Lately I've been on a bit of a kick, writing some straight up vocal science posts that are making me happy. I love me a good research article! This week I thought perhaps it could be fun to go through a paper together on a rather tricksy topic: register transitions in trained sopranos.
It can be a bit of a daunting task to go through a paper. There's a language in the research world that is not always exactly like how a regular human would talk. This is on purpose, because by using precise language, even when it is full of jargon, ideas can be communicated more clearly. If you speak the language of science, that is. Learning to speak that language can be a bit of an uphill climb, but for many of us who love singing and love the "why" behind singing, it can be worth it to try.
First off, here's the paper I'm going to take us through today: "Laryngeal evidence for the first and second passaggio in professionally trained sopranos" by Echternach, et al. When you click on the link, you'll get to a webpage that has the whole article, and on the right of the page is a button that says "Download PDF," if you'd rather have that. Since this is open access (THANK YOU, AUTHORS!), we can get it for free.
How I read a research paper
I don't usually read a paper from the start to the end, straight through. You can certainly do it that way, but I've found a system that works for me a little better. (For a quick overview of the parts of a research paper, here's a blog I wrote on it a while back: Reading Research, Part 1.)
When I read a paper, I usually do it in this order:
Results and Conclusions
Review of Literature/Introduction
It's almost reading from the end to the beginning. I do this because it helps me to know where the authors are going as they are building their argument. All research papers are presenting an argument, of sorts. That's not to say they are being confrontational. Rather, they are saying, "This is what I think is happening under these particular circumstances, and here is why I think that." The paper is laying out the way to get from the question to the answer. It helps me to know what the authors think the answer is, then I go back and see if they laid out their case well. Other folks would read a paper differently, and that's fine. This is my system, so find what works best for you.