Response to comment on last post- in defense of reading a lot.
In terms of getting a PhD whether you like reading or not, I think that we shouldn't abuse students who realize halfway through that they don't like reading. I'm in favor of terminal master's degrees (TMS) as per the discussion over on FSP's post about that. I think it's better for people to leave at that point than to try to finish "just because", or even worse, go and do a postdoc because they can't figure out what else to do with their lives.
But, I do think that a certain amount of reading (and of course, writing!) should be a requirement for a PhD.
So maybe if you don't like reading, you shouldn't have gotten a PhD in the sense that it was not the best use of your talents?
Did you think about quitting? How did you end up finishing? Do you mind telling us (however vaguely), what you do now?
For me, getting a PhD was not easy. In fact, it would have been easier to quit (and justify quitting) than to finish.
So I wouldn't give back my PhD, either, because I know I earned it.
Whether I would do it all over again, if I had the chance, is a different question.
So I'm curious about what got you through? In fact, I generally invite comments, for the benefit of our grad & younger student readers, on that topic.
But I digress. To me, reading papers is not so much about minutiae.
I think a lot more experiments work when you read a lot and plan carefully based on what's already been done. That might sound hopeless trite, but bear with me.
Even when no one has ever done what you're setting out to do, there are always common features to be found, and those things can make or break your experiments.
I can see how those details would be boring to some, but I really like having experiments work (as you say you do). So details of that sort matter a lot to me. To me, one of the worst feelings in the world is when you find out later that someone else got your difficult experiment to work using some little trick you didn't know about. I HATE that.
Reading a lot helps me avoid getting into situations where I have to feel like that! It's that same feeling like when you leave your wallet in the backseat of the taxi cab. ARGH!
Today I was thinking about how a couple of people in my lab missed something kind of critical because of just that sort of mistake- they didn't pay attention to common features and they didn't do enough reading.
It's not my project, so who's to say I wouldn't have also missed all the clues, too. But it's kind of sad, because in retrospect, it was all sitting there in pubmed if they had just bothered to read it.
But you know, you can only do so much. And everyone handles the 'down time' differently. I think that's as much about personality as anything else. I am always in a better mood when my experiments are working!
Sometimes reading is the only thing to get me out of an experimental rut- and actually in this case, it did. The only reason my experiments are working so well lately is because of a paper I read that gave me an idea for something to do, and how to do it.
I like ideas. But I like them even better when I can show why they're right.