Sunday, May 21, 2017
Saturday, July 9, 2016
I described the basics to reading a scientific paper in Understanding a Scientific Paper Part 1, but there are still more tricks to understanding a scientific paper. They are clearly not written for the general public, and academese is an unavoidable hurdle. Once you unravel this arcane language, you'll soon see that most of the babble on paper is a euphemism for things in the vulgar, material world. After reading one paper, I spent weeks wondering what was the "background, ultraviolet radiation" that interfered with photometers during the day. Then, my professor pointed out that it was sunlight. Learning to understand scientific papers requires you to think in a new way, and I have found some tips helpful for making this process easier.
Some Useful Tips
ConclusionFor me, reading scientific papers has been an intellectually humbling experience. It also made me more capable of independent thinking. Because of this, I think that proponents of scientific literacy should encourage students to read scientific papers from the databases instead of second-hand from scientific articles or pop science books. Students can benefit by overcoming their intimidation of science, and they can make more informed decisions about their health, environmental policies, and scientific funding. At the very least, it's one way to show off your education to friends and family members.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Scientific papers are the most arcane pieces of literature I've ever encountered. They make Nietzsche and Rousseau look like child's play. I had to read more than ten different papers over the course of three months before I understood any of them. Now, I think everyone should go through this trial, so they challenge their minds to understand new and abstract concepts. Scientific literature, unlike liberal education, makes you understand the objective world on a deeper level, and I would argue that it's more intellectually rigorous. Besides that, I also believe that we have a civic duty to become scientifically literate. We need to be responsible consumers and voters. Reading articles from scientific news outlets isn't enough for me because most articles lack enough detail for me learn about the theory and methodology. Also, some outlets such as Yahoo! Science are ad-ridden and poorly edited. And, the studies can be misrepresented or fraudulent. This isn't an article about judging the validity of a paper, which is a useful skill for reading papers from open access journals. Nor is it an article on finding scientific papers; getting around the steep paywall is a topic for another post. This is about learning how to think like a researcher.
- Natural Science:University Physics and Calculus This is especially important if you are interested in astronomy, aeronomy, or even chemistry. It will allow you to have some understanding of the formulas and graphs. In addition, you will frequently see some basic terms such as "vector", "momentum", "derivative", etc. If you haven't taken the AP or college classes yet, Khan Academy and other online courses are a great resource. Just make sure you are taking University Physics which is calculus-based, not algebra-based "College Physics". Make sure you have learned differential, integral, and multi-variable calculus. If you want to read some of the more advanced literature, mechanics will also be useful.
- Life Science: Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology This applies to medical, as well as biology papers. I've been able to understand most of the biology papers with only a high school education in those three subjects.
- Social Sciences: Statistics and Probability These prerequisites are not necessary for comprehension, but they're vital for judging the validity of the paper. The social sciences have a reputation for producing studies with less reproducible results and are more prone to researcher bias, so you will need to be aware of any statistical manipulation. Economics is more rigorous, so I would recommend learning Differential and Integral Calculus as well.
Parts of Research PaperThe outline described here is based on the papers I've read in the natural sciences. Other studies studies might have a different format. After reading each section, you should have learned about a certain aspect of the research. I've including some questions that can act as comprehension checkpoints.
- Abstract This is similar to the blurb on the cover of a novel. It's supposed to give you a brief idea of what the paper is about, and this is where you decide if the article is worth reading. Ask yourself, "What are these researchers studying? What contribution have they made to their field? Is this paper relevant to me?".
- Introduction This is where you can learn the background information about the paper's field of research. It may include an explanation for the phenomena, examples of past experiments done, and the typical instruments used. If you are entirely unfamiliar with this field, you should read the introductions of multiple papers before proceeding into the next section. Ask yourself, "What do the experts currently know about this topic? What is the phenomena? What causes the phenomena?
- Observations/Data This is where you'll see most of the graphs and tables for this experiment. Besides the figures, the paragraphs will tell you under what conditions this data was collected. The paragraphs often describe interesting events that affect the shape of the graphs, so look out for that. There may also be separate sections devoted to the instrument used, the method of data analysis, and the model chosen for comparing the experimental data. Ask yourself, "What's the dependent and independent variable? Why did the researchers study these variables? Did the researchers find a correlation? Where in the graph is the event described in the paragraphs?
- Discussions Here, the researchers interpret their results. Researchers will identify prominent trends and relationships. They may also compare their results to previous experiments or speculate about the causes behind their findings. Ask yourself, "What did the researchers discover? What were the likely causes behind their findings?"
- Conclusion This is the summary of the study. In addition, the researchers discuss the significance of their findings and how it would impact their field. They may also give suggestions for future studies in this field. Ask yourself, "What impact does this study have on its field? this How will future researchers build top of their work? References This is the list of all the sources cited in the paper. You should use to learn more about a theory or past experiment that's briefly mentioned. On online versions, you can click the doi number which is linked to where the source is published. Ask yourself, "Is there anything in the paper that the author barely explained, but I need to learn more? Does it have a citation?
Looking up Unknown TermsThroughout your reading, you will definitely encounter a lot of jargon that can't easily be clarified with a Google search. While Wikipedia is likely to have an article on most of these terms, it has a weak editing system and it can be inaccurate. So, it should only be a last resort. Here are the best references I've found. Each one addresses a particular need, and I listed them in order from most general to most specialized.
- The Free Dictionary This site is best for getting a quick definition on basic concepts e.g gravity waves, ordinate, tidal force, etc. I prefer this dictionary over others such as Merriam-Webster because it includes graphics and it has the widest range of scientific terms in my experience.
- The Encyclopedia Britannica This source will give you a good background on the paper's subject matter or the instruments used. It has many factual, well-organized, and easily understandable articles with plenty of graphics. It's a good place to become familiar with the scientific concepts before getting exposed to the academic language. Searchable topics include nuclear fission, Fabry-Perot interferometer, and chaos theory.
- Wolfram's Mathworld This is the go-to place for mathematical equations and definitions. It will give you the formal definition, properties, explanations for variables, derivations, and applications.You can look up series, knots, theorems, etc. It's difficult to understand for people with a limited background in math, but at least each article included links to each concept that the topic is built upon.
- Scholarpedia This online encyclopedia has peer-reviewed articles by the scientific community. So, it's the scientists' attempt to make highly specialized knowledge accessible to the public. It's not so good for looking up general terms used in science that you can look-up using The Free Dictionary. However, it's the best source for finding esoteric theories and phenomena such as the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability or Hydromagnetic-Dynamo Theory. If the term is named after a scientist or will probably never be mentioned in a pop science discussion, you are more likely to find it in this source. Strangely, it doesn't bother to include articles about widely known scientific ideas such as climate change or string theory.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Dos & Don'ts:
- DON'T wait until the last minute Online shipping typically takes about 1-2 weeks. In addition to that, getting your textbooks early will allow you to look over the first few chapters before class starts. That way, you will at least have some familiarity with the concepts and better understand the lectures. Some of these lectures can include bizarre, new information that would make unprepared students feel lost. For instance, my first few chemistry lectures discussed quantum physics which is far from what I expected.
- DO check the class syllabus beforehand: You do not need to wait until the professors tell you what books you need in the first lectures.The syllabi are typically mailed to each student within 3-5 weeks before the semester starts. Otherwise, they might be on your student login accounts. If the class does not provide a syllabus or mention a required text, it's safe to assume that the class does not have a required text.
- DON'T buy the wrong translations of books for literature classes Because the translation will affect your interpretation of the text and these types of books will be referenced frequently by page number, having the right version will affect how well you can participate in class discussions and persuade your professors in the critical analysis essays.
- DO buy previous editions of textbooks by the same author These editions of the textbook provide the same material at a fraction of the cost. According to Debt-Free U by Zac Bissonnette, college textbook companies often make small changes to new editions in order to generate more profit. In my experience, the old edition of the textbook slightly differs in the order of the chapters. However, the content almost exactly matches that of the lecture.
- DO search by ISBN number By copying and pasting this number from your class syllabus into the website search engine, you will be directed to the exact product you need and save time. You can look for previous editions in the sidebar as needed.
- DO buy used: On the websites I've visited, the description of the book quality is accurate. If you buy a "fair" copy at worst, you do not have to worry about the book falling apart or being damaged. You'll probably find highlighted text and other people's notes in the margins, but the text itself remains legible.
- DO Rent This is the best option for non-literature books that have no previous editions and you need it for a core course that you don't particularly care for. The rent lasts for one semester and some sites will even cut the shipping costs.
- DO buy from multiple sites Some sites have better deals or a better selection than others.
- DO group as many books as possible in each purchase This will often qualify you for coupon discounts and free shipping for qualified products.
- DO remember shipping costs Sites have differing shipping costs and policies. In general, avoid the expensive expedited shipping options and look out for free shipping deals.
- DO sign up for site accounts and newsletters The budget book sites often send coupons to their subscribers. These mails don't come more than once a week and they come just in time for you to buy the next set of textbook. The savings usually amount to less than 10-15% and the coupons only apply if you spend over a certain amount of money, but it's a simple move to save a few bucks. Plus, having a site account will help you keep track of your purchases and get access to deals.
- DO leave customer feedback It's an easy way to show gratitude to these sites and help them improve their service.
Quick Site Reviews
This site also has a wide selection and the same shipping prices as alibris. Both sites have the same price range, too. The rent options are cheaper and you can find more alternative editions than you would on alibris. One downside is that you need an eBay account to make the purchase and I've had trouble signing into my account on this site.
While shopping for the spring semester, I found that Amazon offers a better deal on literary books than alibris and half.com. The lowest prices for the latter two is $0.99 while Amazon's is $0.01 with all three having the same standard shipping costs. Amazon has the free shipping option for slightly higher priced books, but it only applies if you are buying enough eligible items that cost at least $35 together. Also, you may want to pay attention to the estimated tax and ideally get the books with $0.00 estimated tax. Generally, the textbooks aren't good deals compared to the others, but the handbooks can be cheaper. The site is a lot easier to use than some of the others. If you have an account, you can save your credit card information in addition to your shipping address. This is a great time-saver, though it does pose a security concern.
Barnes and Noble runs my campus bookstore, and I assume that other colleges have their own Barnes and Noble. Even with the online option, this is my least favorite place to buy textbooks. Instead of a search engine, the website has a form that you have to fill out with the semester, class subject, class number, and class section. Then, the computer algorithm fetches all of the books you need. This is a much more tedious process than pasting in the ISBN number and it makes the site harder to navigate. In addition, the prices are much higher than the other sites and you do not get the option of choosing different editions. Whether you purchase in-store or pick-up in store, you will also have to wait in long lines especially at the beginning of the semester. The only good reason to buy from your campus bookstore is if you have to purchase an access code for a particular class.
From my university bookstore, I would have to spend $383.70 for one semester of textbooks that included used copies. For the same books, I paid $83.67 on the other websites I listed. In addition, I did not have to wait for hours in university bookstore lines. With planned online shopping, you can eliminate textbook cost concerns and focus more on actually learning the material.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
|The Lab View|
- Three views in 123D Circuits: Lab View, Schematics View, PCB view.
- Design Modes: Electronics Lab, PCB, and Circuit Scribe
- basic components such as LEDs, capacitors, diodes, breadboards, etc
- everything from the Arduino basic kit and a code editor
- Video Tutorials for Newbies
- No download
- Gallery of everyone's designs
- A Shop for ordering any of the designs in the gallery
|The Schematics View|
The Educational Impact:
|The PCB View|