Undergraduate guide to connecting with faculty to advance your career (Blogpost #2)

How to read those papers: very carefully. Start with Discussion section (last part of the paper). Read it to find out what new knowledge is being reported. Note the papers that have been cited to buttress the conclusions and plan to at least read the abstract of those papers. Now go back and read the paper from the beginning (starting with the title and author order/affiliations). For natural science papers (in general), the first author is the trainee who did the work. The last author is the professor/principle investigator (i.e. the person who you want to connect with). The middle authors are listed from left to right in order of the magnitude of their contributions to the work. Often there is a note at the end of the paper that lists who did what work by their initials. Note this also. As you read the paper pay particular attention to each figure and its associated figure legend. Those figures are the heart of the paper. It is particularly important to look at each figure critically. Does it actually support what the legend is purporting? Read the paper in its entirety twice. At the end of the last read, immediately write down for yourself what scientific questions have been ‘opened up’ by the publication of the paper. In other words, what should the next experiment be? You’ll need this for the next steps.