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Reading is writing: To situate your work within the broader literature, you need to READ

I want to make something perfectly clear, particularly because it looks like people want to jump and “do research”, “collect data”, “analyse things” and would rather do any of those rather than read. READING IS WRITING. You NEED to read, to be able to situate your work.

If I am reading an article inside my office, I AM WORKING. I am not relaxing, I am not wasting time, THIS IS PART OF MY JOB. I used to work with consultants who were VERY time-based. They would see me read an article and tell me “which project are you billing your time to?”

I was like “uh, I NEED to read in order to create a literature review from where I can provide a framework for your consultancy project, you dumb-a$$”. Those hours you spend meticulously scribbling notes, making sense of how one piece of writing connects with another, are RESEARCH.

Would it be nice to be able to just crack my laptop open and have words automagically appear on screen and make sense and connect all the different bodies of literature I need to, and VOILA, produce a paper in 3 days? Hell yeah. I totally would love that. That’s not how it works.

Reading IS PART OF YOUR JOB. You don’t need to justify that some days, you get to the office, crack a book open, and read for hours. This IS work. Other days, you may get to analyse data. Others, you may get to write full paragraphs. This job is very varied. BUT YOU MUST READ.

ADDENDUM; Reading should NOT be something we do on weekends, evenings, and on our spare time. It’s WORK. It should be done during working hours. I worked for a terrible boss who would say “you should be running experiments right now, you can catch up on reading at night”. And we need to stop feeling guilty about reading. I feel the guilt, myself. I have to return an R&R on a topic that isn’t water conflicts, but I came across a couple of really key journal articles yesterday, and I have to present a paper on this for a major conference in a month.

Public Policy Books

Do I feel kind of guilty about reading this and other’s papers today? Yes, of course I do. I’m human and feel the same things you all do. BUT my major grant-funded project IS on water conflicts, and these papers did help me move this project forward. I’m the PI. So even if I devoted 1-2 hours to water conflicts over the course of a day or a week, I can still work on my other stuff the rest of the day (or the week). BUT these are important papers and I HAD TO process them.

Now, you may ask – how do I keep up with the literature. Well…

What if not everything I read can be skimmed? I use the acronym “TBRMID” = “To Be Read More In Detail” and add it to the article. That’s how I note articles I quickly skim using AIC when I realize I must come back to them.

Again, the core point of this blog post remains the same I’ve advocated for over the years: READING IS WRITING.

“You learn to write by writing, and by reading and thinking about how writers have created their characters and invented their stories. If you are not a reader, don’t even think about being a writer.”
― Jean M. Auel

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Posted in academia, reading strategies, writing.

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