Reading journal articles

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Jason R. Blevins

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Sep 1, 2005, 3:21:17 PM9/1/05
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I'm wondering if someone can provide some suggestions on reading
journal articles quickly and effectively. I'm a second-year graduate
student in a PhD program in Economics. My courses are now very
specialized and consist almost entirely of reading papers and then
briefly reviewing them in class. The papers are very heavy on
mathematics and empirical results, which makes the process that much
slower.

I don't have any fears about jumping into a difficult article, but my
problem is the sheer number of articles I have to read each week. I'm
sure that many people here have been through this themselves at some
point. How do you handle it?

Jeff Kenton

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Sep 1, 2005, 3:34:26 PM9/1/05
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I'm afraid I don't have a labor-reducing tip for you. However, if the purpose of reading the papers is to synthesize any common threads among them, I have a decent tip for that. Namely, create a number of keywords that have meaning for you. Then when reading, block out (circle, highlight, bracket, etc.) passages and assign those passages one or more of the keywords in the margin of the text. For example, each mention of tax abatements might get TAXAB as a keyword. Then, when writing your summary, you can easily recall each of the instances of TAXAB by looking for that keyword in the margin. Unfortunately, the keyword creation procedure is very personal, but if you are fastidious and keep records of ALL your keywords and how they were used, it can become a very formidable tool for your benefit.

I have found that five letters is a good number for keywords, but I've seen people who use more or fewer.

Hope that helps,

Jeff
--
All intellectual improvement arises from leisure - Samuel Johnson

meg

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Sep 1, 2005, 5:41:06 PM9/1/05
to The Efficient Academic
What I did in grad school was read the introductory and concluding
paragraphs of any article plus the first sentence of each paragraph,
and nothing else. 90% of the time, that was more than adequate, and
when it isn't, the subsequent text will usually let you know you missed
something crucial ("Huh? What's this about dental floss?").

Dr. Eric Durbrow Ph.D.

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Sep 2, 2005, 12:33:44 AM9/2/05
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If you are studying for a comprehensive exam you might try
flashcards, either the paper kind or the computer-based kind with
Linert/interval learning abilities. Reading in the bathtub seemed to
help prevent procrastination. And above, reading selectively.

Jason R. Blevins

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Sep 2, 2005, 4:44:58 PM9/2/05
to The Efficient Academic
Dr. Eric Durbrow Ph.D. wrote:
> If you are studying for a comprehensive exam you might try
> flashcards, either the paper kind or the computer-based kind with
> Linert/interval learning abilities.

Yes, I have already found this to be useful. I use the large index
cards that are about a half sheet of paper. If I can manage to
summarize everything about a given topic on this card, then
usually know it pretty well just from making the card.

> Reading in the bathtub seemed to help prevent procrastination.

Haha! I love it. No option but to read what's in front of you.

> And above, reading selectively.

I think you're right here. Hopefully this will become easier
with experience. Thanks for the tips.

Jason

Jason R. Blevins

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Sep 2, 2005, 4:54:18 PM9/2/05
to The Efficient Academic
Jeff Kenton wrote:
> Namely, create a number of keywords that have meaning for you. Then when
> reading, block out (circle, highlight, bracket, etc.) passages and assign
> those passages one or more of the keywords in the margin of the text.

Sounds like a nice system. It seems like it could also be useful for
organizing references for a paper or dissertation. Thanks.

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