As a lifelong learner, I love reading new journal articles and white papers. However, as I begin my transition to the “real world” from graduate school, I’ve found it harder and harder to stay up on the latest research.
Lately, despite being swamped with both school and work, I’ve still managed to keep up my reading routine. Here are some of my tips to do so:
Get on Twitter
I found being on Twitter one of the best ways to find new literature to read. People I follow—who are relevant to my work—post and retweet interesting articles that many times I find relevant. I’ve found new people to follow, new organizations doing great work, and articles in other fields that I would have never discovered without Twitter. Sometimes these posts are not necessarily the latest breaking work but rather popular works that I would not have found without a very specific search.
Save Everything to Your To-Do List
When I’m skimming through my Twitter feed, I usually only have a few minutes before I need to tackle my next task. I’m also usually on my phone and can’t read the tiny text! So, during those skimming moments, any relevant posts I save to my Todoist to read for later. News articles are usually read the same day, later in the evening when I’m done working and relaxing in front of the TV. I save journal articles or longer pieces to my Dropbox in a monthly “To Read” folder.
Subscribe to Journal Updates
For every journal that I typically read, I subscribe to updates to learn about the latest papers they publish. I like to save these email subscriptions to the end of the week and then go through them in a batch. This allows me to use my university library website to get access to articles behind paywalls.
Have a “To Read” Folder
Every month, I create a new folder in my “To Read” folder. They’re named the current month and year (e.g., “7.17”). For that entire month, any longer reads that I would prefer to do on my computer or tablet. The figure shows my typical set-up for my “To Read” folder in my Dropbox. In the main folder, I have three main sub-folders: (a) monthly folders for the current month(s) of articles; (b) a set of folders of previous months’ articles that I need to add to Zotero, my reference management software; and (c) a set of folders of previous months’ articles that I have already added to Zotero. I could probably delete that last folder, but I like having them around and I am paying for the 1TB of Dropbox storage which is more than plenty for me!
Stay Caught Up on Reading
This is perhaps the trickiest part, and one I lapsed on recently. I found myself with four months’ worth of accumulated articles, probably totaling over 100 articles! I’ve since put myself on a daily reading regimen. One of my tasks every day has been to simply “Read Articles.” I have almost caught up and am currently reading June’s articles while collecting articles in July. In some ways I like the strategy of reading last month’s articles; this gives me a second chance to decide if it’s truly worth reading. If it’s not, I’m OK with just skipping that article and putting it in Zotero. I may not have read it fully, but the text is searchable and, if it was interesting and relevant enough for me to download it, it may become interesting and relevant in the future.
I also find this a very useful strategy in the literature review phase of research and evaluation projects. Currently, I am working on my dissertation so I have both “Read Articles” and “Read Dissertation” as to-do list tasks. I do both in the evening or in my spare time, and I prioritize the dissertation since I would like to graduate in a timely fashion. I did this successfully earlier when I had tons of reading I needed to do for revamping two other papers I am working on. Now I just need to apply these principles to my writing practice, too!