How to Read a Paper
August 2, 2013
S. Keshav David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo Waterloo, ON, Canada email@example.com ABSTRACT
Researchers spend a great deal of time reading research papers. However, this skill is rarely taught, leading to much wasted eﬀort. This article outlines a practical and eﬃcient three-pass method for reading research papers. I also describe how to use this method to do a literature survey. 4. Read the conclusions 5. Glance over the references, mentally ticking oﬀ the ones you’ve already read At the end of the ﬁrst pass, you should be able to answer the ﬁve Cs: 1. Category: What type of paper is this? A measurement paper? An analysis of an existing system? A description of a …show more content…
Researchers must read papers for several reasons: to review them for a conference or a class, to keep current in their ﬁeld, or for a literature survey of a new ﬁeld. A typical researcher will likely spend hundreds of hours every year reading papers. Learning to eﬃciently read a paper is a critical but rarely taught skill. Beginning graduate students, therefore, must learn on their own using trial and error. Students waste much eﬀort in the process and are frequently driven to frustration. For many years I have used a simple ‘three-pass’ approach to prevent me from drowning in the details of a paper before getting a bird’s-eye-view. It allows me to estimate the amount of time required to review a set of papers. Moreover, I can adjust the depth of paper evaluation depending on my needs and how much time I have. This paper describes the approach and its use in doing a literature survey.
2. THE THREE-PASS APPROACH
The key idea is that you should read the paper in up to three passes, instead of starting at the beginning and plowing your way to the end. Each pass accomplishes speciﬁc goals and builds upon the previous pass: The f irst pass gives you a general idea about the paper. The second pass lets you grasp the paper’s content, but not its details. The third pass helps you understand the paper in depth.
The ﬁrst pass
The ﬁrst pass is a quick scan to get a bird’s-eye view of the paper. You can also decide whether you need to do any more