A Primer on How to Read a Scientific Paper for Substance Misuse Prevention Professionals


Reading scientific articles (sometimes referred to as peer-reviewed articles, journal articles, or scientific papers) can be both intimidating and challenging. However, by approaching articles strategically, prevention professionals can glean a great deal of information from scientific papers or journal articles. Learning how to decipher a journal article is crucial for substance misuse prevention professionals, especially during their work on Step 3 (Planning) of the Strategic Prevention Framework. Actions to complete in this step include identifying evidence-based interventions for implementation that are a good conceptual and practical fit. At times, prevention professionals will need to read journal articles to review the research completed on interventions to determine whether an intervention is an appropriate fit for their community and has sufficient evidence of effectiveness to meet local or state standards of evidence.

This document is a compilation of resources to assist prevention professionals in enhancing their understanding of peer-reviewed journal articles. Topics covered include what “peer-reviewed” means, the purpose of each section of an article, step-by-step instructions on how to read an article, and types of study designs.

SAMHSA’S Pacific Southwest Prevention Technology Transfer Center
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Evidenced-based Strategies and Programs