As I settle into the final phase of my graduate training, one of the biggest outstanding issues for me, is one that I think I should have mastered years ago. My challenge is to figure out how to effectively and efficiently read the literature.
When I sit down to read a journal article, it goes one of three ways. The most common way is that I attempt to read at my desk and I manage to continuously distract myself by checking email or bloglines, adding papers in Endnote, aimlessly surfing the web, or finding some non-pressing work to do instead. When I work this way it often takes me a good chunk of a day to get through an article (averaging 15-20 pages).
Realizing that read at my desk is a time-suck, my second alternative is to read at home in the evenings and weekends. Reading at home generally involves making myself some tea, getting comfy on the couch, reading about 2 pages and then taking a nap. Again, a horribly inefficient way to peruse the scientific literature.
My third option is to go to a coffee shop near campus, order a Chai and work on the paper and the tea at the same time. Generally this is the most time-efficient way for me to read (~1 hour per paper), but it has some significant drawbacks. Namely, there are always other things to read at the coffee shops (flyers, newspapers) and conversations to overhear. Plus, I have to spend money and intake non-nutritious calories.
It's not that I don't find the articles interesting and useful, but they are dense, often poorly written, and generally without that broad narrative arc that draws me so intensely into fiction. Given that I have an ever-growing stack of papers to keep up with for my thesis, for my various seminars, and for generally staying current on interesting topics and my field, I could really use some help in finding a more efficient and effective way to read.
Does anyone else have this problem? How do you cope with it? What are your effective and efficient strategies for reading? Help!!!!