How To Read A Paper


During my master in Data Science I have read a few papers. While I am a good reader, reading a scientific paper is still a strugle. For the year 2018, and hopefuly the next years, I have decided to read more papers. At least one a week.

My favorite method to learn something is to explain it to someone else. That’s the Feyman’s technique. It may be hard to find a patient listener thus I am making this blog to explain to the potential reader papers I am reading.

A great and similar example is the blog The Morning Paper that I vivedly recommend.

How To Read A Paper

The first paper of this blog serie is about the techniques to read a paper.

The author advises a three-pass approach:

The First Pass

The first pass is about determining what the paper is talking about and whether it is worth it to read it with more attention. A few minutes should suffice.

The reader should read the abstract & introduction, sub-introduction of a new section, and the conclusion. A quick pass on the references may also be useful.

In order to choose whether to read more of the paper, the reader should check the five Cs:

  1. To which category the paper belongs?
  2. What is the context surrounding the paper?
  3. Does the paper seem to be correct?
  4. What are the contributions of the paper?
  5. Is the paper well written?

The Second Pass

The second pass may be enough for most papers.

The reader should at first, pay special attention to the figures and illustrations. Then he should read the main gist of the paper while avoiding details such as proofs. And finaly he should jot down the main references.

The Third Pass

The third and last pass is about re-doing the worker of the researcher: The reader has to examine carefully each proofs, assumptions, and affirmations.

At this pass, the reader should also list the strong and the weak points of the paper with greater attention.

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