How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists

This looks like a great potential assignment for undergrads learning to read primary literature. Senior sem students: this is a little bit of overkill for you guys at this point, but it’s worth reviewing and using for denser/difficult articles.

Violent metaphors

Update (8/30/14): I’ve written a shorter version of this guide for teachers to hand out to their classes. If you’d like a PDF, shoot me an email: jenniferraff (at) utexas (dot) edu.

Last week’s post (The truth about vaccinations: Your physician knows more than the University of Google) sparked a very lively discussion, with comments from several people trying to persuade me (and the other readers) that their paper disproved everything that I’d been saying. While I encourage you to go read the comments and contribute your own, here I want to focus on the much larger issue that this debate raised: what constitutes scientific authority?

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