Advice when reading anything

This is the best advice I’ve seen when reading a paper (or really anything non-fiction):

“Assume that everything you read is bullshit until the author manages to convince you that it isn’t. If you do not understand something, don’t feel bad – it’s not your fault, it’s the author’s. He didn’t write clearly enough.” (from http://www.eeb.yale.edu/stearns/advice.htm)

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Hurry up and get it done!

As I’m sitting here, on a beautiful sunny Saturday (which is pretty rare here), I am running my experiment and wondering, why am I here?  Not in a big picture, philosophical why am I doing research why am I here, but why am I in the lab on a Saturday when I can do this later?

Then I realize, I prefer to do things one at a time, and that I’m a suck it up and finish it kind of person.

Right now, I’m scheduled to finish my experiment at the end of July/beginning of August.  This involves being in the lab almost every day*.  I realize that I could probably run my experiment during the week or only 6 days a week, leaving a day a week for life (read: laundry and grocery shopping), but I’d much rather just get it finished.  Note, that my experiment doesn’t actually require me to be in every day.

I realize that I totally could burn out at any moment… which is the major drawback to my method.

I see it as a tradeoff, I could hurry up and finish, which would lead me to finish collecting data sooner.  This would then let me analyze it earlier and possibly write it up sooner.  However, I might just go crazy doing it.  If I set up a schedule with regular breaks, it may take me longer to collect data, and therefore take longer to do all of the other stuff, but I might keep my sanity.  Either way it has to get done.

I also apply my hurry up and get it done with other things too, such as grading, doing laundry (because I also let it pile up), and reading.   Maybe I just suck at balancing multiple things at once…

What do you prefer to do?  Do you run full speed on one thing, like me? Or do you pace yourself?

*those days that I’m not in the lab, I’m going to a wedding and moving (note to self: start packing)

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How to read THE LITERATURE

Since discovering Mendelay, I’ve had more motivation to read papers.  At least I did until I started TAing again.  But let’s assume that I’ll still make time to read papers.  When I open up Mendelay to read, I’m not exactly sure what I should be reading. I’m at the end of my first year/beginning of my second year and have a general research topic.  Some days, I read papers on my study species.  Other days I read papers on a concept or idea I want to study. Some days, usually days where my brain feels like mush and I don’t feel like reading, I’ll read a paper on whatever sounds interesting at the moment.

I should probably have a strategy because 1) how on earth can I learn about a topic thoroughly if I don’t read a lot on it and 2) I will eventually need to start studying for candidacy.

But what should my system be?  Should I read by author/lab? By species? By topic?

Do you have a method for getting through the literature?  If so, what is your method?

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Addicted to collecting papers

My name is Elizabeth and I may be addicted to collecting papers.  Seriously, I spend more time finding/downloading papers that I do reading them.

I think part of the reason I do this is because I’m still narrowing my research area.  But I have to admit, there is something satisfying about adding another PDF in my ‘Papers to read’ folder.

Downloading papers also feels productive, though it isn’t.  I haven’t read most of them yet, and every time I do read a paper, I find 10 more to download.

So I’ve decided that I am not going to find any papers for a month.  Unless my adviser tells me to, because what the adviser says trumps anything I say.

Do you find yourself endlessly downloading papers? If so, how do you stop? Or at least narrow down what you save?

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Coming out of my hole

Wow, I suck at this whole blogging thing.  How long has it been? Months?

Anyways, I have decided to come out of my hole to share what I’ve discovered recently.  While procrastinating running some experiments and reading some comments on another blog (http://thesiswhisperer.com/) I discovered a free pdf organizer called Mendeley.

In the comments it had rave reviews, so I decided to give it a try.  I’ve only been using it a couple of weeks, but so far I like it.  It automatically retrieves info so you don’t have to manually enter things like author, title, year.  I can also write my notes and keep it with the paper.  Before I would have to have the pdf open and a separate word document.  That works well too, but I sometimes found it to be annoying to have so much open at once.  Also there I would have to remember where I would have both files (which would be fine if I were organized, but I’m not.

Do you use software to organize your papers?  If so, what do you use?

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And I’m still grading

Seriously, I graded until midnight last night and I’m back at it again.  But at least I have found this:

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Pile of grading

I am buried under a pile of grading and I can’t get out!  Any suggestions on how to get unburied or things to make the time at least seem faster would be appreciated!

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