Have you ever wanted to read some of those medical reports or scientific articles, like they have in "doctor magazines," medical journals, and scientific magazines? Are you a little afraid that you'll get in over your head? It's time to give it a try! Here is some advice for you:
Brain Injury, the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, the American Journal of Rehabilitation, and NeuroRehabilitation are examples of medical journals that have a lot of articles on brain injury. Articles in magazines like these usually are divided into sections with titles like:
Your job will be easier if you know what you'll find in each section, and how to go about reading each section. Let's go through them now:
You'll find this at the very beginning of the article. It is a short review of the whole article. That means it could be very useful to you.
The first thing you should do is go to the end of the Abstract. You'll find a list of "Key Words." These describe the main topics of the article. If none of these words is about something you are interested in, you probably don't need to read any more of the article. If you are interested and plan to keep reading, make sure you understand all of these key words before you go on. Look them up in a dictionary or maybe even a medical dictionary, before you do anything else.
Now, go back to the beginning of the Abstract. Read it, and ask yourself these questions:
Does what the researchers studied still seem interesting to you? Does it seem relevant? Do the people who participated in the research project seem to be similar to you? Or, is their situation similar to yours? If the answer is "yes," keep working your way through the rest of the article. If the answer is "no," you can probably stop reading, and look for a different article.
This section is also sometimes called the "Background" or "Literature Review." It is one of the best parts of the article. Journals require authors to review every-thing there is to know on their subject before they do their research. Then, they put this information in the Introduction to their article, which describes:
When authors write the Introduction, they'll use citations. These could look like:
Each of these citations is just a different way of referring to another person's published research article. At the end of each medical article you read there will be a References list. In this list, each of the citations will match up with a full description of the article it came from. If something you read in the Introduction is especially interesting, you can find out who wrote it and where it was published. Then, you could find that article and read it, too.
The Methods section usually is next. It should tell you:
The Methods section can be pretty difficult to understand. Here's some advice: Read the Methods section just closely enough to figure out if the people who participated in the study were similar enough to you to matter. Once you've figured that out, go back and see what the Abstract had to say about the methods used. That should be enough information!
The Results section tells you just what the authors found. There may be tables and graphs. Numbers and statistics will be used. This can be a pretty complicated section, too. Luckily, you can usually count on the authors to make some sense of their research for you. This they do in the next section, called the Discussion.
This section is often the most useful part of the article. It interprets what the researcher's findings mean and how they're relevant. The authors should also describe the limitations of their research. When you find the paragraph that talks about limitations, read it carefully. Here is where you will learn what you can and can't assume from the research. You'll find out what the research failed to find, too! You'll read about things that would have made the research better or even more useful. It is up to you to decide if any of these limitations make the research usefull to you in your own situation. However, keep in mind: the article would not have been published if the editors believed the research was totally worthless.
Medical articles usually can be found in medical school libraries. If you do not live near a medical school, you still may be able to get an article you are interested in. Many university libraries and public libraries will help you find an article. They'll contact a distant library that does have the journal. They'll ask them to send a photo-copy, and they'll let you know when it arrives. However, before they can help you, the library will ask you for:
The bottom line: do not be afraid to ask librarians to help you. If they do not have what you're looking for, they will point you in the right direction. Don't be shy. That's what people in libraries do!