How to read a paper

In this post, I want to present one of the papers that helped me the most during my (rather short) career in scientific research. It introduces the novice researcher to reading scientific papers in a time efficient manner. The title of an article or a paper could whet your appetite to read the whole thing or it could also make it look relevant for the topic you are interested in.

How to read a paper helps to determine the relevance of a paper for the current research project very quickly. In order to achieve that goal, a paper should not be read from top to bottom. Instead, one should try to “spoil” the research findings of the paper as quickly as possible.

The reading process is divided into three passes with the first pass being the most important. After reading the abstract, introduction, headings, conclusions, and a quick review of given references (if any) one should already be able to decide on whether the whole article is worth reading in the other two passes.

The time to read the How to read a paper paper and to internalize the reading process is well spent. After some time I found myself applying the three pass approach to almost anything I read, helping me to spend my time more efficiently.

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