Overwhelmed by your lit review? How to read less and get away with it

This is a post for any researchers who might be feeling:

That they simply don’t have time to read enough
That their ‘to read’ pile is getting bigger and bigger, no matter how much you read
(Being totally honest) their reading choices are shaped by fear of missing out (FOMO) – or fear of getting caught for not having read something.

I know these feelings all to well.

For those of you who prefer a video, all the key points below are in a lovely 10 minute video on my YouTube channel.

The ideas that follow are very much shaped by what I heard by colleague Julie Robert explain to research students a few years ago. The four labels are not my invention, I heard them from her.

Don’t read lots, read smart

I eventually recognised that my reading practices were not serving me well. I was reading based on FOMO, rather than based on my needs. I was defaulting to reading all articles from start to finish, or when I skipped sections I felt extremely guilty.

What I needed was a way to spend quality time with the literature, but to make sure I wasn’t wasting time either.

Reading smart isn’t about just reading the same number of books, papers, paragraphs or words in less time. It is about choosing purposefully how to spend that time.



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Academic spy networks (and why you need one)

First, a fire update! Thank you SO much for your messages of love and support in response to my last post. Thank you to everyone who donated to our P2 mask appeal: it was wildly successful and is now closed. We gave out an astonishing 3500 masks and donated the excess (some $1500) to our local aboriginal community.

So far I’m pleased to report I have survived the Australian ‘Red Summer’ with home and family intact – so far. It’s been eventful since I last updated you. On the 20th of January, golfball sized hail stones hit the capital and came down particularly hard on our ANU campus:

The 10 minute storm was ferocious almost beyond belief.  It broke car windows, windows and skylights all over campus. 80 out of 120 campus buildings were damaged. Luckily no one in the ACT was killed, but a few people have broken bones from falls.

Seeing disaster movie hail in real life is pretty terrifying, even if it’s only real time social media fragments. I happened to be in New Zealand during #hailmageddon, at a lovely writing retreat run by the famous Helen Sword on Weihake Island. I felt a bit of survivor’s guilt while I contemplated the clear blue skies around me:

The writing break was good and productive, but I came back to…

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