The first pass
Skim the article. This pass shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes and is confined to the absolute basics. You may decide not to read further after you’ve completed this pass, because the paper isn’t of use to you, or because the information you gather on the first pass is enough for articles that aren’t specifically relevant to your research but might still be useful someday.
- Quickly glance over the title, abstract, and introduction. This should give you a good idea whether the article is relevant to your research.
- Read the section and sub-section headings only. Ignore the text.
- Read the conclusions.
At this point you should be able to identify the following: What type of paper are you reading (data publication, review paper, research paper, etc.)? What are the paper’s main contributions? Which other papers is it related to? Is this research still relevant? In Earth Sciences large changes in the general consensus have occurred in the last few decades, so an article or book on tectonics published around 1960 could have been ground breaking science at the time, but today needs to be taken with a grain of salt.