How to Read Research Papers

When you read a research paper, your goal should be to try and understand its contributions and limitations. Read it critically, remembering that a person wrote this that has a particular reason for writing the paper. They may be trying to push a particular approach, or technology. Even if they are trying to be as balanced possible, they are still likely to introduce biases. So, here is a short list of questions to keep in mind whenever reading a paper. We’ll try to ask these questions when we discuss the papers in class.
  1. What is the problem (specifically what does it solve)?
  2. What assumptions are made?
  3. Who are the intended users of the research?
  4. Have those users been involved in the design or evaluation of the work (i.e., is the solution usable?)
  5. Are there unanswered questions?
  6. Is the solution scalable (how much data does it work with)?
  7. Is the solution generalizable (does the solution work in other domains)?
  8. Is the solution accessible by a broad range of users
  9. Was the methodology appropriate?

Also, read this post from Tomorrow's Professor, focusing on item #2, quoted here:

"Roberts and Roberts rightly identify students' desire to avoid the deep reading process, which involves substantial time-on-task. When experts read difficult texts, they read slowly and reread often. They struggle with the text to make it comprehensible. They hold confusing passages in mental suspension, having faith that later parts of the text may clarify earlier parts. They "nutshell" passages as they proceed, often writing gist statements in the margins. They read a difficult text a second and a third time, considering first readings as approximations or rough drafts. They interact with the text by asking questions, expressing disagreements, linking the text with other readings or with personal experience.

But resistance to deep reading may involve more than an unwillingness to spend the time. Students may actually misunderstand the reading process. They may believe that experts are speed readers who don't need to struggle. Therefore students assume that their own reading difficulties must stem from their lack of expertise, which makes the text "too hard for them." Consequently, they don't allot the study time needed to read a text deeply."