Reading Tips

In the days before the Internet, the photocopier was the copying machine for research work. Papers you wanted or papers you thought might be useful were copied and stored. Today it is such an easy matter to collect and store a paper. But if that is all you do you'll end up with a large pile of material that is really just occupying space on your storage device.

You need to add value to each document and the only way to do that is to read it, not fully in the first instance but certainly you have to read enough of it to decide what to do with it and how to categorise it.

The first thing to do when you come across a paper that appears, at least by key words or title to be of interest, is skim it. Read the abstract, the introduction and the conclusion to check that it is in the intellectual space in which you are interested.

If it passes that test then the bibliographic data goes into your bibliographic software, e.g. EndNote.

Next you need to decide how relevant the paper is, what are the aspects of the paper that qualifies it for your attention. Using a system of consistent key words or using a matrix approach you can add to the paper those aspects of it that matter to you.

Some papers you come across will appear to be important in terms of your research focus. It may be that these papers have a high number of citations or that it is simply very close to your interests. It will warrant a third pass, one where you try and put yourself in the shoes of the authors and imagine how you would make their case, argument by argument. This ought to bring the assumptions they made more to the fore.

Notebook #2 is the place for your thinking about each paper. You need a system that can be easily searched and sorted based upon the categories you have opted for.

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