Get to the point: Consuming medical publications with purpose
There is an art to reading a research article.
Members of the AUA are no strangers to the fact that medical publications are vastly different than the likes of National Geographic or even The Washington Post—but knowing this and understanding the differences in consumption are two separate matters.
Robert Siemens, MD, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Urology and one of the leaders of the AUA2023 Editors’ Workshop, is uniquely positioned to weigh in on the differences between the two mediums.
“Reading a research article is an art,” Dr. Siemens said. “Compared to the linear reading of a news article, I would suggest that there are many styles of scanning a research manuscript, with few reading it front to back.”
How you consume a medical publication should depend on your purpose for reading it.
“There are dense but very informative tools like abstracts that are helpful for many wanting to scan efficiently,” he said.
In this scenario, readers should rely on the abstract to point them to the information they may find interesting, whether for a specific purpose or simply in pursuit of staying abreast of relevant science or industry developments. This style of consumption is especially helpful for anyone who does not have time for that cover-to-cover reading but who still wants to come away with key ideas.
“Others, though, who may be highly involved in the subject matter, would skip straight to the tables or figures to get down to the heart of the information,” Dr. Siemens said. It is the professional equivalent of skipping to the pictures—if information is separated out and easily organized, it is usually a tip-off that it is critical to the subject at hand.
For those less interested in being casual readers and more interested in being writers themselves, Dr. Siemens recommends a different method still.
“Authors wanting to replicate study design or intricacies of the analysis for their own work will delve straight into the methods section,” he said. A solid starting point for conducting your own research is always to examine the work those before you have successfully completed.
If it has been done right, the entire publication should allow readers to skim or deep dive and come away with information that serves their purpose.
“The standardized style of research articles allows us to easily navigate and get to the needed information as efficiently as possible,” Dr. Siemens said. “As boring as it may seem to some, the traditional style of a medical paper has an important purpose.”
AUA attendees interested in learning more—or in being the pen behind the publication—should attend the Editors’ Workshop on Friday, April 28, at 1 p.m.