This column points out the difficulty in reading scientific papers and offers suggestions for understanding this type of manuscript (which provides insight for what researchers should do to help readers).
After a brief history of how scientific writing has evolved, the author argues that researchers can tell the story of their study orally better than in writing and thus, readers must decipher what is written. It is important to understand how an article is set up: history or justification for the study, methods used to do the study, results, and discussion of what the results mean. After knowing the format, one should read through the paper with a healthy skepticism because much of the research published about COVID-19 is in preprint format, which means that it has not been peer-reviewed. Even when it has, mistakes can be made and therefore, healthy skepticism allows the reader to evaluate the merit of the research. A recommended shortcut is to follow leading epidemiologists and virologists on social media because they often post what is good or bad about emerging research. Experts are encouraged to tell the story of their research in easy to understand ways, including using social media to highlight important findings.