How to read a paper

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.  – Richard Feynman

It is often helpful to read with questions in mind. This post summarizes a list of questions worthy asking while reading a paper. I would like to make this post a living document about how to read a paper, as I read more materials and gain more understanding of scientific research. The content of this post is largely from the references listed at the end. 

  1. What type of paper is this?
  2. When was it written?
  3. Which other papers is it related to? (reference, citation)
  4. Which theoretical bases were used to analyze the problem?
  5. Do the assumptions appear to be valid?
  6. Is the logic of the paper clear and justifiable, given the assumptions, or is there a flaw in the reasoning?
  7. If the authors present data, did they gather the right data to substantiate their argument, and did they appear to gather it in the correct manner?
  8. Did they interpret the data in a reasonable manner?
  9. Would other data be more compelling?
  10. What part you do not understand?
  11. What are the paper’s main contributions?
  12. Is this paper well written?
  13. Are results shown with error bars, so that conclusions are statistically significant?
  14. If the authors attempt to solve a problem, are they solving the right problem?
  15. Are there simple solutions that the author do not seem to have considered?
  16. What are the limitations of the solution?
  17. What are the good ideas in this paper?
  18. Do these ideas have other applications or extensions that the authors might not have thought of?
  19. Can the good ideas be generalized even further?
  20. What are the major findings of the paper?
  21. What surprised you or struck you as interesting?
  22. What questions are still unanswered?
  23. Are there possible improvements that might make important practical differences?
  24. If you were going to start doing research from this paper, what would be the next thing you would do?
  25. Can you summarize the background in five sentences or less?
  26. Can you summarize the paper in five sentences or less?
  27. What is the question that authors started with and what is the answer?
  28. What is the general and specific question the author is trying to answer?
  29. What is the scientific contribution of the paper?
  30. What are the author trying to do to answer the question?
  31. Do the results answer the specific questions? What do you think they mean?
  32. Can you draw a diagram for each experiment, showing exactly what the authors did.
  33. Can you write one or more paragraphs to summarize the results for each experiment, each figure, and each table.
  34. Are the ideas really novel, or have they appeared before?
  35. Can you list an outline of the main points of the paper?
  36. What do you think is the quality of the ideas and its potential impact?
  37. What do other researchers say about this paper?
  38. How can I apply this approach in my work?
  39. How could future studies be improved?

References:
[1] How to read a paper, S.Keshav, link
[2] How to read a research paper, link
[3] How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists, link
[4] How to read a paper, link
[5] Efficient reading of papers in science and technology, link
[6] How to read and review a scientific journal article, link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *