When I started grad school lots of people had lot of advice for how to read academic papers. Recently, I found a blog entry that hits on the core of what everyone was telling me when it comes to reading academic papers. This is a very good general guide for how to read academic papers, but there are a couple other things I found very helpful when reading papers.
- Charts, graphs, and diagrams. These are generally floating around somewhere in the body of the paper, but they tend to give the most clear explanation of what is at work.
- If there is an experiment you will want to check what were the key variables in play, how they set a control, and what the sample sizes were, and what the p-value was.
- Pseudo-code, actual code (albeit rare), equations, and formulas are all also important things to be on the look out for.
Usually if I am interested enough and a paper is short enough I will read the entire thing and potentially follow up on a couple citations. Short enough for me is five pages, but I am generally not lucky enough to be reading a paper that short.