Phd Students How Do You Keep Your Notes While Reading Scientific?

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PhD students: How do you keep your notes while reading scientific papers?

The number is irrelevant, the quality of what you read and the way you spot the best papers is much more important. In general you should explore the literature on your field as fast as possible, and the best papers for that purpose are survey papers on the topic. Even if a survey is old it will guide you through the history of the field and what are the best ideas with better results. You can also try some thesis as usually the authors make a lengthy literature review. A good idea is to look in the literature review section, take note of the cited papers and make a histogram of them. Those papers that are cited more are worth reading first. Oldest papers should go first, basically because later research tend to be incremental and you should first get used to the concepts and their history. Some people may say that only new papers are relevant but that’s not true, some old papers are awesome. I remember reading a very old paper from 19th century on signal processing and I was amazed how many recent sources have corrupted some of the ideas in the original text. The math was preserved but the citations said things that where not what the original says. It is a seminal paper, and to this day we still use that method exactly as it was defined in the late 1800. Another thing is how you read the paper, but for that just search how to read a paper and use the method that best suits your personality. I tend to print the papers that are more important to what I’m writing now, I make notes on them, highlight things, etc. I also take notes by hand in a notebook, sometimes I also expand equations and try to figure out how the author got from point A to B, etc. You should find your own way through this, but do not take shortcuts like assuming that because you read the text you know the stuff. Taking notes, doing the math yourself, replicating experiments if possible, that kind of stuff is the best method to really learn. If you are in history, writing is your best friend, if you are in engineering building something, doing a bunch of calculations or writing a program might be the best way to learn. Apply this to whatever you get from your reading to improve learning and prime your creativity pump. In the end, reading is worthless without understanding. Remember that you are trying to solve a problem and that requires good preparation (reading will help you, notes will improve that, doing is definitely the best). Thinking on a solution is the ultimate goal, so find a balance between reading and your own work.

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