Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.
Reading research papers, literature survey as one may call it, is one of the primary tasks of any research enthusiast, student, academician, or researcher. As we advance through our academic career, the complexity and quantity of content keeps increasing until the text books give up. The inflow of information is too rapid and too vast to be contained and sufficiency conveyed to the target audience, thus necessitating the need of specialized sources.
Research papers act as such specialized source and focus clearly on a topic, express rigorous discussions, distinguishes between reliable and biased sources, between authoritative and questionable statistics, and between fact and opinion. Peer reviewed journals take this even further by ensuring that submitted articles always meet a certain quality and standard criteria. It is one of the reasons that journals like nature, science are highly acclaimed.
Although, reading research papers often requires effort mostly because of highly condensed information and intended audience, but they provide a great insight into the design and thought process. They help you picture the whole setup and perform each and every step mentally (even reproduce in your lab!) and understand the big picture.
Consequently, in an effort to align my research interests and expand knowledge pool, I have started an initiative to try reading at least two papers a week. These papers will be selected based on my interest area, its popularity and faculty recommendations. Also, to ensure that I'm just not skimming through the content but trying to understand it, I'll try writing an one page review according to a fixed template. Following this template should ensure that I do a critical and creative thinking of the paper.
You can find a list of all the papers I have read along with the one page reviews at papers-per-week. Feel free to star and send in your comments. ^_^