PhD Student at the University of Victoria

How to read a Computer Science research paper.

There are five things you should know about every paper you read.  When you read a research paper (or write one) it is important to understand the overall meaning of the paper. This normally means that you have to go beyond technical details, into the whys and hows. A tip that was given to me is to answer the following questions about the paper:

  1. What was the problem the authors were trying to solve?
  2. Why has related work not solved this problem?
  3. What was the proposed solution?
  4. What was the evaluation of the solution?
  5. What future work did this work suggest?

You should be able to answer each of these questions clearly, and in just a sentence or two. In fact, in my opinion, if you remember nothing else from the paper, try and get these questions.  Understanding a paper in the bigger context is much more important than remembering the technical details. You can always look those details up again later!