Writing a proper paper summary is something I have learned in the past year. After writing more than 50 summaries, in this post, I’ll share a base structure I have been using so you can try applying it in your future article summaries.
The purpose of a scientific paper summary is to give the reader a clear and objective picture of the original text, hiding its non-important details. You can use just a few paragraphs, or an entire page, the crucial aspect of a good summary relies on its capability of providing the reader all the necessary information so he can comprehend a paper’s core ideas.
First thing: present the problem the authors are aiming to solve. Give the reader context on the research. Is this paper trying to address performance issues on Operating Systems for processing network packets? Is this about understanding data center workloads? Be as objective as possible, and let the reader know exactly what the article is about.
Next, write down what is the central idea the authors present to solve the presented problem. Here the idea is to highlight the main contribution of the paper. Is it a new Operating System with a specific thread scheduling policy? Is it a report on what exactly a data center workload looks like? Once again, be objective.
How did the authors evaluate their solution? Briefly describe the methodology behind the solution evaluation. If the solution is a tool, how the experiment environment look like? Have the authors used any specific metrics to benchmark the proposed solution with existing state-of-art research?
Present the key results that prove the proposed solution is ideal. It is also important to present results that highlight the weakness of the paper’s main contribution (if any). How is this result related to the solution? Maybe the result reflects an evaluation constraint.
There are always similar papers presented before aiming to address the same problem. It is a good idea to mention one, and explain how the current article differentiates itself from this related work. Try to answer here if this paper is starting a new field of research, or if it is in the middle of an existing one.
Finally, what are your thoughts on the paper? Tell the readers why do you believe the paper provides a great contribution or not, in which aspects the paper could be better.
This is the base skeleton I have been using to write my summaries. When I’m summarizing a paper about a research field I am interested in, the text tends to get larger. The opposite is also true: summarizing papers describing research on areas I’m not really into often increases the difficulty of providing a personal evaluation. This is why is so important to stick to the structure!
References and useful links
- S. Keshav, “How to Read a Paper,” ACM SIGCOMM Comput. Commun. Rev., 2007.
- M.J. Hanson, D.J. McNamee, “Efficient Reading of Papers in Science and Technology.”