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1 to 15 of 21 PhD Forum Posts
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How much reading did you do in your first year?


User: Meep - 03 February 2018 20:02

I am an MPhil/PhD student in my first year (so still MPhil technically) in an arts/social science area.

I am trying to juggle work, health and my postgraduate studies like so many of us. Sometimes I find it difficult to know how much pressure to put on myself. Due to a problem with my head and neck, I feel that I read very slowly.

Could someone let me know a bit about how much time they spend reading and/or how many pages or different materials they have read in their first year?

I am collating material to base my lit review on, but I am also still searching for the best angle on my topic.

I'd really appreciate your input although I realise it will always be different. My institution does not have many PhDs at my level and/or on my campus...

User: newlease36 - 03 February 2018 22:49

It's really difficult to put a figure on how much you should read. Especially when in my field some articles are very brief and some theoretical papers or chapters that review the field can be very long and dense.

It is good that you are reading with focus I. E a clear purpose. I think rather than set an amount to read, maybe work out a deadline for yourself for when you want (need) this task to be finished.

As regards your neck problem I encourage you seek solutions on managing this as best you can...whether that's getting massages/ knowing when you need to a break/ swimming/I'd even give acupuncture a try.

I had back pain..trapped nerve. I took up swiming and yoga and solved the problem.

I'm sure you have already tried lots of things but I would encourage you to seek a way to manage this now. Even if you can't get rid of it completely, you need to find a way to manage it so as it doesn't interfere with your studies.
That may knowing how long you can push yourself and when to take a break(guilt free)..so that you still get a decent amount done without massive stress.

I know you didn't specifically ask for advice about your neck. But I feel 1st year is the ideal time to find what works for you.

Back to reading amount. I think I would work out how much time is required for teaching/taking class a week. So if that's 20 hours then out of a 40 hr week you have 20 for reading.

As a 5th year student if I could go back in time I would tell myself to treat it like 9_6 job . Have a routine and make time for excercise/being in nature/social life.

User: Meep - 03 February 2018 23:07

I am a part time student and I am in the UK, so I don't have classes. My supervisors recommend I spend 15-20 hours on my studies currently (next to a nearly full-time job).

Of this time, I find that admin, form-filling, contacting people and all that stuff can easily take 3-4 hours each week. That then leaves 16 hours at best.

As I do not have classes, I have to find other ways of getting input on how to do research. A combination of seminars, conferences, supervision meetings and a number of MOOCs and online webinars takes up on average 6 hours a week.

This leaves 10 hours.

Of those, working on a couple of papers for conferences takes up another 2 each week. Contacting people and setting up research interviews currently takes about an hour, while working on my research database and research design takes another hour each week at the moment (this kind of just has to fit in).

That leaves 6 hours for reading. At my current speed, I manage about 10 pages an hour if it is difficult, or around 30 pages an hour if it is fairly easy overview material. Now, that gets me to around 120 pages a week, which is nothing and it worries me. I feel that I should be reading 500 pages a week. But it is a question of 'how long is a piece of string' as there is always more to do, more that I could delve into... As my topic is interdisciplinary, there's no real way of determining when something is enough.

However, let us say I take 5 weeks of holiday in a year, that then means at the end of a year, I will have read around 5500 pages (only). This doesn't sound realistic to me. That's only 11,000 pages over a full year of studies. The introductions I have on my desk already cover about half of that. Then I have an equal amount of articles and book chapters, and this is before I do any serious searching in great detail. On the other hand, getting much above 40,000 pages and it starts getting ridiculous the other way around, but I have a feeling that I should not be able to write a PhD based on only 50 pieces of work.

User: newlease36 - 04 February 2018 00:19

Well on reading your reply all I could think was that reading speed seemed fine to me (I honestly have no idea what mine is..I think it varies with my mood/energy/interest).your reading speed seems very fast in fact to me.

The problem seemed rest squarely with the fact that you only have 8 hours a week for reading. I don't know what you can do about this. Your time on other activities didn't seem too off.
Maybe it's an issue you need to raise with your supervisors and see their suggestions.

User: Meep - 04 February 2018 00:27

Thank you for your reply. I suppose the problem is that despite being part time, the admin still takes roughly the same time, so proportionally more...

Interesting that you think my reading is fast....? Really?

User: newlease36 - 04 February 2018 00:45

Your welcome!! Instead of sleeping I'm reading back over my answers and realise I'm great at giving advice but crap at taking my own medicine!!Anyway to answer your questions....

1)Yes to me your reading speed seems good.

2) when you put it like that..ie half your time goes on admin...this seems like a problem. I think you need some creative solutions and you need to guard at least 15 hours minimum for reading and research related activities

If you could somehow shorten admin to 2 hours a week instead of 4. And maybe give 22 hours to phd instead of 20...already that gives you four more hours.

User: Meep - 04 February 2018 07:11

It's not that half my time goes on admin, only that being part time does not seem to reduce the admin loadto half that of a full time student...

As I work between 30 and 40 hours a week, and have a couple of disabilities, I cannot do more than 20 hours and I have weeks when I don't manage 20 hours. 😐 Unfortunately, there is currently a fair bit to do with forms and funding applications and especially one supervisor needs a lot of follow up before things happen. Similarly, admin staff need chasing.... but I will try limiting it a bit...

Thank you for your reply.

User: kenziebob - 05 February 2018 15:21

I'm also in my first year :)

My reading tends to come in bulks at different times - I'm doing lots of reading at the moment (like 8/9 hours a day) on one of the instruments we might use (such as past experiments, etc). Before this though I was doing a contents analysis. Before that I was doing a fair bit of reading surrounding a different but related issue.

So sometimes I literally spend all day reading, and others I don't spend 20 minutes reading!

Edit: I am in Psychology, if that's relevant

User: Meep - 05 February 2018 15:22

You are full time, kenziebob?

User: kenziebob - 05 February 2018 22:36

Yes :)

User: Meep - 05 February 2018 22:47

So, that would mean me reading 4-5 hours in a day. I don't often manage. If you read for 4 hours, how many pages would you read, do you know?

User: pm133 - 05 February 2018 23:25

There are two issues I can see here.

Firstly, it's about quality not quantity. Setting targets of pages per hour doesn't seem like a sustainable way to approach your PhD or any other aspect of life. To be honest it sounds a really brutal way to work.

Secondly, Comparing yourself to anyone else is going to drive you insane. This is your PhD, there isn't another one like it. Therefore it is irrelevamt how many papers other people get through.

It might be worth taking a moment to step back here and re-evaluate your thought process because what you are doing sounds damaging to your mental health.

User: Meep - 06 February 2018 08:16

Thank you for your reply, pm133.

If pages per hour were the only way I measured progress, I might agree with you, however, if I am trying to walk from Cape Town to Cairo and only have 3 years full time to do so, then there will be a minimum number of paces I need to take each day. I find that the best way of getting a rough idea of this is to speak to people who have walked there. This does not discard the notion that I may have to divert because it is flooded in a certain area or that I like the view from Mount Kilimanjaro and decide to enjoy the view for a few days...

If I learn that I have to walk 30 miles a day and I know that I am only capable of walking 5, then at this current point in time when I am still in the Cape Town suburbs, I may then need to come up with some aids to get to Cairo on time. Had I not compared or at least enquired about other people's experiences, how would I have known that at the end of 3 years, I would only have gotten to Tanzania. I would rather know that now instead of having to try to cram 1/2 PhD into the last 10 percent of the time available.

I don't find that brutal. It is just time management and planning.

Why do you think it is damaging to try to get an idea of these things?

User: kenziebob - 06 February 2018 16:09

Quote From pm133:
There are two issues I can see here.

Firstly, it's about quality not quantity. Setting targets of pages per hour doesn't seem like a sustainable way to approach your PhD or any other aspect of life. To be honest it sounds a really brutal way to work.

Secondly, Comparing yourself to anyone else is going to drive you insane. This is your PhD, there isn't another one like it. Therefore it is irrelevamt how many papers other people get through.

It might be worth taking a moment to step back here and re-evaluate your thought process because what you are doing sounds damaging to your mental health.

I completely agree with all of this -- the other reason why the amount that I read fluctuates so much is because some things I find much easier to process, others I find I have to think about to understand and so on. You can't read two papers of the same page count within the same time (at least I can't!) because you will engage with one more than the other, find more relevance, or find one simpler....

User: Meep - 06 February 2018 16:16

Okay. Nevermind. I shall continue with my 10 pages a day and expect that it will give me a PhD in the end.
1 to 15 of 21 PhD Forum Posts





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