I'm curious as to how many papers one would need to read per week, in order to keep up with the latest research in a particular field. For example, how many papers on average would a typical tenured professor read in a week?

I am aware the answer might vary a lot between different fields, so perhaps answers could give a range or try to break it down by disciplines.

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    It really depends too much on the field: to give an example at the lower end, in my field, relatively few papers are published every year and I certainly read less than one new paper per week.Note also that, in many cases, if you're experienced enough you really don't need to read an entire paper to understand it, but you can go directly to the salient pieces and skip the rest: this means that when I need it (e.g. because I start working on a new experiment), I can read 10-20 papers in a day. Sep 12, 2019 at 18:32
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    I'll expand on the comment by @MassimoOrtolano - the pace of reading papers is not constant. One might glance at the latest journals and if something looks interesting you will glance it over and put it in the 'to be read sometime' pile. If you are deep in an experiment, you might have not time to read anything (or lots of time if babysitting a long boring data collection run). And then there are weeks where you are just busy with other random stuff and nothing useful gets done.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 12, 2019 at 18:41
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    But if you are planning an experiment or data collection, then you might be reading all the papers you can get hold of to see what has already been covered or just touched on...
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 12, 2019 at 18:46
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    The strong tendency is to specialize to the point that there are only a few deeply relevant papers every few months, and you may have heard of them or know involved people already before the paper even came out. In conference cultures, you then go to a few a year, look over the program, attend a few talks, and then pick out a few relevant papers if there are any. Depth of reading is...not always extensive. But I also know some professors who read at least 1 new paper every day, 5-7 days a week, no matter what and even if there aren't that many closely related ones, just because.
    – BrianH
    Sep 12, 2019 at 18:53
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    To me, the only sensible answer to this is "as many as required for the current task". This will vary from zero to some modest number, and won't even be an integer, unless you count skimming or reading the abstract as "reading". If you are creating a new grad course then it might be large. If you are near retirement with few responsibilities it might also be large. If you have a heavy teaching load it is probably small. "Whatever it takes."
    – Buffy
    Sep 12, 2019 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


There is no typical, even within a field, because different professors tend to find different "niches" in how they relate to the literature, and the depth with which they read papers.

I have known some professors who establish themselves as the "scholars" of a department and deeply read dozens of papers per week. I have known other professors who rarely read anything, because they focus on construction of new gizmos instead, pick up their knowledge of the field through conferences, and make their collaborators and postdocs fill in the "related work" section of their papers.

Likewise, it's a mistake to think that "read a paper" has a single definition. At one extreme, sometimes one wants to spend a great deal of time working through the contents of a paper. At the other extreme there are times one just wants to check the "headline" conclusion and see if it can help you with your problem or not.

Bottom line: there is no good answer to your question besides "it depends".

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