英语新闻一起读50

How to read a scientific paper

如何阅读科学文献

作者:Adam Ruben 翻译:一只思考问题的熊

Nothing makes you feel stupid quite like reading a scientific journal article.

从来没有什么事能像阅读科学期刊里的文章一样让你感觉自己如此愚蠢。

I remember my first experience with these ultra congested and aggressively bland manuscripts so dense that scientists are sometimes caught eating them to stay regular. I was in college, taking a seminar course in which we had to read and discuss a new paper each week. And something just wasn’t working for me.

我还记得自己第一次读这些文章的经历,密密麻麻全是字,内容又极其枯燥,以至于科学家有时会想把这些文章吃进肚子来保持正常。那时还在读大学的我参加了一门讨论课程,它要求我们每周阅读一篇最新的文献并且进行讨论,可有些东西对我并不起作用。

Every week I would sit with the article, read every single sentence, and then discover that I hadn’t learned a single thing. I’d attend class armed with exactly one piece of knowledge: I knew I had read the paper. The instructor would ask a question; I'd have no idea what she was asking. She’d ask a simpler question; still no idea. But I’d read the damn paper!

每周我都会拿着文章坐下来,然后盯着文章一句话一句话地读,每次读过之后又都会发现自己一点东西也没有学到。上课时我总带着这样一个确切的念头:我知道自己读过这篇文章。然而当老师问一个问题时,我却连她在问什么都不知道,就算她换一个简单的问题,我仍旧不知道她在问什么。可是尼玛我明明读过这篇文章啊!

It reminded me of kindergarten, when I would feel proud after reading a book above my grade level. But if you had asked me a simple question about the book’s contents—What kind of animal is Wilbur? How did Encyclopedia Brown know that Bugs Meany wasn’t really birdwatching?—I couldn't have answered it.

这让我想起了在幼儿园的日子,那时每当我读完一本超过自己所在年级水平的书时,我都感觉非常傲娇,可如果你问我一个关于书本内容的简单问题,比如Wilbur是一种什么动物(译者注:Wilbur是美国作家E. B.White 所写Charlotte's Web一书中的角色,是一头小猪)、Encyclopedia Brown如何知道Bugs Meany不是真的在赏鸟(译者注:Encyclopedia Brown是Encyclopedia Brown系列丛书的主人公,他的名字是LeroyBrown,因为非常聪明和博学所以人们都叫他Encyclopedia百科全书,而Bugs Meany则是这本书里的反派头目),我却回答不出来。

A few weeks into the seminar, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to read another paper without understanding it. So I took that week’s journal article to the library. Not just the regular library, but the obscure little biology library, one of those dusty academic hidey-holes only populated by the most wretched forms of life, which are, of course, insects and postdocs.

参加讨论课几周之后,我真的受够了。我决定在读懂一篇文章之前绝不去读下一篇。于是我拿着那周的文献去图书馆,注意,不是普通图书馆而是一个阴暗的小型生物学图书馆,这种充满灰尘的学术藏身之处只存在着两种最不幸的生命形式:虫子和博士后。

I placed the paper on a large empty desk. I eliminated all other distractions. To avoid interruptions from friends encouraging alcohol consumption, as friends do in college, I sat in an obscure ante room with no foot traffic. To avoid interruptions from cellphone calls, I made sure it was 1999.

我把文章放在一个很大的空桌子上,屏蔽所有其他的干扰。为了防止朋友叫我出去喝酒,是的,这是大学朋友之间经常做的事情,我特意坐在了一个幽暗且人很少的前厅;为了避免手机的干扰,好吧,我确定那时是1999年,我还没有手机。

Most importantly, if I didn’t understand award in a sentence, I forbade myself from proceeding to the next sentence until I looked it up in a textbook and then reread the sentence until it made sense.

最重要的是,如果某一句话中有一个单词我不理解,就不允许自己去读下一句,直到查字典找到这个单词之后反复阅读理解了这句话为止。

I specifically remember this happening with the word “exogenous.” Somehow I had always glossed over this word, as though it was probably unimportant to its sentence. Wrong.

对于上述经历,exogenous(译者注:这个单词的意思是“外源的”)这个词让我记忆犹新。不知为何我过去总是忽视这个单词,好像它对整个句子不重要一样,但这是错误的!

It took me more than 2 hours to read a three-page paper. But this time, I actually understood it.

一篇三页的文章我花了两个多小时读完。但这一次,我真的理解了。

And I thought, “Wow. I get it. I really get it.”

And I thought, “Oh crap. I’m going to have to do this again, aren’t I?”

我心想,“哇,我懂了,我真的懂了”

我又想到,“TMD,我还要再来一次,不是么?”

If you’re at the beginning of your careering science, you may be struggling with the same problem. It may help you to familiarize yourself with the 10 Stages of Reading a Scientific Paper:

如果你刚要开始自己的学术生涯,那么也可能面临着同样的问题。看完阅读科学论文的十个阶段之后可能会帮助你更好地认识自己。

  1. Optimism. “This can’t be too difficult, "you tell yourself with a smile—in the same way you tell yourself, “It’s not damaging to drink eight cups of coffee a day” or “There are plenty of tenure-track jobs.” After all, you’ve been reading words for decades. And that’s all a scientific paper is, right? Words?

    乐观。“这不可能有多难,”你微笑着告诉自己。你用同样的方式告诉自己“一天喝八杯咖啡都没有坏处”或者“还有一大堆终身教授的职位”。毕竟你已经读了几十年文字,所有的科学论文不都是字么?但真的是这样么?

  2. Fear. This is the stage when you realize, “Uh … I don’t think all of these are words.” So you slow down a little. Sound out the syllables, parse the jargon, look up the acronyms, and review your work several times. Congratulations: You have now read the title.

    恐惧。这一阶段你会意识到,“呃,这些根本不是字啊。”所以你开始慢下来,开始试探音节,分析术语,查找缩写并且重复这些工作。恭喜!现在你已经读完标题了!

  3. Regret. You begin to realize that you should have budgeted much more time for this whole undertaking. Why, oh why, did you think you could read the article in a single bus ride? If only you had more time. If only you had one of those buzzer buttons from workplaces in the 1960s, and you could just press it and say, “Phoebe, cancel my January.” If only there was a compact version of the same article, something on the order of 250 or fewer words, printed in bold at the beginning of the paper…

    后悔。你开始意识到自己本应该为这项工作预留更多的时间。为什么,为什么你认为自己用坐单程公交的时间就能读完这篇论文?这个时候你会想,如果你有更多的时间就好了;如果你有20世纪60年代工厂里那种蜂鸣器,你可能会按响它然后说,“Phoebe,取消我一月的行程”;是不是这篇文章有一个精简版本,大约只有不到250个字,用粗体打印在文章的开头……

  4. Corner-cutting. Why, what’s this? An abstract, all for me? Blessed be the editors of scientific journals who knew that no article is comprehensible, so they asked their writers to provide, a la Space balls, "the short, short version.” Okay. Let’s do this.

    投机取巧。什么,这是什么?为我准备的摘要么?祈祷科学期刊的编辑们知道这些文章是没法理解的,所以他们要求作者提供一个很短的版本。没错,就这么干,去要摘要。

  5. Bafflement. What the hell? Was that abstract supposed to explain something? Why was the average sentence 40 words long? Why were there so many acronyms? Why did the authors use the word “characterize” five times?

    迷惑。什么鬼?这篇摘要究竟想说什么?为什么平均40个单词的句子这么长?为什么有这么多缩略语?为什么作者要用五次“characterize”

  6. Distraction. What if there was, like, a smartphone for ducks? How would that work? What would they use it for? And what was that Paul Simon lyric, the one from “You Can Call Me Al,”? How would your life change if you owned a bread maker? You’d have to buy yeast. Is yeast expensive? You could make your own bread every few days, but then it might go stale. It’s not the same as store-bought bread; it’s just not. OH, right! Is Paul Simon still alive? You should check Wikipedia. Sometimes you confuse him with Paul McCartney or Paul Shaffer. Can you put coffee in a humidifier?

    分心。如果有给鸭子用的手机会怎么样?它该如何工作呢?鸭子们会拿它干什么?Paul Simon那首歌词里“You Can Call Me Al,”是什么意思?如果有一台面包机,你的人生将如何改变?首先你得去买酵母,那酵母贵么?每隔几天你就能给自己做点面包,但之后面包可能会变质。它和商店里买来的面包不一样,是的,不一样。哦,对了,Paul Simon还活着么?你应该查查维基百科,你有时候会把他和Paul McCartney或者 Paul Shaffer搞混。还有,你能把咖啡放到加湿器里么?

  7. Realization that 15 minutes have gone by and you haven’t progressed to the next sentence.

    意识到15分钟已经过去然而你还没有进行到下一句。

  8. Determination. All righty. Really goanna read this time. Really goanna do it. Yup, yuppers,yup-a-roo, read in 'words is what you do. Let’s just point those pupils at the dried ink on the page, and …

    决心。好了,这次要真的认真读了,真的要开始了。是的,是的,是的,读文章才是现在该做的。让我们数一数这页的干油墨上有多少个黑色小圈圈吧…(译者注:pupil在这里应该是接近“瞳孔”的意思,瞳孔是眼睛虹膜中央的黑色圆圈,根据语境,作者可能在说印刷字体的油墨痕迹在字的每一笔收尾时形成了一个个小黑圈,以前的印刷会有这样的情况出现)

  9. Rage. HOW COULD ANY HUMAN BRAIN PRODUCE SUCH SENTENCES?

    愤怒。这尼玛是人能写出来的句子么?

  10. Genuine contemplation of a careering the humanities. Academic papers written on nonscientific subjects are easy to understand, right? Right?

    陷入了对人文学科发展过程的深深思考。非科学题材的人文类文章应该更好理解一些,对么?

What a strange document a scientific journal article is. We work on them for months or even years. We write them in a highly specialized vernacular that even most other scientists don’t share. We place them behind a paywall and charge something ridiculous, like $34.95, for the privilege of reading them. We so readily accept their inaccessibility that we have to start “journal clubs” in the hopes that our friends might understand them and summarize them for us.

科学期刊的论文是一种多么奇怪的文章形式。我们为了它花费数月甚至数年的时间,用高度专业化的语言来撰写以至于很多其他领域的科学家也不能理解。我们把文章放在支付墙后并且要花费一些滑稽的数额,比如34.95美元,来获得阅读权限。我们如此坚定地认为它们难以理解以至于需要召开“杂志俱乐部”(journal clubs)以期我们的朋友可以理解并且为我们总结那些文章。

Can you imagine if mainstream magazine articles were like science papers? Picture a Time cover story with 48 authors. Or a piece in The Economist that required, after every object described, a parenthetical listing of the company that produced the object and the city where that company is based. Or a People editorial about JimmyKimmel that could only be published following a rigorous review process by experts in the field of Jimmy Kimmel.

你能想象如果主流杂志的文章都像科学论文会怎样么?Time的封面文章有48个作者,或者The Economist里就算只占一小块页面面积的文章,在描述完每一个物品之后都需要一个附加说明来介绍生产该物品的公司以及公司地址,再或者People一篇关于JimmyKimmel(译者注:美国的一位脱口秀主持人)的文章只有在经过研究Jimmy Kimmel同领域专家的严格审查之后才可以发表。

Do you know what you’d call a magazine article that requiredintellectualscrutiny? You’d call it a badly written article.

但你知道你会如何评价一篇要求知识产权审查的杂志文章么?你可能会说那是一篇烂文章。

So for those new to reading journals, welcome. Good luck. And we’re sorry. We're trying to write articles comprehensibly, but sometimes our subdisciplineis so hyper specific that we need a million acronyms. And sometimes we’re attempting to sound like good scientists by copying the tone of every article we’ve read. And sometimes we’re just writing badly.

所以那些刚刚开始阅读科学期刊的人,欢迎你们。祝你们好运!不过非常抱歉,虽然我们正在尝试写易于理解的文章,可有时我们的学科分支过于具体以至于需要百万个缩略语,有时我们尝试通过复制每篇我们读过的文章的语气来使自己听起来像是好的科学家,而有时我们真的就是写得很差罢了。

Quack berry. That’s what you’d call the smartphone for ducks.

Quack berry。这就是你对为鸭子生产的手机的称呼。(译者注:Quack berry 是作者创造的词汇,其中quack形容呱呱叫,暗指鸭子, berry则来自知名的Blackberry黑莓手机。).

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