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Unformatted text preview: How to Read a Paper S. Keshav David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo Waterloo, ON, Canada [email protected] ABSTRACT Researchers spend a great deal of time reading research pa- pers. 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 de- scribe how to use this method to do a literature survey. Categories and Subject Descriptors: A.1 [Introductory and Survey] General Terms: Documentation. Keywords: Paper, Reading, Hints. 1. INTRODUCTION Researchers must read papers for several reasons: to re- view them for a conference or a class, to keep current in their field, or for a literature survey of a new field. A typi- cal 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 frus- tration. For many years I have used a simple approach to efficiently read papers. This paper describes the ‘three-pass’ 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 plow- ing your way to the end. Each pass accomplishes specific goals and builds upon the previous pass: The first 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. 2.1 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 passes. This pass should take about five to ten minutes and consists of the following steps: 1. Carefully read the title, abstract, and introduction 2. Read the section and sub-section headings, but ignore everything else 3. Read the conclusions 4. 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 measure- ment paper? An analysis of an existing system? A description of a research prototype?...
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- Spring '11
- Academic publishing, Computer Communication Review, George M. Whitesides, Henning Schulzrinne