I love learning. And I love reading. But there’s something about research papers that is just a huge turn off. I always end up opening them, glancing at how many pages (> 10 ugh, < 10 yay) and then switching to do something else. It’s thanks only to my pomodoros that I’m actually making it through them.
Okay, not every paper is terrible. But it feels like only about 10% are really interesting. And it’s also the struggle to even find papers that drives me nuts. How do you determine if a paper is worth reading? How do you figure out the exact right keywords to use in your google scholar search? And then, once you have a paper you think you should probably read, tracking down a pdf is a whole new level of frustration (especially when I’m at home and have to find the paper (usually through google scholar) and then log into my university’s library website and track down the paper a second time to get access.
And then, after you manage to convince yourself to sit down and read a paper, it feels like minutes later (okay, a few days) you’ve already forgotten most of what you’ve read. And when it comes time to write up that related work section, good luck remember what quote was from what paper and who said what when.
I’m also terrible at writing related work sections, and only partly because of forgetting what I’ve read. The other part, is that I’m terrible at reading enough papers and staying on top of everything. I’d much rather be doing research rather then reading about it. And so often, my related work section is filled it by desperate scrambling to find papers that are related and make sense and should be cited. This is really not a recommended way of doing things.
However, as I’m currently in this weird lull period where I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next, I’m reading papers. I’m hoping (although no luck yet) that these papers are going to help spark that idea that convinces me what the final step of my project needs to be. And I still have a little hope of that left, although I feel like I’m running out of papers to read.
But, because, I’m purposely reading a ton of papers right now, and I don’t want to forget what I’m reading and I would love to not be scrambling during my next related work section, I’ve started taking notes on each an every paper I’m reading. Sometimes my notes include ideas of where I could take that and combine it with mine. Sometimes it’s quotes from the paper I find interesting and (somewhat) related. Often it’s just general one and two line summaries to hopefully jog my memory enough.
I’m putting this together in latex, so that I can store all my references easily as well. For each paper, I’m recording the name, a link to the citation, the name of the pdf file (I seem to be reading a bunch of papers from the 70-90s and the pdfs can’t be searched), followed by my notes. I’ve done some rough sorting to based on the general area the paper falls under (I’ve got three categories for now). I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that all (okay, most) of these will end up being useful when I need to write my next paper or even my final dissertation.
So far, it has also helped motivate me to read more papers. And find new ones. Because watching the references section grow from 1 to 5, to 15, to past 25 has been extremely satisfying.
However, I guess I’ll only really know how well this works when I go to write that next paper…