Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

An introduction to software development
An introduction to software development

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

8.1.4 Keshav’s first pass

Keshav writes (emphasis added):

The first pass is a quick scan to get a bird’s-eye view of the paper. You can also decide whether you need to do any more passes. This pass should take about five to ten minutes and consists of the following steps:

  1. Carefully read the title, abstract, and introduction

  2. Read the section and sub-section headings, but ignore everything else

  3. Read the conclusions

  4. Glance over the references, mentally ticking off the ones you’ve already read.

Keshav adds that at the end of the first pass, the reader should be able to answer ‘the five Cs’, which are:

  • Category: What type of paper is this? A measurement paper? An analysis of an existing system? A description of a research prototype?
  • Context: Which other papers is it related to? Which theoretical bases were used to analyse the problem?
  • Correctness: Do the assumptions appear to be valid?
  • Contributions: What are the paper’s main contributions?
  • Clarity: Is the paper well written?

Activity 18

Apply the first stage of the workflow to Keshav’s own paper: carry out a first pass and see if you can answer the five Cs, i.e., Category, Context, Correctness, Contributions and Clarity.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


We came up with the following. The five Cs are:

Category: Keshav’s paper analyses a process that researchers can use to read an academic article. The paper is an experience report of the reader, in consultation with some academic colleagues. It provides a contribution to practice.

Context: the paper does not include a bibliography of academic papers; rather, there is a list of website resources that relate the paper to other contributions to practice in this area.

Correctness: assumptions stated in the abstract are:

  • that researchers spend a great deal of time reading research papers
  • that this skill is rarely taught, which leads to wasted effort.

Contributions: the paper’s main contribution is that it outlines a practical and efficient three-pass method for reading research papers. There is a subsidiary contribution: it describes how to use the three-pass method to undertake a literature survey.

Clarity: as is evident from the headings used, the paper’s structure is generally logical. However, there is no conclusion, so we struggled to know what to do to complete the first pass.

At this point in the process, given the five Cs, you should be able to decide whether whatever paper you are reading is interesting and relevant. As for Keshav’s paper, since we will be using it for the remainder of this section, we can answer the question as to where it is interesting or relevant with a resounding ‘yes’ (whether you actually find the paper interesting is irrelevant at this point).