size estimation is done based on the available literature data and statistical methods. However, some papers do not mention how the sample size was estimated. In that case, one can try to calculate the sample size by himself/herself or can enquire from the corresponding author of the paper. It should be noted that underpowered studies often lead to Type II error, i.e. the probability of not rejecting the null hypothesis when the given alternative is true. Power of a study is inversely related to the probability of making Type II error and is affected by the sample size.
Sampling technique used, such as purposive/convenient sampling or random selection, should be read carefully, as some consider purposive sampling to be inferior to random selection. If the authors have mentioned about random selection, one should further check the exact procedure of randomization—i.e., use of any randomization table or proper concealment of the randomized information from study subjects, researchers, and raters. One should meticulously check if the blinding method mentioned in the study was appropriately followed or not (For example, in a double-blind study, the study should mention that both the participants and researchers were blind to the intervention provided). In general, double-blind studies are considered superior to single-blind or open-label studies. The sampling technique used also gives an impression of the quality of the methodology used.
Instruments Used
This segment has the mention or brief description of the specific instruments/scales used in the study. The reader should try to get acquainted with the procedures/instruments/scales used for data collection and should critically evaluate whether the procedure/scale used was appropriate or not.
Statistical Analysis
It is one of the important parts of a paper, and one needs to be well-versed in certain basic statistical methods to read this segment. One should at least know which are the best tests to analyze common calculations and comparisons between groups and within groups. One can always refresh one's 47knowledge by going back to statistical methods while reading the paper to know if valid statistics were used. One can even take the help of a statistician or consult someone well-versed in statistics to understand the statistical measures used in the paper. Main points to evaluate in this section are whether the authors have chosen the right test, compared compatible groups; whether they have adjusted for any baseline differences or missing data, provided appropriate references; and whether specific tests were used to estimate correlates, appropriate estimation of the confidence intervals and proper interpretation of p-values were done, etc.
Ethical Aspects
The ethical issues of the studies—like appropriate approval by the ethics committee, etc.—are usually mentioned in this part and needs to be looked upon with interest.
This is a very important segment of a scientific paper. In this part, the authors give the details about the data collected in the form of figures, tables, and graphs. The statistical methods may sometimes be mentioned in this part. One should meticulously go through this segment and check for the reliability and validity of the findings. One should always check if all the subjects present at the beginning of the study were included in the analysis of results. In case of any discrepancy, the reader should check whether if any explanation was given for the same. Results which are statistically significant and those which are not must be identified. One should check if a correct statistical test was employed to get the results and if the level of significance mentioned was appropriate or not. Another important point to remember is that results which are presented as statistically significant may not be clinically significant. Often, if some of the confounding variables are not adequately controlled or if the dropouts are not taken into the analysis intentionally, the results may appear to be statistically significant. Hence, one needs to know the outcome measures studied by the authors and try to examine if there are any actual group differences between the primary 48outcome measures. Additionally, one should look for any secondary outcome measures to understand the interpretations of the study findings. Thus, it is essential to have an in-depth understanding of the statistically significant findings. One should not blindly conclude on the basis of the statistically significant p-value, as many times those differences which appear to be significant may not be relevant when evaluated in day-to-day clinical practice. Some statistical methods like intention to treat analysis, survival analysis, area under the curve, etc. should be understood, as these are very commonly used in intervention studies nowadays.
To scrutinize the results properly, one should read the text thoroughly, examine each figure and table carefully, and take notes of each finding—with all this exercise, one should be able to understand the basic procedure used and the conclusions derived from the results.
Additionally, one should have a good knowledge about different types of bias—like selection bias, exclusion bias, detection bias, systematic bias, etc.—as any type of bias can be introduced in any type of study. A proper understanding of the study design and the steps taken by the authors to minimize bias is essential to interpret the results accurately. A good reader should be able to pinpoint positive and constructive criticisms of the study findings.
This is by and large the most important segment of a scientific paper. Here, the authors answer the research questions and present the meaning of each study finding and their interpretation. Usually, the results are compared with those of other studies of similar nature, and a discussion is done on how the findings of the present study are similar or dissimilar to those of the previous studies. Sometimes, there is the use of terms like “trend towards” to explain that the study findings are quite close to the significant difference—but it is advisable to not accept such findings. A good paper has a focused discussion, highlighting the important study findings in a sequence, with the most important findings initially and the least important findings later. In this segment, the authors also mention 49the strengths, limitations, and shortcomings of their paper. A good paper always mentions its limitations in a liberal way. Suggestions about areas for further research are also usually mentioned towards the end of discussion. An important thing to understand is that the discussions are the authors’ interpretations—it is not necessary that the reader must agree with every interpretation of the authors.
To read and analyze the discussion segment clearly, the reader should take notes and try to answer if the conclusions derived by the authors are rational or not. A good reader should be able to separate the facts from the authors’ interpretations/opinions and should be able to relate whether the study hypothesis has been adequately answered or not.
In this segment, the authors highlight the main inferences derived from their study and propose any changes which could have improved their findings. A good conclusion is brief and limited to a few words/sentences. One should tally if the authors have drawn the conclusions from the results described in the results section or not.
This forms the last segment of a paper. Here, the studies cited in the text are mentioned in a proper format. Several reference styles are present (e.g., Vancouver style, Harvard style, APA style, etc.), and every journal follows the formatting as per any of these reference styles. A good reader should not stop at the conclusions segment but should take care to check the important references cited and if all the citations were correct or not.
Miscellaneous Segments
There are a few miscellaneous segments in some papers like acknowledgments, conflicts of interest, financial support/sponsorship, etc. In the acknowledgments segment, the authors mention the names of all the people who contributed materials or helped during the study. People who contributed technically but not intellectually are also mentioned in this part. A good paper always mentions its conflicts of interest 50and sponsorship/funding received. The reader should note this segment carefully, as many times, the authors may have been sponsored by the manufacturers of the molecule being studied. One should also very keenly look at the journal in which the article was accepted, as there can be a possibility that the choice of the journal can influence the acceptance of the study findings. Usually, articles published in journals with high impact factor are regarded to be of good quality. However, one should not be influenced by the impact factor of the journal, and should analyze the paper on its methodology, results derived, and inferences drawn, step-by-step.
After being familiar with the anatomy of a paper, one should understand that one cannot read and understand a paper at a single reading. One must read a paper several times before deriving his/her inferences. Each reading brings out new questions, and one must refer to the paper in more detail to find out the answers. If the answers are not found in the paper being studied, then cross-references should be examined to reach a conclusion. Additionally, one should take the help of his/her teachers, senior colleagues and fellow readers to understand the paper clearly and should not rest until all the queries get answered. One can always write to the corresponding author for clarification on any portions that seem controversial or unclear. Reading a research paper is a good learning exercise and understanding improves with experience and practice. One should not panic at the beginning, as even an impossible-looking paper may be understood with careful and patient reading. A reader gains several skills after reading a paper thoroughly, which includes vocabulary, the way the topic has been presented, the way the data are collected and represented in tables/figures, etc. One should not shy away from asking someone or searching the internet if one cannot understand a specific phrase in the paper. It is always a good habit to prepare an outline or a flowchart of the paper and understand it segment by segment.51
Noting down the questions that arise in one's mind at each segment helps in understanding the topic better. Some questions may be simply technical and can be understood with a thorough reading, while some may be more fundamental and would require a critical analysis of the entire paper. A good reader would be able to summarize the entire paper in his/her own words and should be able to make colleagues understand the paper in a simple language. Finally, one should be able to list out the main take-home messages from the paper. Some tips for a good reading of a paper are provided in Box 2.
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  1. Branson RD. Anatomy of a research paper. Respir Care. 2004;49:1222–8.

  1. 52 Greenhalgh T. How to Read a Paper, 4th edn. Chichester, UK, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd;  2010.
  1. Grover S, Kumar V. How to read a research paper. In: Rao TSS, Tandon, A. (Eds). Psychiatry in India: Training and Training Centres, 2nd edn. Mysuru, Karnataka: Ind J Psychiatr.  2015. pp. 323–32.
  1. Makela M, Witt K. How to read a paper: critical appraisal of studies for application in healthcare. Singapore Med J. 2005;46:108–15.
  1. Pwee K. What is this thing called EBM? Singapore Med J. 2004;45:413–7.