Reading is one of those things that is crucial to your academic work but really hard to find time for. Furthermore, when you do find time to do it, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it’s been productive or not.
You might spend a lot of time reading with a particular project in mind only to discover that nothing you read is going to end up in what you are writing. Although that feels like you wasted several hours reading stuff you didn’t need to read, it was actually time well spent.
If you hadn’t read those articles, you wouldn’t know that they weren’t relevant. You would probably have spent time and energy worrying about whether you could really call what you are writing “finished” until you read them. The time spent worrying about it (and the difficulty that presents for focusing on writing) would be equal to or greater than the actual time spent thinking about it.
More importantly, there were good reasons you had those articles on your Must Read list. Even though you have decided that they are not relevant, reading and thinking about those articles has clarified your writing project.
Sometimes the impact of an article on your work is positive, and it gets cited. Other times, reading and thinking about an article helps you clarify that this is not the direction you are going in. The fact that you don’t actually write about that part of the research process in the final product (and thus don’t cite this work) does not mean that reading the article was irrelevant to the development of the project.
It is normal for some weeks to feel crazily productive and other weeks to feel like you are walking through quicksand. If you are making progress, no matter how slow, it was a good week.
What is research? engages with the question of whether reading “counts” as research
When does Reading count as Writing? helps you tell the difference between procrastinating by reading more and needing to read to advance this writing project
You need a writing practice addresses the issue of whether you write merely to produce articles
Edited May 30, 2016.