A “one pager” is a succinct summary and commentary on either a book or journal article. It is intended to establish that you can grasp the key points of a particular work, and contribute constructively to scholarly dialogue (for advice on how to read an academic paper, see Peter Klein). I first encountered the one pager through Roger Congleton, and have found it to be a highly effective training device to interpret information. As the name suggests, it must be kept to one page.
There are four parts to a one pager:
- Provide an accurate citation of the book/article
- Include your own name and relevant details.
- Use three bullet points to provide a holistic summary. Each paragraph should be short, and pick up on a critical part of the thesis. If you’re reading the text with a specific reason in mind (e.g. a literature review on a particular subject), the summary can be focused on that aspect of the piece.
- Use three bullet points for constructive analysis. These might be aspects of the manuscript that you didn’t understand, sections you feel could/should be expanded, or parts you outright disagree with. The three points should demonstrate that you can critically assess the material, think creatively about how to build upon it, and draw upon a wider knowledge of the subject.
As with most skills you can develop your ability to write a one-pager with practice. It’s a method to focus your attention whilst reading an article, and therefore – I find – can drastically reduce the time it takes to absorb material, and increase the effectiveness of your reading.
Also see: Business One Pagers
This outline is based on advice from Pete Boettke. To some extent it’s a comment on best practice, but it also tries to map out a replicable blueprint. This is targeted at writing up a piece of traditional empirical work (i.e. testing a hypothesis) for publication as a journal article. Book chapters or theoretical papers have different foundations. If the empirical methods are non-quantitative, section 3 should include a discussion/justification.
Section 1: Introduction [2 pages]
- Why is this topic important? Why should the reader care about your contribution?
Section 2: Lit Review [5 pages]
- What has everyone said on this topic? What is missing?
Section 3: Methods [5 pages]
- How are you able to fill in this missing gap?
Section 4: Results [5 pages]
- What have you discovered?
Section 5: Conclusion [2 pages]
- Recap what was done, how you did it, and why we’ve learnt something
Also, to bear in mind:
- Inputs and outputs – look at your references. They should reflect your target publication. If you’re citing books, you’ve written a book. If you’re predominantly citing journal articles in the same field as you’re writing in, you’re on the right lines
- Structure of production – it takes a lot of time to switch between a policy paper and a journal article. If you can submit a paper within 6 months of a start date that is doing well. Don’t try to rush the end result; focus on continual progress.
- The Phenomenon: what is the object of study?
- Outcome: define the outcome and determine the binary conditions (i.e. what constitute presence/absence)
- The degree of analysis (which is flexible)
- What are the theories we wish to test?
- Determine the key variables as mentioned by those theories (as well as their binary conditions)
- Collect data on cases and create the truth table
- Reduce and perform Boolean analysis
- Factoring, if required
- Edit, revise, edit, revise, etc
For more, see Charles Ragin, “The Comparative Method“.
The primary objective of a literature review is to summarise and synthesise the available research on a given topic. It establishes that you are aware of the relevant literature, and have the capacity to understand it and set it in context.
Planning the Literature Review
- Define the topic
- Conduct a broad search to assemble a long list of references
- Evaluate the long list to create several key references
- Pay particular attention to the academic merits of each publication
- How prestigious is the journal that it was published in?
- How much impact has it had on future work?
- How renowned is the author?
- But don’t neglect less established work that you feel has significant merit
- Analyse the findings by identify key themes
- Group references into similar categories: you should analyse themes (ideas) rather than each individual paper (sources)
- Each section in the literature review should focus on a separate category
- These categories can be organised in different ways
Writing it Up
- Set the scene
- The introduction should define the key topic and outline the basis of your argument
- Be wary of chronology
- For each category introduce papers in a chronological order, especially if using phrases such as “in response”, “then”, “leading to” etc.
- Be critical, not merely descriptive
- A descriptive literature review merely describes the key points of each paper
- A critical literature review demonstrates your personal judgement
- What are the limitations of the papers?
- What are the holes in the literature?
- Illuminate the interplay between the literature
- Which papers are parts of a similar/common trend?
- Which papers are critical of each other – and what are the strengths/weaknesses of each side?
- Highlight controversy
- Be succinct
- A good literature review will summarise a complex argument in one sentence. An excellent literature review will arrange those sentences so that the simplification doesn’t lose the context/meaning.
- Use references and quotations for supportive evidence
- When you refer to a concept that is associated with one particular paper, cite the paper
- Use quotations to support your points
- Short quotations can be made within a paragraph
- Longer quotations should be a separate paragraph
- You must document all sources. If in doubt always provide more information than you think is necessary
- Be wary of Ariel Rubinstein’s warning, relating to interdisciplinary research, that “often the citation is just intended to demonstrate the breadth of our horizons” (2012, p.200)
- Draw things together
- The conclusion should summarise the key argument and draw your analysis together
- Provide a full bibliography
- Revise the document, edit, re-read, revise, edit, re-read etc…
- Remember: “All writing is work, and all work is work-in-progress” James Buchanan