Grad School Reading poll

Ok, my grad school classes start today (way to buzz kill my Talk Like A Pirate Day celebration, University of Cincinnatti). I am looking over all the required reading I’m going to have this quarter, and I think I’m going to cry. I have no less than 1200 pages to parse through in 5 weeks, all in pdf format (ugh!). An hour and a half into grad school and I already feel in over my head. Ah well, only 17,411.5 hours to graduation!

How much did you guys have to read in grad school? I’m trying to figure out if this is high because it is a social science, or fairly average.

I went to grad school in English Lit. The reading amount varied from semester to semester, but as I recall (I got my M.A. ten years ago), a typical week’s reading would be one novel, five or six short stories, and three or four critical essays. Call it 300-350 pages per week. If I took a poetry course, the page count would be less, but of course poetry is a different kind of reading and it would take just as long.

Come to think of it, I guess law school (which I finished in May) was “graduate school” too, but law school is different. In law school, I probably did less work than 80% of my classmates. Nonetheless, if I’d had my law-school study habits when I was in undergrad or grad school, I would run the world by now.

The short version: You can do it. At first you’ll be overwhelmed, but then you’ll adjust your schedule, and soon you won’t even feel burdened by it.

It’s a little hard to say, but my degree in psychology required thousands of pages a term. At the end of the first year I realized I had written over 300 pages, which at least assured me that I could write a dissertation. At the end of the first semester the program head asked who had read everything for the term. A few people raised their hands. He nodded and said that the faculty would increase the reading for the next term so that we would learn to skim and prioritize.

My degree in English typically included a novel per week plus critical commentary (articles or another book) per class. In some classes, it was two novels a week. This is how I acquired a long-term shoulder problem: Hours and hours of reading virtually everything written by George Eliot in Penguin paperback editions, moving only the muscles of my page-turning hand (we’re talking your 883 page tomes like *Daniel Deronda, * not just your comparatively svelte works like *Ethan Frome). * Nobody suggested that we skim.

I was in Chemistry and many of the courses I took were actually retakes. We didn’t get assigned reading but were expected to “keep abreast of the literature,” which basically translated into fights over freshly-printed journals.

God damn, I started grad school almost 30 years ago … :eek: Thanks for making me feel ancient.

IIRC, we averaged a book a week per class, plus other misc. bits and pieces – so three or four books a week. I was in sociology of religion, so it was mostly sosh theory and related foofoorah – I’ll tell ya this, Levi-Strauss doesn’t lend itself to skimming, either.

Grad school in international relations, I remember one class had a 19 page reading list. I know it was about 100 pages per day, but for some classes it was the first paragraph and last paragraph of each chapter and the conclusions (just assume they support their arguments, their academics!)

I don’t even remember how much, but one of my first thoughts after leaving grad school was, "I can read whatever I want… :eek: "

Hey… I’m starting classes today at UC too! I’m in the third quarter of the evening MBA program. Good luck to you, Cap’n!

This made me laugh. Now I know that professors sit in their offices coming up with evil things for students to do, and try to make sure they are overwhelmed enough to just give up and skim everything. I’ve long suspected it (I’m in law school).

To answer your question, it’s not “grad school” per se, but in my program we’re assigned about 300-500 pages per week for a 14-week semester, depending. However, YMMV. A friend of mine said felt so overwhelmed that he added up his reading assignments for the first 2 weeks, and it totalled 1200 pgs :eek:

Paperbacks? That’s about an hour a day.

I am in a history program, and when I was taking a lot of classes I was assigned probably around 500-700 pages per week (usually a book plus numerous essays), and read an innumerable (seemingly) number more for research papers and my master’s thesis. Right now I am reading for preliminary exams, which ostensibly should have me “reading” about 4-5 books per week.

Mechanical engineering. The only reading I’ve done is short sections that describe equations, and the odd chapter when I’m really interested in something (shaped charges, for example). So, basically, next to none.

Yep - got an MS in engineering and I read some research articles here and there to get more familiar with some subjects, but all in all there was almost no required reading.

You have to learn to read smart. No longer ‘read things’: you have you learn to read again. Hunt down the thesis statement/ paragraph: now you know what it was about or what the result was supposed to be. Skim the thing and find out what evidence was pitched for the thesis and how (how was the evidence applied), and quickly work out what methodology or trend it fits in with. Now you’re ready for seminar (apply the same steps to your own writing, too, to make sure you had a point and a method and some logic-- reading and writing should look like back engineering projects of one another). If it’s completely over your head, don’t smack your brains against a brick wall endlessly-- find a review of the thing. Someone with more background than you has already had to read the thing-- use them.

For research, read towards your project. You’ll eventually get to the point in grad school where you don’t read texts, really-- you read footnotes and bibliographies and then skim texts to see if there was something useful.

Depends on the semester. Last year I had a course on Ancient Novels, introduction to theory, and the English Renaissance. 400 pages a week wasn’t uncommon–in fact, that might have been my “light” week. This semester is slightly better. I have an English Romantics class and a American Modernism plus a fiction workshop. That averages out to a novel a week, plus whatever poetry we’re reading, plus the pieces we’re work-shopping, plus whatever supplementary critical stuff we’ve got.

As for how much I’m writing this semester, only about a hundred pages total.

Just curious, and this may have been in the thread already, but which class are you starting with? We have books for a lot of the first year classes at UC for Criminal Justice MA - and I’m pretty sure we’d be willing to part with a few for cheaper than the bookstore. Plus, if it was a class my wife had, we may have some tips for that specific class.

The discussion boards there are what seems to carry you other than the large papers. Two post a week is usually all the require, and with pointed questions you can look up what you need instead of reading 1200 + pages for writing two 100 word posts and writing a 5 page paper at the end of the class (a mistake my wife made once - read everything and didn’t use hardly any of it).

FTR, she has found that a lot of the required reading is not used, but I will get more info about it from her later today.

Brendon Small

To reiterate what some have said, in grad school we averaged about a book per week per class. We jokingly called ourselves the “Book of the Week” club. Like Twickster, my work was in sociology and it was interesting to see how long it would take to get enough basic knowledge so that when one book referenced another, one was clear on the reference and context. It does get easier to manage the extensive reading. I think you’ll find that specific writers may present problem. It took me a long while to internalize and understand Habermas, and then one day, it just clicked. Graduate school is about tenacity and perseverance. That is the same advice I give my students today, and yes, the tradition of the “Book of the Week” club is continued with my students. They love me for it.


I’m reading 300-400 pages a week in my undergrad history program (senior year, but still). That doesn’t include research for the 6 different papers ( :eek: )

You can do it. Just bring a book or two everywhere, and read in the doctor’s office, at the DMV, waiting for your lunch at a cafe. Just be prepared to not have a whole lot of time for leisure reading, unless you really skim through everything (not really an option for me, a lot of my support for my exams and papers is rather minute details you miss with skimming).

Just hope this increased reading won’t cause your far-sighted eyes (which have gone years without reading glasses) to finally give out on you. I’m trying to keep up with my reading load even though reading for any longer than 30 minutes gives me an excruciating headache. Damn my eyes and their weird prescription- they had to order my lenses and I might be without glasses for another week and a half. :frowning:

It’s my first semester, so I don’t know how typical this is. Two classes require reading, one is probably 80-150 pages per week, and the other class is mostly lab manuals which have been anywhere from 1-25 pages so far. I’m also taking Statistics, but that is all textbook reading, 2 chapters per week, and I have been okay with skipping it so far.

I think history has to be one of the worst offenders in this. Because I’m doing ancient history, my classes tend to be half translation and half history, so I have a much lighter reading load than most people in my program.

I’d say that the equivalent of a book a week (sometimes more, sometimes less) is stardard for each history class, and most people take 3 per semester. This, of course, isn’t counting any reading for your 3 research papers or, heaven forbid, your own research on your thesis or dissertation. I usually only take 1 or 2 history classes per semester, but every once in a while it’ll be a fun week where we get assigned 700 pages of primary source reading for the next week - and a 10 page paper, for the heck of it (in one class).

For our comprehensive exams (which I’ll be doing this summer, eeeeeek) we often have reading lists of 150-400 books to be familiar with.

It’s absolutely true that one of the first skills you learn in grad school is to prioritize your reading. You’ll never get all of it done. I keep count of all the books I read cover to cover, and my count has shot WAY down despite all the reading I do.