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Expert advice on reading scientific literature as a habit

Xuejun Sun | Aug 21, 2014 | 29,889 views

To excel in anything, a set of solid basic skills is needed, and all basic skills come from training and experience accumulated over time. Scientific research involves complex work, so researchers require many rudimentary skills related to selecting a research question, research project designing, experimental data analysis, and manuscript writing. Additionally, proficiency in paper reviews and academic reports  paired with trainings and personal involvement in research process are vital for acquiring skills and experience. However, most importantly, researchers should make literature reading a part of their daily tasks; it should be made a routine not only during graduation but throughout the span of research career. This would be the basis to skill development, but in reality, many scholars and even graduate students do not read literature regularly.

Usually, researchers read literature very passively when applying for funds, drafting research proposals, analyzing data, and writing papers. Despite the success they may achieve, in the long run, they would lose sincere interest in scientific research and continue a career only for its material benefits. Literature reading is critical to scientific research because this habit will generate a sense of appreciation and passion for science.

The habit of reading is either developed through long-term training or an interest in gaining information. Researchers should strengthen their reading habits and enjoy the beauty of reading. There are many reasons behind scholars losing interest in routine reading, but the most important of all is that they have not experienced the joy of literature reading or that they do not appreciate the beauty of science. It is hard to do well in anything if your heart is not in it. Therefore, it is important to know how to develop an interest in reading and experience the pleasure of reading and the beauty of science.

Reading as a habit can be cultivated gradually. In the beginning, we can force ourselves to read beyond our areas of specialties and subjects and delve into all kinds of scientific literature. This will lead us to discover new research ideas and theories, and we will soon begin appreciating the diversity and novelty science offers. This will play a crucial role in developing a lasting interest in reading.

Additionally, we need to communicate habitually to keep up our interest in reading. While reading literature, we can contact the author of the work or discuss our thoughts or doubts with our co-workers; in this way, we can exchange our ideas, which can be inspiring. We can also share ideas by writing opinion articles that offer our views on others’ works. This is also a way of retaining information in our mind. I learned this while writing blogs that I could remember the content of any paper that I wrote about for a long time. This habit is critical to completely understand any area of your interest. 

Therefore, literature reading can act as a daily training course for researchers. Reading, writing, discussing, and thinking ideas every day are some good habits researchers should cultivate.

To know about ways to remain updated about new publications, read Tips for effective literature searching and keeping up with new publications.

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