I started my PhD in October. So far I did some lab work but primely I had to write a literature review.
I have finished it, but I had a real problem with effective reading, collecting information, etc. At first it was ok, but then when I gathered hundreds of papers I got totally lost. It is just a beginning so I am not panicking, but my supervisor has already told me that I need to write another review soon.
I would like to ask you, if you have any tips how to read papers, make notes, organizing information, etc.
I couldn't find any similar post to that one so I hope it will be helpful for many of us!
haha my no 1 tip = don't read them! read the abstracts.
If I find the abstract interesting I *may* bother to read the rest, but not often :p
I mainly read and write at the same time - I'll start a little essay on the topic I'm reading. I never read in isolation - I always have a word doc on the go writing out the argument that all the papers are making and any gaps I spot.
i assume you're in the sciences. As a general rule: read the last paragraph of the introduction first, this will immdediately tell you exactly what the paper is about. then read the first paragraph of the discussion. this will summarise what was done in the paper and the principal findings...usually. skim everything else and there's nothing wrong with re-reading.
also, be clear about why you're reading a particular paper, that way you can extract exactly what you want from the paper.
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Whatever you do don't print out ever single paper and sit down to read them to see if they might be useful. I once saw a phd student doing that and she was at the end of her thesis. Think of all the paper see must have wasted.
Anyhow yeah I normally go - title, abstract, end of intro para, conclusion, references, first and last line of each para. If it floats my boat then its in.
Dont worry about you have to read everything in case you miss any litlle kernel of inspiration or information. If its important you will come across it again cross referenced somewhere else.
Fight the lit review guilt of not reading everything. We're learning to be efficient researchers and that means identifying the value of something quickly, not dedicating silly hours reading everything.
And definitely write as you read! Great way of assimilating ideas and forming your own view on the literature out there. Plus if you put on the spot for work by your supervisor then you can show him or her all the writing you are doing!!
I started my science based PhD the same time as you. I still haven't finished my lit review and I have a deadline end of this month. Of course, I am already freaking out... I also don't know how many words it should be, I got a rough guideline of 25 pages, which I have already written and still half of the things I want to say are missing. So, I am probably going too broad, not focusing enough? On the other hand I don't know where to stop focusing, how specific the specific should be? How many important articles shall I include?
I am not a lazy lazy student, I really put in long hours almost every day. In my previous research experience, I made a complete mess of my lit review, read all the articles ever written by mankind, didn't keep any notes, then I forgot all of them, and read them again.
The method I use now that I am wise, to keep notes is writing half a page for every article I read, so I can easily recall it. I use Notebook in Word Office, I attach the article, write key things I want to remember (sometimes I copy paste important tables too). Most important I write the reference first on the top of the page and it is very easy to copy paste. I don't use Endnote, I fear these programs that the day you desperately need them they start responding. I take my comfort in having to do lots of manual work. I categorise them in folders, and draw a table where I put key results easy to compare.
I do a class with my first years on reading - I start off asking them if they all know how to read adn of course they look at me as if i am mad. We then go on to discuss tha various types of reading and by the end they realise that they don't actually know how to read. I found a really good resource on skimming, scanning etc which I will try to find again. In the meantime here is an extract from my lecture notes (these are accompanied by images of where in the text you are looking for each reading style but I don't know how (if we can) to attach an image.
Surveying the text means looking at the table of contents, at chapter headings, at summaries or abstracts, for an overview of content and purpose.
Skimming means looking over a text quickly, looking for key words, headings, tables and illustrations, to get the gist of the content. Never start to read without first quickly skimming through the text to get an idea of what it's about.
Scanning means looking quickly through the text to find a specific piece of information. If you only need a specific piece of information, scan the text to find it. Don't read the whole text in detail.
Reading for detail
Although skimming and scanning are vital reading techniques, you will also need to read texts thoroughly for detail.
Some of the texts you will have to read are likely to be quite complex, and you may not fully understand a section on the first reading. This is very common. It happens to everyone, lecturers included, so don't worry about needing to reread a text.
It often helps to formulate some questions about the topic before you read, so that you are reading for a purpose. This is an active reading technique. Active reading can help you get the most out of text when you are reading for detail. Being clear about your purpose in reading. Why are you reading a particular text? What are you hoping to find? Questioning as you go along. Thinking about the reasons for something, or the consequences. Linking new information you read with things you already know. Thinking critically about what is being presented. Just what are you expected to believe? Is there sufficient evidence? Is another interpretation possible?
There are lots of resources online (eg at open university) on the various readig techniques.
I'm into my 5th month now and I've had to read heaps of papers as you can imagine... does anyone else forget what they read? It freaks me out that supposedly all this information I'm reading is supposed to be in my head, but at the same time if you ask me to recall something, I really struggle!
More importantly though, there is talk about writing as you go, and my supervisor advised me to have an outline of my literature review and add to it as I read each paper, can anyone clarify on that? How do you go about reading and writing exactly?
Dr wannabe - I wrote little essays (anywhere between 2k and 7k words) on each section of the literature. I still haven't written my proper lit review but have about 40k words from which I will summarise a lit review.
i found this the best way, as I could read all round one subject, get it all down and then move on to the next subject.
I *should* have gone back to these with any recent references that came out (i.e. 2009/2010) but I didn't - haha oh well!
I wrote a PGR Tips on reading papers: http://www.vitae.ac.uk/CMS/files/upload/PGR%20Tips%20issue%2045%20reading%20research%20papers.pdf
but reading all the fab tips on here I am considering a remake!
for keeping track of what you've read, use a good citation manager (again i wrote a PGR Tips on that once...): http://www.vitae.ac.uk/CMS/files/upload/PGR%20Tips%2027%20Feb09%20citation.pdf
Looks like I better start getting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard as it is these days before my reading material gets overwhelming.
I'm going to start to think of a few subject areas that are most pertinent and go from there.
the other thing I have to confess is that when I wrote up (not having been the very best at writing as I went along) and put all my paper copies together I found quite a few double copies of papers I'd read, so I'd obviously found them twice separately and with different parts highlighted! I think the enormous amount of reading (and assimilating) is a defining part of a doctorate in most cases...
Welcome to the forum.
I read abstract, start of discussion, then conclusions then methodology ... then if its grabbed me I read the top and tail of each major section. Then if i'm still grabbed I may even read it all.. then if its still interesting i print it out.. i find reading on screen really irritating but i do worry about the trees.
You're right it is useful for us to know that we're all cheating :-)
I read the abstract first, if that grabs me or it is relevant then I read the introduction and the conclusion. After that I put it in either of these folders: ***=very important, must read; **=seems relevant, skim read and see; *=not directly relevant, but might be an interesting read. So far this system has worked quite well for me.
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