A Personal Paper-Reading Method

I was thinking about how I could read and understand academic publications better. I came up with the following skeleton for myself.

First, grab the following points (bolded are the must-learns):

  1. Topic: What are the relevant fields of this paper? (Later, how are the authors contributing to these fields?)
    • Audience: To whom are the authors speaking?
  2. Argument(s): What statements/arguments are the authors making?
  3. Research questions (RQs): What research questions do the authors ask?
  4. Methodology: How do the authors answer the research questions?
    • Theoretical lens: Have they used any theoretical lenses in answering RQs?
    • Model: Have they applied any models?
    • Experiment: Have they conducted any experiments?
  5. (Findings: What do they find to answer RQs? How do the findings relate back to RQs?)
  6. Contribution(s): What new/critical knowledge have the authors produced?
    • Novel theory: Have the authors produced novel or built upon existing theories? Theories can also be models, frameworks, etc.
    • (Theoretical) New perspective: Have the authors offered any new perspectives to understand existing phenomena?
    • (Theoretical) New methodology: Have the authors offered any new methodologies for answering a certain type of RQs/phenomena?
    • New intervention: Have the authors built any new, important, meaningful interventions?
    • (Empirical) New, important ways of using technology: Have the authors discovered any novel and critical ways of using technology? Usually, such empirical findings can feedback to new learnings to existing theories or even inspire new theories.

Second, while reading, I can ask these questions to myself (bolded & italicized means it’s only important for myself):

  • Significance: How do the authors argue the significance of the study?
  • RQs-Contribution: What is the relationship between RQs and contribution(s)?
  • Related work: How do the authors write Related Work (to support their arguments, maybe)? (How does this study build on past learnings?)
  • Actors: What are the actors (human or non-humans) involved in this paper?
  • Terminologies: What are the terms the authors relied on? Did they create any new terms?
  • Strength and weakness: In my opinion, what is the one single strength (and weakness) of the paper?
  • Future work: How can future work build on this study?
  • Personal belief/value: Is this work speak to my belief/value? Why or why not? (Do I want to become a researcher who does this kind of work?)