I am currently making my way through a large pile of journal articles for my dissertation and for multiple essays and critical reviews I have to hand in soon as assignments. It was when reading through one such article on inflammatory mediators in diseases such as atherosclerosis and hypertension that it suddenly hit me as to how far I had come. When I started the first year of university, there was a large fanfare as to how it would be an absolute necessity to learn to read and understand journal articles and draw upon them for research when writing up assignments in order to get high marks. I recall my first article being nothing more than a blur of black on white with the odd word understood here and there but now I am happy to say I can skim read an article and summarise it pretty quickly!
Journal articles are different from what you would read in a textbook in that they describe research undertaken by certain people in a specific field and are usually structured in a specific manner. They start with a brief introduction into the topic and how there research is related to the field, talk about the methods used to carry out the research, mention the results, describe such results and how they advance or clarify what was previously known and conclude with potential future work in the area. As an academic or a researcher, it is vital to keep on top of the latest discoveries in the field and this is done by reading such articles. Alongside this, reading articles helps to develop an analytical and critical mind set which is valuable in a scientific environment.