If you’ve been wondering how the pros do it, here’s a guide to dissecting a science paper.
Don’t be intimidated: it’s a description for how to really take every detail of the paper apart, and it’s a rough outline of what I do before talking about a paper on the blog. But it’s also a little bit of overkill for most papers. I read a lot of papers, and I can’t possibly analyze them as thoroughly as that article prescribes, and I take shortcuts — often, the methods are the most boring part, and I’ll just skim over them rather than doing the thorough diagramming recommended. I’ll go back and cover them thoroughly if I find other parts of the paper provocative, though.
The other course I’m teaching this term is an independent writing course, though, in which the students have to produce a well-researched term paper. I’ll have to send them a note telling them to read this article now.