Teaching a Reading Method for Scientific Research Articles: Transforming an Exercise from In-Person to Virtual Instruction in Volume 1 of Teaching Critical Reading Skillss: Strategies for Academic Librarians
For students whose previous education has relied solely on reading textbooks, first encounters with scholarly literature can be chastening experiences. Few studies explore how students approach primary literature; fewer still focus on STEM reading. Scientific research articles, which may provide minimal background and make assumptions about readers’ level of expertise and domain knowledge, can be daunting indeed and pose a barrier to understanding, learning, and application, particularly for students whose previous educational exposures haven’t prepared them for “cracking the code” of scientific communication. The converse problem of students overestimating their abilities to grasp such articles also occurs. Fortunately, these articles share a boilerplate anatomy, which instructors can commend to neophyte consumers of scientific research as a useful key to unlocking their contents. In this chapter, I describe an exercise that leverages the widely used IMRaD structure of scientific research articles in order to help students understand article contents as well as my process in moving this exercise online. This reading method also provides students practice in assessing abstracts to determine whether or not to proceed to the full text, a skill that will serve them well when they no longer have access to articles via subscription-rich university libraries and have to decide whether to spend their own or their employer’s money to get the full text.