Reading routines: strategies of recall in graduate education

Gary Alan Fine, Hannah Wohl, Simone Ispa-Landa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study aims to explore how graduate students in the social sciences develop reading and note-taking routines. Design/methodology/approach: Using a professional socialization framework drawing on grounded theory, this study draws on a snowball sample of 36 graduate students in the social sciences at US universities. Qualitative interviews were conducted to learn about graduate students’ reading and note-taking techniques. Findings: This study uncovered how doctoral students experienced the shift from undergraduate to graduate training. Graduate school requires students to adopt new modes of reading and note-taking. However, students lacked explicit mentorship in these skills. Once they realized that the goal was to enter an academic conversation to produce knowledge, they developed new reading and note-taking routines by soliciting and implementing suggestions from advanced doctoral students and faculty mentors. Research limitations/implications: The specific requirements of the individual graduate program shape students’ goals for reading and note-taking. Further examination of the relationship between graduate students’ reading and note-taking and institutional requirements is warranted with a larger sample of universities, including non-American institutions. Practical implications: Graduate students benefit from explicit mentoring in reading and note-taking skills from doctoral faculty and advanced graduate students. Originality/value: This study uncovers the perspectives of graduate students in the social sciences as they transition from undergraduate coursework in a doctoral program of study. This empirical, interview-based research highlights the centrality of reading and note-taking in doctoral studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-189
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Graduate education
  • Note-taking
  • Reading
  • Recall
  • Routines
  • Socialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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