Reading academic papers can sometimes feel overwhelming, but over the past few months, I've developed a method that makes this process more efficient and effective. Here's a look at my approach:

Before diving deep into a paper, I start by scanning it to grasp its structure and key elements. This initial scan includes checking:

  • Organisation: Identifying who initiated the study gives me context about its background and potential biases.
  • Study Details: I look at the participants, methodology, and overall approach of the research to understand its framework.
  • Quality Assessment: Here, I evaluate the sample size, the evidence presented, and whether the results are consistent.

This quick assessment helps me determine the credibility and relevance of the paper. I use the 'Find' function (CMD-F) to quickly locate these specific details.

I leverage software to organise my findings. Key information and insights are saved in Zotero, a tool that helps me keep my research organized. These notes are then seamlessly integrated into Obsidian, which aids in connecting different ideas and findings.

After this initial overview, I delve into the paper, focusing on sections that pique my interest. This approach helps me better comprehend the content, as opposed to starting from the very first word and reading straight through, which I find less effective.

My note-taking is simple and focused. I take what we call 'atomic notes' from the highlighted sections I made in Zotero, and imported in Obsidian.

These notes typically include:

  • Key Findings: I note down the central outcomes of the research.
  • Interesting Results and Concepts: Any results from other studies are recorded.
  • Conclusions: The paper’s final conclusions are always a part of my notes.

When I find a study with a notably large sample size, I make a special note of it, often starting it with “a large study...” to highlight its potential impact.