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The Three Pass Approach

Srinivasan Keshav describes the three-pass approach which acts as a filtering system. It is an iterative and incremental way of reading a paper. It consists of: 

  1. The First Pass: The bird's-eye view 
  2. The second pass: Grasp the content
  3. The third pass: Virtually re-implement the paper


3.85K reads


Optional extensions(Part 1)

Use this only if you have to read the entire paper. 

  • Make little boxes: Surround equations, figures and tables with boxes. Do this during the first-pass. It will help to quantify how many details in terms of math equations you can expect. 
  • Highlighters


235 reads

Doing A Literature Survey

Doing a literature survey is a bit different than reading a single paper. 

  1. First pass: In the first pass you have to collect potentially useful papers. Find 3 to 5 recent papers. You can now continue with the usual first pass procedure. You can also skim through the references...


313 reads

The First Pass: The bird’s-eye view

Goal: To get the big picture of the paper 

Duration: Less than 10 minutes.

Activity: Glancing over the following sections of paper: 

  1. Abstract
  2. Title
  3. Introduction 
  4. Conclusion

Ignore the content of section and sub-sections. 


757 reads

Optional Extensions(Part 2)

  • Pomodoro Sessions: If you feel intimidated by the paper and lack motivation, you can use the pomodoro technique. Start a 25 minute timer without any expectations and read the paper. 
  • Feynman technique: Choose a concept you want to learn; pretend you'...


360 reads

The Third Pass: Virtually re-implement the paper

Duration: Can take up to 4-5 hours if you're a beginner(you should carefully consider if this step is worth your time). 


  • Read the paper in its entirety and question every detail.
  • Make the same assumptions as the authors and re-create the work from scratch. You ...


382 reads

The 5 C's

At the end of the first pass you should be able to answer:

  • Category: What is the type of paper? Literature? Prototype?
  • Context: What other papers are related to this one? Can you connect it to something else?
  • Correctness:


494 reads

The second pass: Grasp the content

Duration: Can take up to 1 hour. 


  •  Read the complete paper. 
  • Ignore details such as proofs or equations. 
  • Take some notes at the margins of the paper and write down the key points.
  • Look at any type of illustration in the paper like tables and fig...


448 reads

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The Third Pass: Virtually re-implement the paper

Duration: Can take up to 4-5 hours if you're a beginner(you should carefully consider if this step is worth your time). 


  • Read the paper in its entirety and question every detail.
  • Make the same assumptions as the authors and re-create the work from scratch. You ...

GAP Goals: The Three Pillars

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