|Pulitzer-quality, if there's such a thing in scholarly journals|
If you're in academia, or in the middle of a postgraduate program, you are going to have to read and write a lot of research papers.
It's important to understand how these papers are structured. They are not the same as the kind of essays we write in undergraduate classes.
In most cases, scholarly papers cover just a small portion of a larger question and shows supporting/disputing evidence on a limited set of hypotheses. For instance, an astronomy paper may cover the big question: "What is the climate like at Jupiter's moon Ganymede?", and the paper seeks to show that the atmosphere consists of 3.7% Helium gas (Editor's note: I totally made this up), in addition to other gases that have previously been shown to exist. The "meat" of the paper would show the spectrum analysis of photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The paper would then end with what could be the implication of finding He in Ganymede, conjecturing that the moon was made out of totally different materials from Jupiter itself.
My proposed strategy:
- Start with the Abstract. Read in entirety.
- Read the opening section.
- Read the closing section. By then you will have an idea where the problem starts, and where does the research end.
- For the middle section, start with all the charts and tables, see if any of these make sense to you in the scheme of the problem statement.
- Take a step back and review.
The above strategy should give you a sense of what the paper's actually trying to accomplish. If it's interesting, go ahead and read the paper in its entirety. Otherwise, move on.