Literature reading made easy: A beginner's guide to understanding research papers

Reading time
3 mins
Literature reading made easy: A beginner's guide to understanding research papers

Reading academic research papers may be quite intimidating if you are just beginning your journey in academia. As a researcher, you need to read academic papers regularly to stay up-to-date on developments in your field, evaluate the quality of published as well as unpublished manuscripts, or come up with ideas for your next project. Therefore, reading, comprehending, and evaluating research papers is a crucial skill. In the beginning, it might take you a lot of time, but with practice, you will eventually learn the most efficient ways to do this.

There is no foolproof way for reading a research paper, but you can try a few approaches and then review what works best for you. Here are a few simple tips to start with:

1. Get a quick overview of the central theme

Read the title, keywords, and abstract to understand the paper’s purpose, methods, and main findings. Form a quick assessment of whether the paper would be relevant to you. If still unsure, you may want to lightly skim through the introduction section to understand the research question better and look at the tables, figures, and illustrations.

2. Analyze the paper critically

Once you have decided that a paper is worth reading in its entirety, you should critically analyze the paper to get clear answers to the following questions: “What question is the author trying to answer?”; “Is the question framed appropriately based on the gaps identified by the author in the existing literature?”; “Which methods were used to answer the question?”; “Are the methods appropriate?”; “What are the key results?”; “If any statistical tests are used, are they appropriate and robust?”; “Do the data and results support the conclusions drawn?”; and “What are the limitations of the study?

3. Make notes and summarize

Make a list of terms or concepts that you do not understand so that you can look them up. Note any new ideas you get or any questions that the research still has not answered for you. Summarize the paper in your own words or through diagrams so that you remember the key points better and don’t need to read the paper again.

Reading entire research papers is an important task that requires time and focus. But before you even begin to read, you will need to find papers that are potentially relevant for you to read. Most traditional literature search strategies will involve you combing through vast databases to find papers, which is also a highly laborious task. To save time and minimize chances of missing important literature, you can explore one of the best apps for finding and reading research papers currently available—R Discovery.

R Discovery is an AI-powered, mobile-based app that searches multiple standard databases storing research literature and finds you the ones most relevant to you. Based on the topic preferences you choose, it finds the top three most relevant research papers for you every day. Moreover, it provides a summary of the key highlights of a research paper so that you can decide easily whether the entire paper is worth it, thus helping you both find and read literature smartly. It is available on the Google Play Store as well as the Apple App Store for free.

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Published on: Oct 11, 2021


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