For the love all you hold dear and sacred in the world, KEEP UP WITH THE LITERATURE.
There are many good reasons for keeping up with the literature, but the one that concerns me right now is that if you don’t, then when you get to the point where you are writing the literature review for your thesis, you are going to be in hell.
Ask me how I know.
If I have to read just one more paper on this particular topic in my field I am going to run through the lab shrieking and pulling my hair out and talking to little blue aliens so that they’ll lock me up in a psych ward where I won’t have to look at journal articles at all (although, with my luck some well-meaning lab mate will bring me papers to read so I can keep busy).
I really and truly wish I could go back in time and pull aside my younger self and say, “Dude, I know you hate reading journal articles because they are dry and inevitably bore the hell out of you but in addition to being critical to your development as a scientist and giving you insight into your own research and inspiring you to be creative as a scientist it is important for you read these papers NOW because you are definitely going to have to read these papers SOMEDAY and if you don’t do it now, one day will be sitting at your desk with piles and piles of papers sitting around you while you search for a different color of highlighter just so you can have a little bit of variety and you will be wondering how many trees you are going to have to plant in order to offset the amount of paper you have used to print papers in the last couple of weeks. It will not be pretty. It will, in fact, be ghastly and you will wander around the lab moaning about how you should have been reading these papers all along until your lab mates want to strangle you.”
[I would also like to go back in time and tell myself, “Hey, you know that negative control for that yeast two-hybrid experiment that you don’t think you need to do because you’ve essentially done the same thing by having two known proteins that don’t interact? Yeah, do the control. Trust me.”]
So, in conclusion, I am in a hell of my own devising. One that has descended upon me because I was a bad, bad grad student and didn’t keep up with the literature. Don’t be like me. Save yourself the pain and agony of having to read all of those papers all at once. Also, take notes. Because one day you’re going to try to remember which bit of information was in which paper so that you can cite it properly.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to try to find my green highlighter. I know I left it around here somewhere.