How to read a research paper?
Here is how you can get 10x more from reading a research paper.
𝟏. 𝐂𝐡𝐞𝐜𝐤 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐯𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞: Before diving deep into an article, skim through the abstract, introduction, and conclusion to ensure the paper is relevant. You don’t want to spend 2–3 hours ending up with nothing.
𝟐. 𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐬𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬: If you found the paper to be relevant, write the synopsis of the paper within concrete three bullet points — (i) what the authors did (ii) How they did it (iii) What they found. It will establish the broader picture of the paper within your mind. Once you know what it is about, you can easily navigate through the paper.
𝟑. 𝐈𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞: Why do you want to read this paper? Do you want to understand the research methodology? Are you looking for a new research idea to take from this paper? Be clear about the purpose. It will save time and help you focus on the specific part.
𝟒. 𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲: Read the paper critically. This means that once you have read the paper, you should be able to answer — what are the strengths and weaknesses of this paper. This is important to assess the quality of a research piece.
𝟓. 𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐤𝐞𝐲 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐲𝐬: As you go through the paper or after finishing reading, write about points like (i) what are the key takeaways for me from this paper (ii) where I can use these takeaways (iii) what can be done on the top of the existing work (iv) Can something be improved. You don’t need to write long stories. For all of this, you can register within 5–10 min. After that, knowledge not put in writing evaporates.
𝟔. 𝐒𝐤𝐢𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐫𝐞𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬: After finishing the main body, check the references. You may find some very relevant works there too. If such is the case, you can snowball depending upon the time you have for reading.
𝟕. 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐲𝐬: Look at the diagrams, tables, graphs, and writing style of the paper. Ask yourself whether the type of diagrams or graphs, etc., would be suitable for my article. If the answer is yes, note it down in your takeaways.
𝟖. 𝐍𝐨𝐭𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐩𝐚𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬: Some papers you read might be relevant to your following paper. Note 2–3 such papers and put them before yourself while writing your next paper. It will serve as a reference guide for your paper writing.
𝟗. 𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞: As a researcher, the more you read, the better for you. A paper is not to be read only in the lab or office. Sometimes, you get more out of a paper — reading it while sitting in a park or traveling on a train or bus. Try reading in different places and see what works the best for you.