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Tay-Sachs, Canavan, Sandhoff, GM1 and related diseases

Tips for Reading Scientific Literature

Finding the Most Useful Information

We like to share as many resources as we can with our families, however we often share literature which is written for the scientific community. Unless you are a researcher in the particular field, it can be hard, and often unhelpful, to read through an entire article.

Here are some tips on how to get the most useful information out of an article.

Abstract

You can learn most of what you need to know by reading the abstract of a paper. An abstract will briefly address:

o   What is being studied and why

o   How they did their research

o   What they found.

Abstracts are short and concise, but contain a lot of useful information.

Introduction

The introduction section of a paper generally contains a little information about the disease which is being studied, a summary of previous research, and an explanation how their research fills a gap in the knowledge. Depending on the density of the subject matter, you can learn a lot by skimming through the introduction section of an article.

Methods

If the methods section is not found after the introduction, it will be at the very end of the paper. It is usually very technical, so may be worth either skimming through, or skipping over. If the research done in patients, look to see how many patients were enrolled in the study (sometimes called the sample size, or “n”). When assessing research results, it is helpful to remember how many people were in the study to understand if the results will be applicable to many patients.

Results

Again, the results can be quite technical. But they will be summarized at the beginning of the discussion section.

Discussion

If you were going to read one section of a research paper (other than the abstract) then it should be the discussion section. A discussion section will begin by briefly summarizing the study and the results found. These results will be put into context with the rest of the literature, and their meaning and application will be discussed. The article will typically end with some ideas for future research ideas to continue the journey for a cure.

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