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Biomedical Engineering: Research Tips

Tips for improving your literature search

  • Do the literature search before performing the research, and certainly before writing the paper.
  • Do a citation search. You can look for potentially relevant and interesting articles by scanning through reference lists and blibliographies, many of which will now be directly linked to those articles.
  • Don't be afraid to look in fields outside your discipline - try different search keywords
  • Document each promising paper.  Do not rely on your memory alone.
  • Search by publication date and scan over articles in press. By searching for the most recently published content on your subject, you can ensure that your manuscript captures the latest communal knowledge in the field.

Source: How to Write a Good Scientific Paper (2018). C.A. Mack. Link below.

Strategy for reading a research article

Before committing to reading an entire research article, make sure that the article is worth your time! 

  1. Start with the abstract, and if it's relevant, 
  2. Jump to the Figures and Tables, and if their data looks relevant,
  3. Read the Discussion and Conclusion
  4. Read the full-text of the article after scanning through these sections to determine the article's relevancy to your research.

Is there an abstract?

Read that first! A well-written abstract for a scholarly article should provide a concise overview of the entire article. This will allow you to identify articles that you need to explore further.

If there is no abstract, then read the Introduction for an overview of what the authors will be exploring in their article. 

Example

In the following research paper, the abstract is found at the beginning of the article, after the authors' contact information.

Jannetti, M. G., Buck, C. L., Valentinuzzi, V. S., & Oda, G. A. (2019). Day and night in the subterranean: measuring daily activity patterns of subterranean rodents (Ctenomys aff. knighti) using bio-logging. Conservation physiology, 7(1), coz044. https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/coz044

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Figures and tables

Figures and tables are usually located in the Results or Analysis section. Consult these sections for a visual reference of the populations or materials that the authors are measuring and reporting.

Are these results potentially relevant to your research? If not, move on to the next paper.

Example

Shown below is the results section of our example article:

Jannetti, M. G., Buck, C. L., Valentinuzzi, V. S., & Oda, G. A. (2019). Day and night in the subterranean: measuring daily activity patterns of subterranean rodents (Ctenomys aff. knighti) using bio-logging. Conservation physiology, 7(1), coz044. https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/coz044

Results section shows a data table and describes temperature figures in the text.

Discussion and Conclusion 

These sections help summarize the information in the article, so you can decide if you need to study the important and detailed information and data contained within the Materials and Methods sections.

In a shorter lab report, the Discussion is usually separate from the Results section, so it serves as the conclusion as well. In longer lab reports or in many types of scholarly articles, it is common to have the Discussion included within the Results section itself, and have the Conclusion as a separate section.

The Writing and Communication Centre: Critical Reading Resources

Learn more about the peer-review process

Peer reviewed articles have been evaluated by two or more experts in the field and accepted for publication based on validity, accuracy, and the originality of the work.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

  • Report on original research
  • Share research results that have never been published before
  • Describe findings from the researcher's own experiments/field studies

Secondary Sources

  • Report on the research of others
  • Include review articles that gather, analyze, and summarize existing, published relevant research articles on a specific topic 

Tip! Check the article's Methods section to see if they describe collecting their own data or doing their own experiments.