In this course library, you'll encounter a lot of different kinds of sources: informational web sites, white papers, media articles, and more. But likely the most common type of source is the peer-reviewed academic publication.
Academic publications are very different from what you may have read elsewhere, and they require some particular strategies. I'll first share the way I think about academic publications, and then I'll share a few other views from around the community.
In my opinion, the important thing to recognize about academic publications is that they typically serve at least two primary functions: to make a contribution, and to justify that contribution. Papers will often be grounded around some claim, such as "minimally guided instruction is likely to be ineffective" or "engagement with a metacognitive tutoring system improves students' participation". A significant portion of the paper will then be spent justifying that claim based on the analysis that has been conducted. Whether or not the claim is adequately justified is a key factor in whether the paper passes peer review and is ultimately published.
What that means, though, is that in many cases, you the reader likely do not need to ingest the entire paper. You are most likely interested in the claims and contributions that the paper makes. What does it say about learning? What does it say about existing tools? How do these claims affect my work? These questions are all based on those ultimate claims. It's great to be able to thoughtfully critique the methodology and analysis used to justify these claims, but given the short period of time you have in this class, you may want to focus primarily on the claims themselves, and leave learning to critique methodology for another day.
Given that, here is the way I, personally, read most academic publications:
The goal of this process is to ensure the majority of your time is spent in useful reading, not simply in completing reading assignments. Similarly, reading publications should be a personal experience: you should be searching for the application of what you're reading to your work.
Of course, that's just my view. Reading academic publications is a topic on which many people have written. Here are a few other views:
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