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1. I take cursory notes--I highlight the important claims and parts of an argument, and keep track of thoughts or objections in the margins. My only "extensive" notes are what makes it into a paper.

2. Yes, write first. I wouldn't say there's such a thing as too much reading. Or, I don't think that's a helpful way of conceptualizing it. Instead, the question I'd ask is whether reading is impeding writing. If you feel like you have to read a few more things before you can start writing, that's a problem. It's also important to reiterate Marcus's point that writing helps to shape the pattern of your reading. You can't do that if you try to read everything first--you'll just exhaust yourself.


I have nothing useful to say about how much to read (probably not so much as OP suggests), but let me put in a strong vote in favor of taking and filing notes.

I type up 1-2 pages of notes on each paper I read, together with a paragraph summary, then file the notes away attached to the paper in Mendeley.

Two years later when it's time to cite the paper and I've forgotten everything about it, those notes are a lifesaver. In 1-2 minutes I remember everything I need to know about the paper, in words that make sense to me.

It feels like such a waste to put in the effort of carefully reading a paper, but not put in the extra ten minutes to keep that memory fresh.

I guess one thing about reading that's worth mentioning is that many people write lots of papers on the same topic(s). That way you can put in a lot of reading up-front to get to know the literature, but once you've done that you don't have to read a new literature for every paper.


I'd add to Postdoc's very helpful point that it is important not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good in note taking. My ideal notes are similar to those of Postdoc, but I have plenty of paper notes that are a paragraph or just a couple of lines summarizing a part of a paper that was of interest to me. Some reminder of what you've read is always useful, but these notes shouldn't eat into your writing bandwidth. Remember they are for *you*, and you should tailor them accordingly.

Also, sometimes I find that my notes are really a first pass at free writing for a paper.

inexperienced scholar

I am the original poster. Thanks everyone for your comments. Marcus, I am not actually a student, although I think of myself as a lifelong learner. I was a graduate student before I left due to illness and stress -- funded programs are stressful, especially with an undiagnosed illness I had at the time. Now I am an administrative assistant at my alma mater and I have quite a lot of free time during the summer. So I am rebooting an old paper of my mine on Husserl's theory of time-consciousness. I've presented it before at Duquesne and am connecting up with new philosophers too. I am friends with a retired faculty member whom I go dog-walking with on the weekends, and he gives me feedback on my work. And I am so serious about Husserl scholarship that I actually am taking German with my staff discount at a rate of about 100 bucks a credit hour, and I am meeting up with a Heidegger scholar who studied at Lueven (where the Husserl archives are) to talk about my paper too, in addition to joining an online Husserl reading group. Even though I'll never be a professional philosopher, I feel good that I can still do philosophy and am meeeting new people who like philosophy too (including a math lecturer at my uni who I am reading Simon De Beauvoir with). My question now, do you have any recommendations for areas for creative output? I always wanted to get a paper published, but I know my chances are slim. Given my circumstances as I've described them, do you have any tips for an aspiring phenomenology scholar? I saw a Medium blog called "A Schmidt Reader" where someone writes little commentaries on the philosopher. I thought about doing something like that. Maybe this is a completely separate query altogether, but it gives you a little more context. Thanks again everyone for your comments. Thanks, Marucs!

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