A while ago, I posted about Tian Zheng’s approach to digesting scientific papers. Her method focused on first identifying the relevance of a scientific work to your research interests. Hence, it involves reading the abstract and introduction first. If the work is still compelling, the reader is encouraged to peruse the main results. Here I will talk about a somewhat different approach with a different set of goals.
The Quick and Dirty reading strategy is derived from the experiments of Ji Soo Yi . The idea is to be able to trawl through vast amounts of scientific literature over a short period of time. His experiments with students involved reading a 100 papers a week on human computer interaction. However, the average time taken by the students to complete the exercise was only around 6.76 hours. That’s nearly 4 minutes per paper! There are good reasons for designing and testing the effectiveness of such a skim reading strategy. Dr. Yi mentions at least the following
- The pace with which new publications appear in any given field makes it really hard to stay on top of the latest developments. It is imperative to be able to keep track of the steady stream of papers
- It is not worth the while to spend the same amount of energy, time and focus on all papers. That is, even within your own field of interest, not all papers are created equal as far as their utility to your interests are concerned. There needs to be a good strategy to select the right papers to focus the effort on from the several thousand Journal and conference articles appearing each month.
- It is useful to have a wide perspective on your own field – Breadth of knowledge is an end in itself.
- Frequent exposure to disparate methods of thinking and problem solving can aid ones own research.
The QnD strategy can be roughly broken down as follows
- Read the Abstract carefully
- First paragraph of introduction may be worth looking at
- Quickly go through section headings
- Focus on figures and graphs to infer the content of sections
- Move on to conclusions.
- Systematically think about the contributions of the paper and write a succinct summary in few sentences
It is important to follow the last step-i.e. summarizing the thoughts about the paper in your own words in a few sentences so that you take the easy way out to the next paper or deceive yourself. This record will also serve as important data point when reviewing the results of QnD reading. Interestingly, there are now scientific papers devoted to redesigning the document readers for a better skim reading experience aimed at better content retention and understanding. The following paper for example focuses on how to use static overlays of images and texts while the pages are scrolled over for better comprehension . Of course, I read this work the QnD way !
- QnD Review: Read 100 CHI papers in 7 hours-Ji Soon Yi (available online at https://cs582-17s.github.io/papers/yi2014qndreview.pdf. Last accessed on 05/21/2019)
- Spotlights: Attention-optimised highlights for skim reading-Byungjoo Lee, Olli Savisaari, Antti Oulasvirta,SIGCHI Conf. Human Factors Comput. Syst., Santa Clara, CA, USA, May 7–12, 2016, pp.5203– 5214.
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