How to Do Research Meta Discussion

2 minute read


These are the notes from a lab meta discussion on doing research, reading papers, and finding ideas. The ideas are presented in no particular order.


  • Read 3 papers
  • take notes about how you read the papers
  • one enjoyable paper
  • different knowledge levels for each


  • Why are you reading that research paper?
    • open problems
    • related work
    • advisor told me
    • to implement
    • to learn about a field
    • lit search
    • maintaining knowledge
    • trends in a field
    • interest after conference
    • contains answers to homework
    • seminal papers
  • How does one pick a paper to read?
    • number citations
    • by reference
    • by google scholar
    • by author
    • by conference
  • To what level of detail should I read?
    • 3 passes (from paper)
    • introduction, background, related work useful if unfamiliar
    • levels depending on knowledge of area
    • find “these are our contrabutions” section
  • Is this paper worth reading?
    • too many papers to read everything


  • Write why reading to check if you succeeded in reading for your goal
  • Be able to explain paper to someone else
    • loose
    • depending on your goal
  • Read blogs, Medium articles for high-level entry points
    • take a class
    • read books
  • Surveys more useful when you are familiar with a field (truth in this?)
  • Find your comfort level for entry point
  • Videos at 1.5 speed
  • Don’t spend all time reading papers
    • Recognize when to stop reading a paper
  • Don’t always seek to understand every minor detail of a paper
  • Recognize what method works for learning a paper or topic
  • 4 or 5 hours of deep work per day, use it wisely
  • Explore the network of papers
  • Read multiple papers at once
    • active compare
  • Paired reading
  • Have a [good] pen in your hand
  • Take breaks
  • 3 passes
    1. title, abstract, introduction, and conclusion
    2. key points, figures, references, problem and solution
    3. fine details, implementation; be able to re-create
  • Watch the talk of the paper
    • Authors may emphasize certain parts more than others
  • Look at the paper’s code
  • Build related work before writing your paper
  • Use a whiteboard


  • Reference manager (stores pdf)
    • Mendeley
    • Zotero
  • Powerpoint
  • gnuplot
  • matplotlib

Reading Critically and Creatively

  • Wear the skepticism hat, read papers thinking What is wrong with this?
  • Wear the creativity hat, think How would I improve this work?

How to write notes

  • low-level notes; write while reading
  • high-level notes; 2 sentence summary afterwards

Finding a Research Problem

How to Write a Review