30 – M4 L3a 25 Interlude Pt 1 V2

Well, hello there. Thanks for joining me. I’m just going to pop in here and share some thoughts about reading research papers. I remember when I got started doing academic work, reading a research paper felt like a daunting task. I understood that reading a research paper meant sitting down with a cup of tea and reading the paper like I would a book from cover to cover, trying to absorb every word. When I accomplished this successfully, it took me several hours. When I failed, I would leave off in the middle, often not remembering what I learned at the beginning. It must be said that being able to read and learn from a research paper quickly comes with experience, but also comes with experience in the specific field you’re reading about. This is because research projects in each very specific niche field are highly interdependent. When you see that one paper is basically using the same method as another, and you already understand that method, you can skip that entire method section. When you see that a paper references another paper for some idea, and you’ve already read that other paper, because it’s a very influential or so-called classic paper in the field, you’ll understand the reference. There’s no easy, quick way to gain this knowledge that I know of. It’s one reason that developing expertise in a field is a long, hard one process. But there are some things to know about research papers and some strategies you can take to make the process a little easier. I think the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to read everything. Research papers are designed in such a way as to show you, the reader, where to find different types of information. Perhaps the second most important thing to remember is that research papers are written by people. They are not infallible, they’re not gospel, and they are not perfect at communicating what they aim to communicate. What I mean to say is that if you don’t understand something you’re reading, it may be that you lack the background to understand it, but it may also be that the paper’s author wrote it in a way that they understand it, but not in a way that anyone else can understand it. Often, the author is writing to an audience that already knows the field, not to a new comer. Instead of banging your head against the wall, so to speak, or rereading the same section many times, you may have to go elsewhere for a better understanding of the topic.

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