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這樣高效閱讀論文只需要三遍 劍橋大學教授經驗談

時間:2020-01-02 來源:Waterloo 作者:Srinivasan Keshav 本文字數:6784字

  科研之始,在于讀論文。一方面,把握最前沿的研究動態,激發自身研究靈感。另一方面,不做好文獻調研,自己的絕妙想法變成了重復造輪子,這種體驗可不太妙。

  一、到底該怎么讀論文?

  每天單從arxiv上就能刷出成百上千篇新論文,頂會期間,論文更是如錢塘江大潮拍岸而來。如何才能不迷失在論文煙海之中,高效獲取有效信息呢?

  這里奉上ACM和IEEE Fellow、劍橋大學計算機科學教授Srinivasan Keshav的論文閱讀絕技三遍論,手把手教你如何高效讀論文,告別海量精力投入卻收效甚微之窘境。

Srinivasan Keshav

Srinivasan Keshav

  科研小白必備,科研老手亦可參考。

  第一遍:快速預覽,把握概要

  拿到一篇新論文,第一遍閱讀要花多長時間?

  5-10分鐘足以。

  不是每一篇論文都干貨滿滿,所以初次見面,先打個印象分,再決定是否繼續,是更為高效的方法。

  具體操作如下:

  1、仔細閱讀標題、摘要和簡介。
  2、先忽略內容,讀一讀文章中的每個小標題。
  3、如果有數學內容,先大致瀏覽,確定其理論基礎。
  4、讀結論。
  5、瀏覽參考文獻,如果有你已經讀過的,把它們勾選出來。

  如此讀完第一遍,你需要問問自己以下幾個問題:

  1、分類:這是什么類型的論文?
  2、背景:與哪些其他論文相關?基于何種理論基礎來分析問題?
  3、正確性:論文的假設看起來正確嗎?
  4、貢獻:論文的主要貢獻是什么?
  5、清晰度:這篇論文寫得好嗎?

  當你心中有了這些答案,你也就知道自己該不該真正精讀這篇論文了。

  P.S. 這里也涉及到撰寫論文的一個小技巧:結構盡量清晰,要點盡量突出,讓審稿人第一遍就能get到。
 

科研文獻閱讀
 

科研文獻閱讀

  第二遍:抓住重點,暫略細節

  當你判定一篇論文值得一讀,就可以把它加入第二遍閱讀的隊列。

  第二遍閱讀,就要好好看看論文內容了,投入的時間大概在1個小時左右。

  不過,不要糾結于沒見過的術語,也不要沉迷于證明推導的細節:把它們記下來,先略過。

  這一遍閱讀中,有兩個小技巧:

  1、仔細查看論文中的圖表。關注一下細節:坐標軸是否正確標記?結論是否具有統計意義?往往細節之中,就能窺見真正出色的工作和水文之間的區別。
  2、標記論文中涉及的、你并未讀過的參考文獻,之后進一步閱讀。

  讀完第二遍,你應該能掌握論文內容,總結全文主旨了。

  不過,有時候即使是這樣讀完一遍,也未必就能讀懂論文:論文可能涉及你陌生的領域,有太多陌生術語;作者可能采用了你不了解的證明或實驗技術;甚至,這篇論文可能寫得不行。

  那么,就進入最后一步吧。

  第三遍:重構論文,注重細節

  要想完全理解論文,就需要展開第三遍閱讀:跟隨作者的思路,在腦海中重現論文內容。

  將重現的結果與實際論文進行比較,就可以輕松看出論文的創新點,找到文中隱含的假設,捕獲隱藏在實驗和技術分析中的潛在問題和引文缺失。

  進入第三遍,最重要的事情強調三遍:細節!細節!細節!

  找出作者陳述中的每一個假設,親自挑戰它,提出自己的思考。如此,對于論文的證明和其中的技術,你便會有更為深刻的理解。

  二、One More Thing:文獻調研怎么做?

  說到讀論文,是不是想起了被文獻綜述統治的恐懼?

  Srinivasan Keshav教授同樣有“三步法”要傳授諸位。

  第一步,善用學術搜索引擎(如谷歌學術),找出3-5篇相關領域近期最高引用的論文。了解這些論文的工作原理,閱讀其中related work的部分。幸運的話,這些內容能直接幫你完成文獻綜述。

谷歌學術

谷歌學術

  第二步,在這些論文的參考文獻中找出其共同引用的論文,或重復出現的作者姓名。訪問這些關鍵人物的網站,查看他們近期發表的論文,也可以看看他們都參加了哪些頂級會議。

  第三步,訪問頂級會議的網站,瀏覽它們最近的會議記錄。通過“三遍論”的第一遍閱讀快速識別高質量的相關工作。匯總這一步中查找出的論文和第二步中的高引論文,基本上就能構成你文獻綜述的初版內容啦。

  最后,三步法可以迭代進行。

  祝諸位同學科研順利~

  附:英文原文
 

How to Read a Paper

Version of February 17, 2016
S. Keshav
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON, Canada
[email protected]

ABSTRACT

 Researchers spend a great deal of time reading research papers. However, this skill is rarely taught, leading to much wasted effort. This article outlines a practical and efficient three-pass method for reading research papers. I also describe how to use this method to do a literature survey.

1. INTRODUCTION

 Researchers must read papers for several reasons: to review them for a conference or a class, to keep current in their field, or for a literature survey of a new field. A typical researcher will likely spend hundreds of hours every year reading papers.

 Learning to efficiently read a paper is a critical but rarely taught skill. Beginning graduate students, therefore, must learn on their own using trial and error. Students waste much effort in the process and are frequently driven to frustration.

 For many years I have used a simple 'three-pass' approach to prevent me from drowning in the details of a paper before getting a bird's-eye-view. It allows me to estimate the amount of time required to review a set of papers. Moreover,I can adjust the depth of paper evaluation depending on my needs and how much time I have. This paper describes the approach and its use in doing a literature survey.

2. THE THREE-PASS APPROACH

 The key idea is that you should read the paper in up to three passes, instead of starting at the beginning and plowing your way to the end. Each pass accomplishes specific goals and builds upon the previous pass: The first pass gives you a general idea about the paper. The second pass lets you grasp the paper's content, but not its details. The third pass helps you understand the paper in depth.

2.1 The first pass

 The first pass is a quick scan to get a bird's-eye view of the paper. You can also decide whether you need to do any more passes. This pass should take about five to ten minutes and consists of the following steps:

 1. Carefully read the title, abstract, and introduction
 2. Read the section and sub-section headings, but ignore everything else
 3. Glance at the mathematical content (if any) to determine the underlying theoretical foundations
 4. Read the conclusions
 5. Glance over the references, mentally ticking off the ones you've already read

 At the end of the first pass, you should be able to answer the five Cs:

 1. Category: What type of paper is this? A measurement paper? An analysis of an existing system? A description of a research prototype?
 2. Context: Which other papers is it related to? Which theoretical bases were used to analyze the problem?
 3. Correctness: Do the assumptions appear to be valid?
 4. Contributions: What are the paper's main contributions?
 5. Clarity: Is the paper well written?

 Using this information, you may choose not to read further (and not print it out, thus saving trees). This could be because the paper doesn't interest you, or you don't know enough about the area to understand the paper, or that the authors make invalid assumptions. The first pass is adequate for papers that aren't in your research area, but may someday prove relevant.

 Incidentally, when you write a paper, you can expect most reviewers (and readers) to make only one pass over it. Take care to choose coherent section and sub-section titles and to write concise and comprehensive abstracts. If a reviewer cannot understand the gist after one pass, the paper will likely be rejected; if a reader cannot understand the highlights of the paper after five minutes, the paper will likely never be read. For these reasons, a 'graphical abstract' that summarizes a paper with a single well-chosen figure is an excellent idea and can be increasingly found in scientific journals.

2.2 The second pass

 In the second pass, read the paper with greater care, but ignore details such as proofs. It helps to jot down the key points, or to make comments in the margins, as you read.

 Dominik Grusemann from Uni Augsburg suggests that you “note down terms you didn't understand, or questions you may want to ask the author.” If you are acting as a paper referee, these comments will help you when you are writing your review, and to back up your review during the program committee meeting.

 1. Look carefully at the figures, diagrams and other illustrations in the paper. Pay special attention to graphs.Are the axes properly labeled? Are results shown with error bars, so that conclusions are statistically significant? Common mistakes like these will separate rushed, shoddy work from the truly excellent.
 2. Remember to mark relevant unread references for further reading (this is a good way to learn more about the background of the paper).

 The second pass should take up to an hour for an experienced reader. After this pass, you should be able to grasp the content of the paper. You should be able to summarize the main thrust of the paper, with supporting evidence, to someone else. This level of detail is appropriate for a paper in which you are interested, but does not lie in your research speciality.

 Sometimes you won't understand a paper even at the end of the second pass. This may be because the subject matter is new to you, with unfamiliar terminology and acronyms.

 Or the authors may use a proof or experimental technique that you don't understand, so that the bulk of the paper is incomprehensible. The paper may be poorly written

 with unsubstantiated assertions and numerous forward references. Or it could just be that it's late at night and you're tired. You can now choose to: (a) set the paper aside, hoping you don't need to understand the material to be successful in your career, (b) return to the paper later, perhaps after reading background material or (c) persevere and go on to the third pass.

2.3 The third pass

 To fully understand a paper, particularly if you are a reviewer, requires a third pass. The key to the third pass is to attempt to virtually re-implement the paper: that is, making the same assumptions as the authors, re-create the work. By comparing this re-creation with the actual paper, you can easily identify not only a paper's innovations, but also its hidden failings and assumptions.

 This pass requires great attention to detail. You should identify and challenge every assumption in every statement.

 Moreover, you should think about how you yourself would present a particular idea. This comparison of the actual with the virtual lends a sharp insight into the proof and presentation techniques in the paper and you can very likely add this to your repertoire of tools. During this pass, you should also jot down ideas for future work.

 This pass can take many hours for beginners and more than an hour or two even for an experienced reader. At the end of this pass, you should be able to reconstruct the entire structure of the paper from memory, as well as be able to identify its strong and weak points. In particular, you should be able to pinpoint implicit assumptions, missing citations to relevant work, and potential issues with experimental or analytical techniques.

3. DOING A LITERATURE SURVEY

 Paper reading skills are put to the test in doing a literature survey. This will require you to read tens of papers, perhaps in an unfamiliar field. What papers should you read? Here is how you can use the three-pass approach to help.

 First, use an academic search engine such as Google Scholar or CiteSeer and some well-chosen keywords to find three to five recent highly-cited papers in the area. Do one pass on each paper to get a sense of the work, then read their related work sections. You will find a thumbnail summary of the recent work, and perhaps, if you are lucky, a pointer to a recent survey paper. If you can find such a survey, you are done. Read the survey, congratulating yourself on your good luck.

 Otherwise, in the second step, find shared citations and repeated author names in the bibliography. These are the key papers and researchers in that area. Download the key papers and set them aside. Then go to the websites of the key researchers and see where they've published recently.

 That will help you identify the top conferences in that field because the best researchers usually publish in the top conferences.

 The third step is to go to the website for these top conferences and look through their recent proceedings. A quick scan will usually identify recent high-quality related work.

 These papers, along with the ones you set aside earlier, constitute the first version of your survey. Make two passes through these papers. If they all cite a key paper that you did not find earlier, obtain and read it, iterating as necessary.

4. RELATED WORK

 If you are reading a paper to do a review, you should also read Timothy Roscoe's paper on “Writing reviews for systems conferences” [3]. If you're planning to write a technical paper, you should refer both to Henning Schulzrinne's comprehensive web site [4] and George Whitesides's excellent overview of the process [5]. Finally, Simon Peyton Jones has a website that covers the entire spectrum of research skills [2].

 Iain H. McLean of Psychology, Inc. has put together a downloadable 'review matrix' that simplifies paper reviewing using the three-pass approach for papers in experimental psychology[1], which can probably be used, with minor modifications, for papers in other areas.

5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 The first version of this document was drafted by my students: Hossein Falaki, Earl Oliver, and Sumair Ur Rahman.

 My thanks to them. I also benefited from Christophe Diot's perceptive comments and Nicole Keshav's eagle-eyed copyediting.

 I would like to make this a living document, updating it as I receive comments. Please take a moment to email me any comments or suggestions for improvement. Thanks to encouraging feedback from many correspondents over the years.

6. REFERENCES

 [1] I.H. McLean, “Literature Review Matrix,”http://psychologyinc.blogspot.com/
 [2] S. Peyton Jones, “Research Skills,”http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/simonpj/papers/giving-a-talk/giving-a-talk.htm
 [3] T. Roscoe, “Writing Reviews for Systems Conferences,”http://people.inf.ethz.ch/troscoe/pubs/review-writing.pdf
 [4] H. Schulzrinne, “Writing Technical Articles,”http://www.cs.columbia.edu/?hgs/etc/writing-style.html
 [5] G.M. Whitesides, “Whitesides' Group: Writing a Paper,”http://www.ee.ucr.edu/?rlake/Whitesides writing res paper.pdf

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