Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reading loads: Keeping up with the output

In a previous post we looked at the different levels at which you can be reading during your PhD studies. This post focuses on keeping up with the mass of output that is being published.

Flickr picture under CC license by thejester100
It's absolutely important to be up-to-date with your field as a researcher, but the multitude of papers can make it a daunting task. Here are a few ways on how to manage your reading load.

1. Use an RSS feed of your search item

You can use an RSS feed for a few keywords, to get automated updates of papers that are published using these keywords. As of now, I haven't been using this possibility, since I prefer to read per journal - but I am planning to implement this method into my reading strategy some time soon.

2. Subscribe for updates of your favorite journal

So far, this has been my go-to method. I have my clear and preferred journals in structural and bridge engineering, and I keep track of their new publications through e-mail updates. For example, as an ACI student member, I get an update when the latest ACI Structural Journal, latest ACI Materials Journal and Concrete International are published, including abstracts and links. I make it a habit to skim through these mails for interesting papers, and immediately print and save these for future reading.

3. Don't forget to explore the history

While trying to keep up with the present, it is important not to forget to read up on the roots of your field. I enjoy reading articles from the 1960s or earlier by pioneers in the field, and I'm always surprised at how many useful ideas can be found in there.

4. Don't just pile, actually read!

A challenge for myself: not letting all the unread papers accumulate into a massive pile, but actually read consistently. Currently, I have about 3 evenings per week that I have set aside some time to catch up with my reading, in which I try to read at least 2 to 3 papers to have that giant pile decrease.

Which strategies do you use to keep up with your reading loads?

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