Reading and reputation: sense, sensibility, and status in graduate education

Gary Alan Fine*, Hannah Wohl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


One of the skills of graduate education that is most central to the evaluation of students is their ability to read and report on complex disciplinary texts. The display of comprehension is central to the judgment of competence, creating a status hierarchy. Demonstrating reading prowess is taken as a transparent indication of intelligence. Based on thirty-six ethnographic interviews with graduate students in sociology, history, and economics, we examine how informants think about the establishment of their scholarly reputations through self-presentational skills in discussing reading in seminars, articles, and eventually in the dissertation itself. The ability to read disciplinary texts and to situate those texts within disciplinary contexts is crucial for a validated selfhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-564
Number of pages11
JournalQualitative Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Academia
  • higher education
  • impression management
  • social sciences
  • students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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