Getting Better at Understanding Academic Papers: a Brief Guide for Beginners (Part 1)

ITMO University

The easiest way to save time and effort when reading academic content is to be more selective. Is the paper you picked even worth reading? How high is the probability that it contains the information you seek? What kind of papers should you be looking for in the first place?

Academic sources fall into one of the two categories — primary and secondary.

Primary sources contain information about original research projects. In the world of STEM, this category typically includes reports and case studies, as well as some, but not all editorials and conference papers.

If you already know a fair deal about the subject you’re trying to research, and are looking to expand this knowledge, or find an answer to a very specific question, it’s a good idea to look for a primary source. Case studies come in handy when trying to confirm your hypothesis.