For those of you who are unaware, being a history major means that I read. A lot. I’m used to having 100-200 pages assigned weekly across my classes. I’ve always heard from my professors that we should be reading strategically but to be honest, I’ve never had a problem with that. I hate skimming, yet I can fly through the pages and stay on the couch for hours at a time. And yet, all the summers I spent making and breaking my reading goals – reaching my limit at 100 books – didn’t prepare me for what I’m going to be facing this summer.
This is the stack of books I’m going to be working my way through over the next few weeks. Let’s look at it from a different angle.
That’s not much better, is it? Granted, there’s a few caveats to that stack. To start with, I’m not reading all of them in their entirety. Some I got because they contain certain chapters or essays that will be especially pertinent to my project. As interesting as it may be, I can’t afford to spend time reading about British Colonialism in India; I need to keep focused on Uganda and East Africa.
Also, I fully expect that some of these will be duds. Since I based my decisions on keywords, back covers, and a quick glance at the Table of Contents, I’ve probably skipped over or misinterpreted something. Odds are, I’ll get a couple pages in, realize it’s not going to be useful, and move onto the next one.
Finally, this is not typical of a Summer Fellows project. I leave for Uganda in about 4 weeks. Other students have an additional 3 weeks during which to do their research. My mentor and I decided that I should have a rough draft of my paper completed on June 29th, two days before I leave. This means I need to have all my reading done before then. Since I know that I’m a very methodical and deliberate writer, I’m budgeting 7-10 days to synthesize my research and have a draft completed.
That means I’m essentially squeezing 8 weeks worth of reading into 4. Yikes! After using my planner to pencil in my timeline, I can’t take longer than 2 days to read any of these books. Some selections are much shorter, so I can expect to complete them in a single day.
In addition to those 18 – yes, eightenn – actual books, I’ve requested and collected about 21 scholarly articles from the internet to read. I’m addicted to knowledge guys. #DontJudgeMe.
Most have come from the Interlibrary Loan System. If you’ve never used this resource, then you haven’t really lived. Students at Ursinus can sign up to meet one-on-one with a librarian if they’re having trouble with research and I can guarantee you she’ll point you here. If Ursinus doesn’t have physical or electronic access to a book or article, you can use ILL to get a copy from an institution that does. Articles and Book Chapters get uploaded as a PDF document, while full books get mailed to campus. Fun Fact: I once received a book from Western Washington University, a college where about 10% of my high school class went. I was sorely tempted to slip a note inside to see if it could get to someone I knew.
With these, I also penciled in titles into my calendar. Since I had already planned out my books, I tried to adjust around that. On days when I knew that I would already have less, I stacked up two articles, while on others I didn’t schedule any so I could plow through a larger chunk of books.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress over the next few weeks and hopefully we’ll see that stack start to shrink.
Until next time!