How to outline a paper

· ☕ 2 min read · ✍️ Hoontaek Lee
  • #2019
  • #Research
  • Which information do I have to mine from a paper for developing a research question?

    Every day, I receive email alerts from journals or paper-searching websites. I skim through the title list in the alerts and select ones including keywords that I am interested in. In turn, I read the abstract to grasp what the paper is about and add it to my read-later folder if I feel it is interesting. After cycling the routine a lot, several problems have occurred:

    1. The folder contains so many papers. I cannot remember the whole list of papers in the folder and do not have time to read the papers.
    2. I am confused about what types of papers I am finding from this routine.

    However, the two problems are not problems as I am collecting not to read all the papers but to keep myself be updated on the topics and to inspire me.

    Then, why I felt those two difficulties? - I think that this was because I currently have no specific research question. If I had it, then I could have an apparent purpose and could distinguish which paper I have to read thoroughly from the one I can just look through.

    Developing one’s research question also requires study papers, but in the stage, it is sufficient to look through and take the point, which I am doing although I have no specific objective.

    In this context, I asked a question: which information should I extract from a paper for developing a research question? I searched the way on Google, summarized what they told, and specified the list of information as below.

    • Question: The question the paper wants to answer. Try to write it down as a sentence. Think about that if it is a good research question or according to the criteria
    • Context: The necessity of the question.
    • Answer: Should be paired with the question, or state key findings
    • Implication: How the findings affect or spread out researches in the field of study?
    • Unanswered: What remains unanswered? This may be discussed within the paper, or the one should figure it out.
    • Others: Private comments (e.g. method or a writing style)

    From now on, I would specify those components with citing information at first and then write about the “others” component that may include context or purpose of reading the paper.

    At the same time, if I want to summarize in another way, I will go for it.

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    Hoontaek Lee
    Hoontaek Lee
    Tree-Forest-Climate Researcher

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