Read, read, read

I read a lot, I’m a reader.  Thank all the gods.  I have SO MUCH in my (clearly) overly ambitious reading list in Endnote that I’ve embarked on an equally ambitious plan.  I’m setting a goal of 10 papers a week for the next three months while I’m writing up my confirmation of candidature.  I should be able to do it (I hope!) as I’m an embarrassingly fast reader, so at least I can physically get through it.  It’s a total of 130 papers, which sounds like a lot.  I have over 500 things in Endnote at the moment, so if I can manage to stick to it for longer, I might get through most of it!


Bonus pic of my work calendar!

It took me a while to settle on how to approach reading.  I’m a perfectionist, which is shit sometimes, so I just kind of left engaging fully with a very long list of articles and chapters in the too-hard-because-I-can’t-perform-it-perfectly basket.  That’s a big basket.  I try and deal with my must-be-perfect-or-just-sit-frozen-in-inaction-and-binge-watching-Blacklist tendencies by making a good enough job be 1) okay; and 2) doable.  As in, I have to get in to the tiny boring details.  Which I’m now going to overshare with you all.

I tried to read on my iPad but for key papers (I’ve got about 50 that are pretty central so far) I need a hard copy.  So I am a repentant tree murderer.  I print them out.  I am hoping to move to the iPad soon though, it’s way easier, and I read books on there via Kindle so I don’t really know what my brain’s issue is!

I want to read at least 10 papers a week, and these can’t all be super hard papers because I might be dedicated, but I’m also a delicate flower.  So I try and pick a mix of “get the gist of the work” papers, that don’t need a lot of notes, just a summary, and at least 5 “OMG I have to read and synthesise this or I will totes fail my PhD” papers.  I should point out this doesn’t include anything else I read on my way through the week, like if I’m working on a section and dig through literature as I go.  I’m talking more about getting through a large body of literature that I want to fully understand and appreciate before I finish up.  The body of work that will be the fields I want to contribute to as a researcher and in my career.  Anyway, back to stationery, which frankly is the highlight!

I have nice box that my 10 papers fit in, with my pen and highlighter.  And I have a clipboard for home.  Because I like them and there’s nothing like a clipboard for making you feel super smart and organised.  Try it!

I’m writing up notes for each paper in Scrivener as I go, so I can more easily shift and flesh out notes to be in any final writing.  I posted a little while ago about working at home with kids, and I think having a reading set up at home will mean I can just have this task set for quieter afternoons, and a chunk of weekend time.   The whole project also fits my have a checklist of shit to do goals (“Write it down, check it off”), which is nice.  Might as well work with it as against it.


Early on in my candidature, I made a big change in the writing program I’m using.  I am giving Scrivener a go.  It has Mac and Windows versions that so far seem to play nicely with each other.  I’m foreseeing issues with citation, but it’s designed to export into Word, so at the moment I’m planning to use it to get chunks of writing and ideas out, move them about, and build up chapters organically.  At the moment, I’m writing ideas and chunks of text related to papers or key issues, but I think I’ll export those into Word so I can tie in Endnote.  Law requires footnoting as well, so I don’t want a giant headache at the end of my thesis if something doesn’t translate, and the way citations look in Scrivener are really distracting for me, so I prefer to write draft text in Word.

There are some great posts on adapting academic work, specifically a thesis, to Scrivener, I liked these ones:  start at The Thesis Whisperer, she has several posts on it you can find from there; there’s a detailed technical overview at Qualitative Research; and lots of fancy tips and tricks (colour coding!) at A Law Unto Herself.


Some folders from my “Doing a Thesis” Scrivener binder

I run two main files (binders) for my thesis.  One is a kind of “how to” mash of things that I call “Doing a Thesis.”  And the other one is the Thesis itself, which sticks to folders on the research questions, my chapter headings, and a folder for my confirmation document and presentation.  I like it so much I actually started a binder for my personal stuff, reading I’m doing, notes about parenting stuff…  there’s a reason I’m a researcher, people!

I’m finding Scrivener great for jotting ideas and keeping information, and having confidence you’re not going to forget anything.  I could use something like Things or Evernote, but I like that in Scrivener I can drag chunks of written work around, and see ideas, people, papers, and links in the same program.  I’ve used it for everything from snippets of writing, cards for people I want to contact, organisations I’ve joined, as well as the basic stuff of outlining chapters and my confirmation document.  It’s great for holding ideas, not just text.  If you haven’t already had a look at it, I’d give it a go.