How To Read Scientific Literature

Behind every study there is usually a thorough literature search. But where should you begin? Simply typing a few relevant keywords into Google Scholar or Web of Science could namely give you thousands of hit.

Here we provide you with some tips on how to find relevant literature. Also, remember that the librarians at the university library at UiB are happy to provide students and staff with advice on literature searches. Read more about booking a meeting with a librarian here.


Plan your search

You can save time by planning your search. Note down relevant key words and their synonyms and use these systematically in your searches. If you try to keep an overview of what key words you have used during your searches it becomes easier for you to keep track of your searches and avoid missing valuable information.

For a more in-depth description of searching techniques and how to find literature, visit “Søk & Skriv”-website.


Manage your references

Because there is so much reading material out there, it can become difficult to keep track of it all unless you have a system for your references. You can keep track of your references using your own notes and tables, but many prefer to use available reference managers. For more information, see How to cite.

How you read a text will depend on the objective of your reading. Sometimes you might read to get a general overview of a topic, while other times you might be more interested in specific details.


What to read when

If you are new to a topic and mostly interested in the general picture, it can be a good idea to use textbook chapters, encyclopaedias and review articles. If your goal is to understand more detailed concepts or get the latest updates, aiming for recent original research papers might be more useful.


Reading strategies

How you read is up to you, but you might benefit from the inclusion of reading strategies. Some example strategies are:

  • • actively stop yourself after you have finished a paragraph to ask yourself questions about the text.
  • • visualize the setting of the text and what it explains.
  • • actively relate the text to your own work.
  • • actively form opinions about what you read.
  • • if you are alone: try to read out loud. This activates more parts of your brain.


Active reading: Taking notes and highlighting

Taking notes and highlighting text are valuable tools when learning new material. It helps your brain process the material and it can make it easier for you to go back to specific parts of the material later. It is also a good idea to note down the source reference of what you are reading.

Tips on how to use the highlighter
Using a highlighter to mark text can be helpful. You can highlight the points you find important and relevant so they stand out. If you highlight everything, however, the highlighter loses its power.

  • •  One way to avoid highlighting everything is to not highlight the first time you read the text.
  • •  Highlighting key concepts from each part of an article can help you in the future when you go back to it an need to get a quick overview.
  • •  If you have different-colored highlighters you can create a color-coding system where each color mean something different: e.g. “important”, “example”, “term”, “study further” etc.

For more information on reading strategies, visit “Søk og Skriv”.