4 Ways to Read More as a PhD Student

You get your new syllabi for the semester.

You’re all excited to see what books will be used, what assignments you will have to do, and how much the class is going to require from you.

However, you turn to the weekly view and see ALL THE READING that is required for this class.

How will you get it all done? #How Sway

The first thing I want to say is
Yes, I’m yelling!



This is usually the hardest lesson for most who are new to a Ph.D. program to learn.

More reading is assigned than is expected to actually be read.

Look at the list as providing you more options for understanding a concept. Many different viewpoints exist on a concept. No more are things as simple a right and wrong.

The whole point of getting a Ph.D., it is to teach (or show) you that you have your own viewpoints. The program through classes and research activities give you practice on how to articulate your viewpoints in a more informed matter. Informed by the voices of other people who have been deemed “experts” in your field. People such as old White men who wrote

something of the top of their heads a billion years ago (IMO).

The theory is the more you engaged with a concept from various viewpoints, the more you will be able to uncover your own viewpoint. However, a lot of people merely treat reading assignments as separate items on a weekly to-do list with no connection to each other.

But who has time for all of that reading? You have a billion other things you need to get done than to sit around thinking about thinking. Am I right or am I right?

Truth bomb: That’s exactly what you signed up for!

4 Ways to Read More

Either way, I understand that life is busy. There are a lot of things that need to get done. Today, I’m going to share with you some ways to navigate getting all of your reading completed.

Set aside 3 hours a day, every day for reading.

This is for my readers who want to read every word assigned. Especially if you are not a speed-reader, you are going to need a significant amount of time to get the reading done. Your number may be different than 3 hours; however, the more you get into it, the more accurate you can plan out reading. It would be helpful to make these three hours the same every day.

Why three hours?

Reading is more than words on a page. Notes about the meaning of these words strung together need to be made. You have to organize it in a way that will help you remember this information for later. Unless you a photographic memory you will no doubt have some mechanism like highlighting important points, writing notecards, writing in the margins, typing out notes and thoughts, or some combination of all. The more you read, the faster you will get and it will still take a considerate amount of time to get it all done.

Speed-Reading Hacks

When I want to read something to get an idea of what the authors are saying and I don’t want to read word-from-word, I use this hack. Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph.

If the authors are true academic writers, their manuscripts will give all the important information at the beginning and end of each chapter, sections, and/or paragraph. That’s what makes doing academic writing difficult, tedious, and boring to some. However, as a reader, it makes following along easier and more efficient.

I also had a friend who would read every other word. These hacks require that your mind stay in the moment and focused on what you are reading. As you will likely be going faster than you normally would go, you are going to need to focus more. I especially use this hack when reading articles.

Pick some and leave the rest.

Honestly, you can generally get an idea of the reading if you are paying attention to class discussion. Still, in order to be a participating member in that discussion, you have to do some reading. That does not mean all of the reading.

Look at the list for the week, what stands out to you? Are there titles or authors that grab your attention? Pick those and leave the rest. Now the ones that you pick, you are going to want to read them and be very familiar with them. These selected articles will be what you use to inform your comments in class. You can choose to read these words from word or using one of the reading hacks like the ones mentioned above. You may feel like you are somehow cheating however these are your own thoughts of wanting to be perfect. Perfectionism is a disease.

Group Notes

You can find a few people, I say no more than three people, who you trust. Each person reads their assigned readings, take notes, and shares it with the group. This is for those who are not comfortable with not reading everything and do not have time to read everything.

It is critical for everyone to set their own expectations. The discussion should address such questions as:

When will you assign readings (each week, beginning of the semester)?
How detailed should the notes be?
What should be included?
How will you make sure it is equitable? Not all titles are created equal.
When will the notes be due to the group by?
Where will said notes be kept?
If someone else wants access to the notes, how will that decision be made?

Going with the flow and skipping this conversation will cause headaches and frustration later. Even if you are all friends and deeply love each other, a discussion of expectations is needed.

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There are four ways to attack your reading for the semester. How do you handle your reading? Is there anything from this article that you can take with you? Let me know in the comments.

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