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Impressed by the Paperboy

I just wanted to give a plug to Philosophy Paperboy and say I don't find it too much information to read daily if I just look at the titles and maybe the abstracts of one or two papers I might be interested in. Doing that everyday only takes me about 1 minute (maximum 5, sometimes only several seconds) and I have discovered a lot of relevant stuff and think I have a better grasp of what is getting published in philosophy overall as well (I do skip past large chunks when I see they are from specialist journals that are definitely not relevant to what I work on).

current grad student

I think could be useful to keep track of the people, not just papers, so you are aware of the scholars who are currently working in your area. You can even reach out to them (particularly if they are in your department). Background conversations can be different than the published papers, and it's good to be aware of both. And when I have talked to people instead of searching on the internet, I have gained so much knowledge and perspective in a much shorter amount of time.

To avoid overwhelm, it's important to realize you can't read everything, and you just need to anchor your research in something. I recently heard advice that to write a paper as a graduate student, you only need to start with the knowledge of an undergraduate survey on the subject, not expert level. You pick a few papers to start off with and go forward developing ideas. Having ideas and writing has made it easier for me to get a grasp on a subject, instead of just worrying about all the research everywhere. But keep reading as you keep working, so the research and ideas keep getting better.

Also, you might not really have a new idea, but you can frame an idea in a new way, and that makes it interesting. You're looking for a small step, not something that's never been done before. So lowering expectations a bit can help actually get work done.


I look at upper-level UG and graduate course syllabi to get a sense of what's basic and what's important or current, and where to start looking. I cannibalized bibliographies. I also like to read a book that canvasses a good chunk of the area (there are a lot of these around, e.g. Moya's excellent _The Philosophy of Action: An Introduction_, or Routledge's new _50 Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Thought Experiments_ series). The key is to get a sense of what the issues are and where they come from, and what to read to engage with different issues.


Put another way, teach yourself the way others learn: by taking classes! Happily, there are tons of syllabi online.

an octupus

I have developed research interests in topics in my general area, philosophy of science, but a bit far from my topics of expertise. And I found it helpful to just try to enter a on-going debate. Thus, one does not need to master a huge body of literature at first. I am now a player in that debate. My first paper grew out of frustrations teaching the topic. I have also developed research interests in different fields - outside of philosophy. This took a lot more work. I had to teach myself a lot, and read a fair bit. But again, I am a regular contributing in one of these field. I think the easiest way to widen one's expertise is to built on what you are already doing. Work on something on the edge of what you already know well.

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