How to read research papers

Reading research papers can be hard and therefore I looked for strategies to optimize my paper readings. How should you read a research paper? How many papers should you read in order to understand a field broadly? There is a good talk on this topic from Andrew Ng, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University.

Here are my notes on how to read research papers:

  • Read 5-20 papers to get a basic understanding of a field
  • Read 50 - 100 papers and you have a very good understanding

Steps to understand a field

Andrew Ng proposes the following three steps to understand a field better:

  1. Compile a list of papers (research papers, blog posts, …)
  2. Skip around the list
  3. Take mulitple passes through the papers

Make a list of 5 papers, read 10% of every paper and try to understand it. Try to find relevant other papers and update the list.

Steps to read a paper

  1. Read the Title, Abstract, Figures
  2. Read Introduction, Conclusions, Figures, skip rest (skim related work)
  3. Read the paper skip/skim the math
  4. Read whole paper but skip things that don’t make sense

Ask the following questions while reading

  • What do the authors try to accomplish?
  • What are the key elements of the approach?
  • What can you use yourself?
  • What other references do your want to follow?

Sources of papers

  • Twitter
  • Machine Learning Subreddit
  • Conferences NIPS/ICML/ICLR
  • Friends

My field of study is currently Intrusion Detectio (Cybersecurity) and Artificial Intelligence methods. You may think this is quite broad, and I agree. I try to narrow it down to a more specific topic. If you are interesting in my work just contact me and I’ll be happy to share experiences.