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Q&A: How to stay focused while reading scholarly articles

Here’s a long overdue Q&A question.

A reader sent me the following question:

Hello Eva!
You have jotted all essential ingredients in a simplest way.I have a question how can we enhance our concentration for long term while reviewing a paper?
If you share some more tips I would be grateful towards you.
With Regards

First of all, I need you to understand that staying focused while reading technical papers is HARD. Papers are typically very condensed forms of information, requiring quite some effort from the reader to get through.

When I find it hard to stay focused, I do the following:

Walk while reading: sitting for a long time can make me feel a bit drowsy. Sometimes it helps me to pace around while reading.

Read from a print: I’m behind my computer for most of the time of the day. Getting up and getting a printed version, and reading this hard copy at a table instead of at my desk helps me change my focus (and stay away from the temptations of the internet).

Block time for reading: I don’t think anybody can sit and read technical papers for 8 hours a day. Plan your time instead. For example: 2 hours for reading a paper, followed by 1 hour for typing out a summary of the paper, and then maybe 2 hours to do some exploratory calculations based on the paper. Or 2 hours of reading and then something different.

Meditate: exercise your mind through meditation. It’s hard work and it requires constant practice, but it’s so worth it.

Identify what you want to get out of a paper
: Why are you reading this paper? What do you want to learn? Understand why you are reading this, and get out the information you need for your research.

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