[Research] Optimal Amount of Papers to Read

I often get lot of questions about research. So today I will answer the first question-

How many papers should a PhD student read in a week?

Good question-

Well, it depends on your discipline, program, and your area of research.

In accounting/finance/economics, reading 4-5 papers a week should suffice.

In anthropology or history, you will be easily reading 10-20 papers plus some books.

In engineering it really depends, papers tend to be shorter so you can be reading a lot of papers-

In terms of the program, some programs have more required reading. Your advisor may dump a batch of papers so it depends.

Finally, it really depends on the research area. One of my research area is initial public offerings (IPO). There is a HUUUUGGEEE literature in IPOs. It is a topic that many disciplines converge, including finance, accounting, economics, and management. So there is a flood of papers.

When I was first learning about IPOs, I had to read so much. I still see my dropbox folder exploding with papers- It was not easy but I learned a lot.

Now back to the question- How many papers should you read?

My advisor and some professors gave me the best answer.

Only read when you have to.

First, you have limited time and resources. You can read forever but you need to do research and publish.

Second, a lot of papers are old. By the time you are reading it, the follow-up research questions are already being answered and you won’t have many research questions to explore.

Third, reading many papers may bias your perspective. Slowly, you may take a certain point of view, which may not be always helpful in research. Remember, in research, you let the results speak 😀

In sum, you should only read papers when you need to.

Yes, it sounds vague. But after you read many papers, you will become wiser and discern. Good luck!

Thank You Jesus for all Your wisdom. Thank You God for enabling us to discover Your knowledge through research. Amen!

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