November 12, 2020

Short steps on how to read a paper. Part 2: Filtering papers.

In my last post, I looked at the Journals. This post is about selecting the papers to read. Again, it is just my tips for filtering through the mass of literature.

As we pointed out last week, there are many journals, and you should be selective in the journals that you look at.  But no-one has time to read all the details of the papers.

This is a short list of how I decide on which articles to read.  Some of these are straightforward and may seem obvious, but I would like to share them.

My first aim is to filter the paper titles and find papers that are interesting to me. I then look at the abstracts. So what do I look for in the titles?

The tips:
  1. I always look for clinical titles. This is because I am interested in clinically relevant research.
  2. I do not stop at papers about animal studies.  Firstly, I feel that no animal should be sacrificed for orthodontic knowledge. Secondly, I do not treat dogs, rabbits or mice, so the papers are not relevant to my practice. Finally, the findings of animal studies do not transfer readily to humans.
  3. I do not read bonding or other materials-based studies. This is not because I feel that they are not of value. I simply do not have time to read them.
  4. Look at the title of the paper. If it is a trial, it should have RCT in the title. I always look at these more closely.
  5. If you find a systematic review, look for meta-analysis in the title. This generally means that the authors have done a meta-analysis. As a result, their conclusion is unlikely to be “we did not find much, and further research is needed”.
  6. We need to save paper and natural resources. So I do not look at hard copy journals. When I did, if they were wrapped in plastic, I read the contents through the cover. If nothing was interesting, it would go straight to the recycling, after removing the cover and putting it in the correct container.

Now I subscribe to Feedly. This is a news aggregator that updates continuously. I just put the search term “orthodontics” in. Then you can search for specific journals, and they are added to the news feed. I look at this every day, and I get a list of papers that have been published. I use my filtering system and click on the paper. This then leads to the abstract. This is great for picking up on-line advance publications. There are other aggregators, I just like this one.

You now have your selection of titles for papers that may interest you. My next post is on “how to read the abstracts and not waste time”.

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Have your say!

  1. That’s really useful.
    Thank you.

  2. This blog may not be a Journal of Orthodontics, but it is surely at the top of my « To Read » list. This « How to read a paper » serie is a great idea. Short, straight to the point and with a twist of humour and sarcasm. I really enjoy it!

  3. Please don’t ever to forget to look at other journals, orthodontics is not alone in its own little bubble and much can be learned by speed reading titles/abstracts as proposed by Kevin
    my non orthodontic ‘favorites’ are J Dental Research, Nature, BDJ & Evidence Based Dentistry

    When at conferences (i to go to more non ortho conferences, as if find them repetitive with little science/ evidence and too much personal; onion/KOLs) I look at all areas, the last subject I consider is always orthodontics as I have learned far more by reading outside the orthodontic ‘box’

  4. Thanks for caring about the animals Kevin. Surely in this day and age…?
    I always used to wonder how those Harvold monkeys felt, remembering with some sense of retribution the one that was “eliminated” for biting a researcher.

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