Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How Do YOU Read Papers?

by Levi Russell

The other day I put out a Twitter poll with the intent of determining which section of an academic article economists read first. I only included the Introduction, Model, Results, and Conclusions, since Twitter only allows 4 options and I assume most of us read the abstract since it's normally the first thing we see before we download the paper. I typically read articles in the following order: abstract, model, conclusions, results, then intro if I need it. I've recently seen successful economists encouraging young economists to focus on the introduction, so I thought it was worthwhile to see how wrong I am about the "correct" reading order. After all, if it is crucial to focus on writing the intro, it must be the first thing a lot of us read!

Here are the poll results:

My sample was about 60 votes and this included, I imagine, mostly economists who follow me and maybe some of the economists or other academics who follow them. Introduction and Conclusions were nearly tied with just over a third of respondents saying those sections were the first they read. The remainder were split almost evenly between model and results.
The comments were interesting as well.

Good writing in general is necessary to publish. If your goal is to get citations, perhaps focusing on the writing in the intro and conclusions is a good strategy. However, to get cited you first must get published. I don't know about you, but when I review articles I always read them straight through from page 1 to n. First impressions are important, so maybe that's the best argument for focusing on the introduction. Then again, if only about 1/3 of us read the intro first, then perhaps reviewers (assuming they read like I do when reviewing) are reading the wrong way. I don't know if this fits into the broader discussion on academic publishing, peer review reform, and other such issues, but it is interesting to see how people read articles.

What do you think? What section do you read first? How important (relatively speaking) is a well-written introduction?

No comments:

Post a Comment