Recommending readings

As a student this time around – more so than my experiences in computer science and policy – I find that the process of getting feedback includes a deluge of references. In my present interdisciplinary domain of humanities and social science it seems there are many traditions making a claim upon a subject via their own literatures. Consequently, feedback in the form of “you should read X” can be overwhelming. One skill of a scholar is to learn to be open to such feedback while separating the wheat from the chaff. This is not to say that some recommendations are not welcome, but some are better suited to the purpose at hand than others.

Consequently, when I give feedback to colleagues I try to avoid the imperious “you should read X” or the possibly insulting “have you read X?” and try to cast my comment as “I think the notion of Y in X will help you with your subject in the following way…”

A colleague of mine inspired this maxim in her own guidelines for a reading group this past semester and the more I collaborate with others, the more I like it.

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