Learning how to read again

Some months ago Alexandra wrote about how she had to ‘re-learn’ writing for a blog after spending most of her time writing for academic publications. I am faced with the converse: re-learning how to read academic publications after spending most of my time reading laymen’s writings.

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The Fight Against Overspecialisation

Busily burrowing along like moles, in the pursuit of our own little specialties, we are dizzily preoccupied with our specialized routine work. We lose the desire of coming once in a while upon the surface of the earth to take a stimulating look at the grand view of nature and its inspiring entity.

L.H. Baekeland in “The Danger of Overspecialization” (Science, New Series, Vol. 25, No. 648 (May 31, 1907), pp. 845-854)

There is no doubt that science is becoming more specialised. Go to a journal in your field and you might be surprised to find out how many papers are at least somewhat incomprehensible, which isn’t too surprising considering how many papers are actually published. For instance, a visit to the database SpringerLink shows that in the last week there, 358 new papers have been published in chemistry and materials science.

Is this increasing specialisation dangerous to graduate students? I claim that the answer is ‘yes’. (more…)

I am a hi-tech reader!

A few months ago I wrote about two distinct ways of reading your pile of papers for your seminars: using an e-reader or printing everything out. After starting as a hi-tech reader, I experimented with the paper solution last semester and in this post I will explain some of my feelings about this experience and the reasons why I moved back to PDFs this year.

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Are you a high-tech or a low-tech reader?

iPad (credit: apple.com)

Reading is one of the main activities performed by a grad student and academics in general. In my PhD program in management, i have to read between 12 and 15 papers a week for my courses this semester, let alone all other readings such as book chapters, leisure books, blogs, e-mails, tweets, facebook news feed, so forth and so on. Yes, I probably spend half of my awake time reading.

But let me focus on these 12-15 papers. Some are as small as ten pages, but some are fifty pages long; thus, let’s consider an average of twenty pages per article. That makes 300 pages of articles to read per week, about 3,500 per semester. So how should we “consume” all this information? (more…)

Robin Hobb: A fantasy writer out of this world

Most often, fantasy books share common plots with evil forces raging and courageous, supernatural individuals battling to save the world. The characters are mostly vampires, zombies or wizards and in the long run it gets tiring and boring. After reading numerous pale imitations of J.K. Rowling and Anne Rice, I long gave up on fantasy books. And wondered if a worthwhile fantasy book would come along and I’d be plunged once more in a world beyond me.

My call was finally answered when I stumbled on Robin Hobb ‘s marvellous books – Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven. Though she writes about a commonly fantastic beast probed by many other authors, she employs a different, yet refreshing approach with daring perspectives. Her unique settings and stimulating characters, which seemed so real to me, kept me awake for a couple of nights and even slipped into my dreams.

After reading these two books, the characters are still buzzing in my head and my heart is now firmly set on visiting the Elderling city of Kelsingra and Rain Wilds to enjoy life in the canopy trees, instead of Niagara Falls.

neerusha gokool baurhoo

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