Just a note for convenience.
First pass, get a bird's eye view of the paper
- Carefully read the title, abstract, and introduction
- Read the section and sub-section headings, but ignore everything else
- Read the conclusions
- Glance over the references, mentally ticking off the ones you’ve already read
At the end of the first pass, answer the five Cs:
- Category: What type of paper is this? A measurement paper? An analysis of an existing system? A description of a research prototype?
- Context: Which other papers is it related to? Which theoretical bases were used to analyze the problem?
- Correctness: Do the assumptions appear to be valid?
- Contributions: What are the paper’s main contributions?
- Clarity: Is the paper well written?
Second pass, jot down the key points
- 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.
- Remember to mark relevant unread references for further reading.
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.
Third pass, attempt to virtually re-implement the paper: making the same assumptions as the authors, re-create the work.
This requires grate attention to detail. You should identify and challenge every assumption in every statement. Think about how you yourself would present a particular idea. Also jot down ideas for the fulture work.
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.