How do you decide whether a research article is relevant to you? — R Voice

How do you decide whether a research article is relevant to you?

Andrea Hayward
Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin

Happy Monday R Voicers! 🌞

I'm kick-starting the week with a question all of us would've had to answer at some point - Is this research article relevant to me? Should I add it to my reading list?

You probably use several sources to search for or discover research papers. But while sifting through the sea of literature out there, how do you evaluate whether a specific research paper is relevant reading for you? Which elements of the paper help you decide this?

Comments

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin

    Thanks for sharing your strategy with us @Erin Owens 🙂

    I usually follow the same process of reading the title and then the abstract, and then I save it for later. I guess this works for me because my reading is more out of interest than work-related. So I don't have to complete my reading in a fixed period of time. For others out there who don't have this luxury of time, I'm sure your technique would save a lot of time and also make for more focused reading list.

  • Omololu FAGBADEBO
    Omololu FAGBADEBO Member Posts: 185 ✭✭✭

    @Andrea Hayward , the relevance of an article depends on your research focus, which changes from time to time. I see all articles in my discipline as relevant, even though I might not be working on the focus of that article. What I do is have a data bank of articles in my fields of research. Every discipline has its general and broad outlook. I only create library file folders keeping all articles I come across in their different categories in the library on my laptop/computer

    One thing at a time😍

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 217 ✭✭✭

    Such an essential question that you have raked up @Andrea Hayward. Thanks a ton! It's going to be an insightful discussion here, I'm sure. Eagerly looking forward to what others have to say.

    Answering your query, I totally go for what @Erin Owens has said here. I do exactly that. I might skip the methods though or keep it for the last. Its abstract first, introduction-skim is second, results subtitles- skim is third, read discussion fully, look at the figures in detail and last would be methods if all of the above feels relevant. Im not sure if this order is right but it works for me.

    Ive heard many say "go for methods after the abstract" but it's never worked that way for me. Somehow I get lost or feel lost reading methodology and end up updating my technical skills rather than staying focused on why I started reading that paper in the first place🤣

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 217 ✭✭✭

    I do that with LinkedIn if its a video/podcast or a huge post😁. I keep it saved for my daily walks when I can listen to them or read as I walk @Andrea Hayward

  • Michael Matulile
    Michael Matulile Member Posts: 8 ✭

    @Andrea Hayward and @Erin Owens, I used to think of myself that perhaps I'm lazy to read the whole article. I see many use this style of reading; reading the title and abstract. Thank you for sharing, you have encouraged me to keep reading in this way...📨

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    Such a insightful and stimulating question @Andrea Hayward. Actually article reading for literature search is such a painful task for me but if it's for general reading for interest of knowledge or to be updated on a trend or new concept in the field, I feel I am much stimulated to read quickly to distill the facts but that definitely depends on my mood and the level of exhaust I am.

    Obviously, it's the title first and for me, keywords in the abstract also play a major part of deciding whether to read the abstract or not because I am much selective with keywords (I have misled by many titles and ended up reading irrelevant abstracts many times in my life). I would love if a brief summary is provided with main findings so it motivates me to see what methods led to such interesting findings. If methods are not familiar to me I will rather skip the paper (I might be missing out on many things by this way but as a social science research bud, if the methods doesn't make sense to me or if they are too technical/ scientific and out of me sphere, I will directly move away because it could be intellectual exhausting to deep dive into it to absorb the essence.

    If the summary interests me, I'll definitely save it to R Discovery app, straightly download it, book mark it or add it to my Instapaper account for quick read or save it in Notion page to create a reading list based on subject subtitles. Hope this makes sense to you☺️

  • Tony Nwankwo
    Tony Nwankwo Member Posts: 17 ✭✭

    Hey....@Andrea Hayward this is an important consideration when sourcing for relevant materials.

    Most importantly, the focus of any research study is a key determinant of whether a research paper is relevant to a study or not.

    For me, basically, once I look at the topic, next I pay close attention to the abstract, and thereafter I would scan through the paper to take a close look at the conceptual framework if it has any; as the framework will give me a complete picture of the variables and their relationships which will further help me to evaluate its relevance to the focus of my own study. Again, I will take a close look at the subheadings/titles. Thereafter, I will read the first paragraph of the introduction, and the most relevant findings of the study. Afterward, I will save the paper if I consider it relevant to the focus of my own study for comprehensive reading later on.

    Summarily, once I look at the title, abstract, conceptual framework, subheadings, and findings, the next is to take a decision to save for later read or skip and keep moving.

    Normally, it's always during a later read that I often pay close attention to the research approach (methods) that led to the findings.

    Hope my answer meets your expectation

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 251 ✭✭✭

    Hey @Andrea Hayward - great question! I also find the abstract incredibly important. On top of that, I also command+f for key words relevant to my research topic, just to find out if the article goes into the same direction that I am aiming for.

    I also find having a library to organise relevant articles really smart @Omololu FAGBADEBO !

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 217 ✭✭✭

    Thats right@Isurika Sevwandi. As I was reading the line- "I would love if a brief summary is provided with main findings so it motivates me to see what methods led to such interesting findings", I did muse that R Discovery already just does that and probably you should explore the app. Its when I read your message entirely did I know you are already enjoying the app and that feature 😃

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 217 ✭✭✭

    Even I end-up command+F for keywords of my research work @Vivien Kretz . Thats even pre-abstract reading though. Apart from organising them into relevant folders I also colour tag the articles on relevance basis to my area or immediate work objectives. For eg- most relevant is tagged reds, less relevant orange and so on. So when I access a folder I know what to read first right away

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin

    @Omololu FAGBADEBO I really like this technique of creating your own personal article bank with sub-categories so that you know exactly where to look, when the need for an article in a specific area does come up. It's such a structured system!

    I found it quite interesting that you even save articles that are relevant to your discipline, but not directly connected to you area of interest. Does this help you diversify your reading?

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin

    I'm glad you found this question interesting @Gayatri Ramachandran. I'm definitely learning a lot from everyone's answers and I also see a shared understanding that not everyone reads the entire article at first glance and there's nothing wrong with that 😃

    I'm curious about what you look for when looking at the figures and tables in detail. Does this help you grasp the results section quicker?

  • Omololu FAGBADEBO
    Omololu FAGBADEBO Member Posts: 185 ✭✭✭

    Yes, @Andrea Hayward. If you are a multidisciplinary researcher, you have to look beyond your primary area of interest. For instance, y primary field is political science. Nevertheless, my research covers management, economics and law. Thus, I have to have a data bank of diverse articles that relate to the interdisciplinary focus of my work.

    One thing at a time😍

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin

    @Michael Matulile I'm so glad to hear this! Even I've come across many in academia who usually follow this process. And the reason is usually that they first focus on literature search and discovery and then move onto reading. I assure you this is not lazy at all. Personally, I feel like it's a more efficient use of time 🙂

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin

    @Isurika Sevwandi thank you for sharing your take on this. I can relate to what you've said about reading papers being intellectually exhausting. Back when I have to actively seek and read papers during my Master's, I would follow a similar pattern - one that focused on reading papers that were 100% relevant to what I was studying. I didn't have the time to do more diverse reading, and if I did, I'd end up feeling extremely exhausted.

    P.S. Glad to know that you've been using the R Discovery app. 😊

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin


    Thanks for sharing your technique @Tony Nwankwo! Your technique (first title and then abstract) is quite similar to what others have shared on this thread. What stood out for me is your focus on the conceptual framework and how that helps you figure out whether that paper is relevant reading for your own focus area. I found this very interesting :)

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 941 admin

    I really like this strategy @Vivien Kretz. I usually use Ctrl+F if I'm reading through a lengthy report or blog post and don't have much time to scroll through the entire thing. And it always works like a charm. I've never used it while reading through a research article, but am going to try it now. Thanks for sharing this! ☺️

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 217 ✭✭✭

    I focus on how the figures and tables convey the crux of the article, specially those that relate to my data/objectives @Andrea Hayward . For eg- I would give special preference in looking at the proteins they have analysed to study changes in a pathway if my work involves the same proteins as well. Figures also give you an idea about how they should be illustrated and represented in a manuscript. Stirs up a lot of curiosity about the methodologies used, how they chose to represent their data and makes one delve into the nuances of it. This is why I had mentioned I go to methods section last coz they tend to divert me away from the focus of the article😃

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 251 ✭✭✭

    It truly DOES work like a charm! It also did an amazing job for me during take-home exams (which I was so thankful for).