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How to read an academic paper as a resource #studytips #reading


Using an Academic Paper as a Study Resource
Most of the additional information you need when completing an MSc course is based around reading papers and particularly at the beginning we can feel a little lost when we approach the reading of some contributions as some of the authors you will meet almost seem to delight in discovering how opaque they can be in their writing. Unfamiliar terms or using technical language in strange ways can make the writing seem impenetrable at first glance and even I sometimes hear myself saying what on earth is this person on about!
So we need a strategy to gain the most from the reading.
Using a paper as a resource:

  • Skim-Question-Read-Note
  • Carry out a reconnaissance of the paper (Abstract, Conclusion, section headers and tables/figures)
  • Set Down some questions to interrogate the paper.
  • Read the paper and make notes answering your questions.
If the author has put down an exemplar argument you wish to use as a quote – make an accurate note of the location particularly for quotes – the page. It is a devil of a job when you are doing the final write up of an essay to corral and find all the references.
When you see a new term check you understand the term exactly and create ‘idiot cards with the definitions – I have a resource which may help at :
Analysis approach and working method for Paper review:

  1. Where was the paper published – journal type can be an indicator of quality and whether the paper was assessed before publication?
  2. When was the paper published and what is the likely-hood of change occurring in the intervening time? Given the peer review process of sometimes up to a year before publication some papers can be quite outdated by events.
  3. Read Abstract to identify key argument – also the conclusion if there is one.
  4. What is the argument so it can be followed through the paper?
  5. Where does the evidence come from in the paper on what basis is the argument grounded. What are the strengths and weaknesses of that evidence/method?
  6. What concepts were used and which alternatives were explained.
  7. How were concepts issues defined what level of assumed knowledge was behind the paper.
  8. Assumptions explicit and implicit
  9. What was the point that was she trying to say?
  10. Use of language – whether pejorative for example?
I also recommend leaving a column down the right hand side of a sheet of A4 for further notes after you have read other things – or indeed as you go along. When you have read a few papers you will find that some contradict or critique each other – make a note of these contradictions and critiques as cross-references. These will be useful later for the essay write up.
When you read a good literature review in a paper note how the author funnels the argument onto just the point that this paper answers – almost as if all the other researchers in the field have completely overlooked this obvious and important area!! This is a good technique for your literature review in the assignments for the course and we will be looking for it.