172 votes
Accepted

How to read papers without falling into a rabbit hole?

Your problem is quite common among researchers. Actually, it's not really a problem, being overwhelmed like this is just natural. I and all my friends and colleagues face it. How I overcame this issue:...
Mirza Awais Ahmad's user avatar
114 votes
Accepted

Is it normal to have a hard time comprehending academic papers?

Yes, yes it is. But it gets easier. What most people don't realize when starting out reading academic papers, is that not every paper is an island (to paraphrase...). Terminology and 'lingo' is ...
nabla's user avatar
  • 13.4k
88 votes
Accepted

In academia, does the amount of material that one has to learn diminish as time progresses?

The first paper I read took two months to process. Now, I can skim through two papers for breakfast. It is not that you get more material to read, but rather you get much more efficient at skipping ...
Per Alexandersson's user avatar
81 votes

Is there a place in academia for someone who compulsively solves every problem on their own?

You ask if there is a place in academia for someone with your characteristics. I would like to answer a different question -- how can you channel your talents and disposition so as to get through ...
aparente001's user avatar
58 votes

How to read papers without falling into a rabbit hole?

(For context, I am in mathematics, and worked on it for almost 20 years before the convenience of the internet...) As suggested by @JonCuster's comment, I think this is what is supposed to happen when ...
paul garrett's user avatar
  • 88.6k
48 votes

Is it normal to have a hard time comprehending academic papers?

I am in my second year of a statistics PhD. I have by now examined many hundreds of papers. Some of them are, I now know, of only tangential relevance to my research. Others are relevant but when I ...
JeremyC's user avatar
  • 3,559
45 votes
Accepted

Learning new topic: read literature from oldest to newest or the other way around?

Neither. First, identify the "important" subset of your 400+ papers and read those. Second, try to identify the "good" subset of the papers and read those. Then, (if at all) read the other papers; ...
Patrick Sanan's user avatar
44 votes

Do topmost professors have something to read daily (in their locally saturated domain)?

I am going to assume based on your question that you are an undergraduate or beginning graduate student -- I apologize if this assumption is misplaced, but at least in the US this would be the ...
Andrew's user avatar
  • 8,260
36 votes
Accepted

What should I do when my PhD adviser sends me a paper to read?

As you mentioned in the comment section, since your supervisor gives you only 1-2 papers per week to read, I think it is totally possible for you to handle more than this. It seems that you spend too ...
Neuchâtel's user avatar
  • 5,405
35 votes

Would it be well-received to ask for the LaTeX source of a textbook?

Slight frame challenge: Instead of just asking for a LaTeX source, which might indeed come across very strange, tell the author what you told us: Your screen reader is struggling with the PDF, and you'...
JiK's user avatar
  • 811
32 votes

Do topmost professors have something to read daily (in their locally saturated domain)?

Focus, for now. I am a 'topmost professor' in my field, by many measures, and I read daily outside of my 'local interests'. This is for fun. I represent it professionally as a personal quest to keep ...
ProfessorWind-up's user avatar
31 votes

How to read papers without falling into a rabbit hole?

I have previously written an answer to the math version of the same question. I see no reason why it can't be applied to this case as well. The human tendency is to prefer worrying about the most ...
Superbest's user avatar
  • 8,203
31 votes

Do active researchers in mathematics read a paper in detail?

The answer, of course, is that it varies with each reader and with the specific needs of each reader. For many people, a skim is sufficient for most papers. The question is "does this seem reasonable" ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 365k
28 votes

What should I do when my PhD adviser sends me a paper to read?

You may talk about this with your advisor, but I strongly suspect that an advisor sending you a paper does by no way mean that you should read it immediately. Most probably the advisor was doing some ...
Petr's user avatar
  • 1,107
27 votes
Accepted

When reading papers, what's the most convenient way to check a citation without disrupting the reading process?

If you're using Adobe Acrobat Reader (which I suspect you are), you can press alt + left to jump back to where you were before clicking the link. I find it amazingly useful.
sgf's user avatar
  • 1,214
26 votes

Is there a place in academia for someone who compulsively solves every problem on their own?

"Is there really any place in academia for somebody who is incapable of recognizing and building upon the existing work of others?" Before I answer, this sort of person is extremely rare and is ...
Anonymous Physicist's user avatar
21 votes

Is there a place in academia for someone who compulsively solves every problem on their own?

As a fellow Ph.D student in a field close to yours, it seems to me you are underselling your skills too quickly; it's not clear why you are so confident that the skills you mention cannot be applied ...
Lentes's user avatar
  • 1,517
20 votes

How to approach an academic journal

A journal is not meant to be read from cover to cover*. As you have rightly identified, articles in a single issue or volume of a journal are generally not connected to each other, beyond the broad ...
astronat supports the strike's user avatar
20 votes

Would it be well-received to ask for the LaTeX source of a textbook?

It is certainly uncommon to ask for LaTeX sources of textbooks, and while some authors may provide them for you, it is fair to expect that this will rarely work out, for a variety of reasons. The ...
DCTLib's user avatar
  • 15.1k
19 votes

Learning new topic: read literature from oldest to newest or the other way around?

If the new reviews are too complex you might need to start with some older ones, but I would really suggest starting from the newest publications. People already spent years and years collecting all ...
VonBeche's user avatar
  • 3,556
19 votes

Difficulty reading scientific papers in two columns

If the paper has a preprint on on https://arxiv.org/ you can select to download "Other Formats". Then you can probably get the LaTeX source (if it was typeset in latex), and from there you can modify ...
Frames Catherine White's user avatar
16 votes

Is it normal to have a hard time comprehending academic papers?

Yes. But it's a question of practice. More reading= More understanding. More understanding easier to understand a new paper. But you do not need to understand every single phrase. For instance, if it ...
pink.slash's user avatar
15 votes

Is there a place in academia for someone who compulsively solves every problem on their own?

While I am not myself an academic, I have just been reading Metamaths by Gregory Chaitin (about Chaitin's constant and his approach to research), and in it he says: I don't think that you can ...
user63133's user avatar
  • 161
15 votes

Difficulty reading scientific papers in two columns

While the comments (and also Lyndon's answer) give you some ideas that you can try, I suspect the most realistic answer will be that converting a 2-column paper into a format that's slightly easier to ...
xLeitix's user avatar
  • 135k
14 votes

How to read papers without falling into a rabbit hole?

It is interesting that you used the concept of "rabbit hole" when you are new to research. A couple of things: Uncertainty is Always There: You read it right. The "rabbit hole" is ...
o-0's user avatar
  • 7,610
14 votes

What should I do when my PhD adviser sends me a paper to read?

Basically, if they send you a paper, saying it is relevant, then you should read it. If they don't send a paper copy then print it out and put the date received on it so that you can sort them as ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 365k
14 votes

What should I do when my PhD adviser sends me a paper to read?

When I was starting out in my PhD I used to have this same problem that you're having. I realised after a year or so that when my supervisor read a paper, what he meant by this was that he had read ...
Jojo's user avatar
  • 581
12 votes

Is there a place in academia for someone who compulsively solves every problem on their own?

I think there are three things one should think about: research area advisor future aims Research Area In science research, there are fields which are more "theory based" and fields which are more "...
J Fabian Meier's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

How can I encourage students to ask questions in class

Here are several ideas to consider. I'm not sure I necessarily recommend all of them but I've seen them being tried for better or worse results: Make it a dialog by asking your students questions ...
einpoklum's user avatar
  • 39.2k

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