I remember seeing somewhere that the idea proposed in the latter part the 20th century that reading as a skill was going into an irreversible decline hadn’t reckoned on the invention of the smart phone. It is, they argued, more uncommon to see someone not reading as they walk down the street now that we are all plugged in to the world wide web almost continually. Where people used to turn on the radio or watch the television or read the newspaper first thing in the morning, now they check Facebook and Twitter as soon as they wake up. I know that it is part of my routine.
In that sense, we are constantly reading. However, as a doctoral student reading is something that we have to be more aware of, and an activity that we need to participate in critically. I follow many academics and other professional writers on Twitter, Blogger and WordPress and it can be easy to convince myself that this kind of reading is productive. In a sense it is, but while many of the blogs and tweets and links can be intellectually stimulating, they are still procrastination. More often than not they are procrastination not from writing the thesis, but from reading for the thesis.
As Pat Thomson points out in her blog on reading as a doctoral student, there exists a plethora of advice and support for building up a good writing routine, but very little for building a good reading routine:
“If you’ve not had a reading routine before, and if you’re not used to working with large quantities of texts, then setting one up may not be as simple as it seems. It may not be too different from starting up an exercise regime or changing eating patterns. It’s something new. You haven’t done it before. It’s easy to start out with good intentions and then lapse and feel guilty. Unless you have enormous will power (and you know if this is the case this better than anyone), starting any new routine can benefit from support.”
Many of the comments on Thomson’s post mention something that I have heard a lot from other students and that I recognise in myself: downloading/printing a large amount of journal articles or papers, and letting them pile up. I have a rather healthy stack of papers that I have found and not yet found the time to read. All despite finding the time to read many other, non-thesis related stuff. I call the time I loose to this falling down the rabbit hole, hence the category of a lot of posts on the blog.
As with writing, this can be remedied by a properly structured routine. Part of this routine for me is going to be posting up here blogs about what I’ve read each week, and a little bit about the most interesting aspects of these. I’ll do this every Sunday in the Weekly Reading Update. In addition to this, I’ll also be joining in @MomentsofGuffaw‘s #Read1Mon on twitter, where we all take an article from our backlog and tweet about it.
What about you? How do you stay motivated to read? How does your reading routine work?