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How to Read an Article

One important first step here is to determine quickly whether and how
deeply you should read a paper. Skimming is an important skill. Start with
the title, then the abstract. Then jump to the conclusions. If you're still
interested, read the introduction, and if you need more details, only then
do you actually read the paper.

If you get to this stage, always write up your thoughts in a
summary, and keep a copy of the paper on file. The links below really do
a good job of telling you how to write such a summary. Just remember, as
you read papers in your field, you are trying to build up not only an understanding
of each paper, but also an understanding of the landscape in which they sit.
Who are the authors? Have they done groundbreaking work in this area, contributed
incremental next steps, or are they perhaps just starting out (maybe they're
still students). What about this paper? Is it groundbreaking now? Was it groundbreaking
when it was published? Why would someone want to read it?

One last point: if you are doing research, you are looking for the gaps
in the field. Every paper has a future work section that suggests possible
gaps. Have they been filled in? Do any of them spark your imagination?. You
can also think about a paper as suggesting a lense through which to view
things. If you read a paper about cscw, and are working on an ambient display
project, think about how the issues raised in the cscw paper might apply
to ambient displays. The reverse applies too of course. A lense like this
can also help to identify gaps, things that need to be explored and discussed.

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