One struggle I have faced with graduate school revolves around reading; am I reading enough? Am I reading enough about the things I should be reading enough? What are these things I definitely should be reading……and it goes on.
This summer around the dinner table with our research crew on Southampton Island, after a long day of hiking and soaking up the wonders of the Arctic tundra, we got on the topic of “have you read this?”. Books, articles, papers, not to mention the seemingly endless news feeds (apps on your phone) you can have at your fingertips.
Am I reading enough? Am I tapping into these sources sufficiently for what is expected of me? Though this post seems to be introduced more as a “self-doubt” piece, that is not its purpose. After some discussion with the research crew, I took mental note of a few recommended reads and went online several weeks later to buy a few more books. Though most peer-reviewed publications can be read online, there are a number of other ways to get information pertaining to your area of study. I am fond of books that are written about birds but don’t have to be scientific articles or textbooks. For example,
The Narrow Edge is written by the lovely Deborah Cramer.
Here are some sources, some interesting books and sources to find the kind of information biologists are likely using, or are already using and I’m late to the game:
- Obvious; Google Scholar. I can find more papers there for free than I can through my own University.
- Talk to your colleagues. I found out more about books and interesting reads that are applicable to my discipline than I ever got from random searches.
- Conferences; maximize what you can get from these events. Go to as many talk as possible, write down applicable citations and talk to people about their work. You will learn more in a couple days at a conference than weeks in a library.
- Quirks and Quarks the Podcast. You don’t even have to read, they tell you cool stuff so you are free to do other things at the same time, like knit. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks
- **Google Scholar Alerts, you can create target phrases or words that are of interest to you and when a new publication comes out it sends a notification to your inbox with the link. HINT: If there are important research scientists in your discipline that you want to keep tabs on and they aren’t on your research gate account, add their name as the target word!
- For those of you with fancy android or iphones, apps are definitely a fun route. Just search podcasts or other apps.
- Get on those email lists for your target journals! They will let you know when things are fresh off the press and you can quickly scan titles to see if the topics apply to you. I was late getting on this and wished I had started sooner……
Really though, I think I will always be behind and I’m not really fitting enough to provide reading sources but I am a graduate student currently surviving her PhD. When I’m working full time, I seem to spend more time reading and responding to emails than anything else. However, time management means I have to force myself to get a Google Scholar search done every once in a while. I also like to read actual books away from my computer screen, equipped with coffee cup, blanket and warm lap dog during a good reading sesh. In that case, hit up the library or request Amazon or Chapters gift cards and get the books in your hands. Fitting reading time in will be that much easier.
Lastly, if your supervisor gets hard copies of applicable journals in the mail; ask them if you can borrow them.