How To Read Academic Papers

(Adapted from Nina Bascia's "How to Read" exercise used in TPS 3045 at the University of Toronto.)

In this course we will be reading a couple dozen academic papers. Learning to read academic papers takes practice and feedback; this exercise is designed to help you learn how to read these papers. For each academic paper, provide:
  1. Orienting yourself:
    1. Why am I reading this paper? If the paper is assigned for a course or reading group, why do you think the instructor/facilitator chose this paper?
    2. What should I try to get out of reading this paper?
    3. How can I most efficiently get what I need out of this paper?

  2. What is this paper about?
    1. Main point of article or reading (1 sentence)
    2. The "Conversation" (intellectual/political context) article/chapter is entering or responding to
    3. Intended audience

  3. Critical assessment of the paper
    1. Evidence (if any) the author bases argument(s) on; adequacy of evidence for claims
    2. Credibility of article. What makes it credible and/or incredible? (can be both)
    3. What point(s) of view is/are represented? Which/whose are missing?

  4. Your use and reaction to the paper
    1. As reader, what experiences, information, or exposure influence your assessment of this article? (It’s your responsibility to be honest about where your reactions are coming from)
    2. Practical and/or intellectual implications – for whom? For you? 
    3. Did this paper provide what you wanted out of it? If not, did you have reasonable expectations for it?