A doctorate involves plumbing the depths of a problem and often this involves a lot of knowledge breadth-wise in related areas. Though the latter is provided by coursework, education about a precise "tool" that a doctorate may need during solving his problem is unlikely to have been provided by the courses. Often the PhD may run into huge tomes of material which he has been introduced to by Wikipedia. Intuitively he/she may feel that somewhere in those volumes lies a theorem or an idea which can provide vital keys to solving his own problem. So I come to my questions:
- What should a student do to get the best out of a book-reading exercise? The question in turn assumes the student has arrived by some means at the best book for serving his purpose.
- There is a trade-off involved in reading books tangential to your field: you may spend a lot of time groping in the dark looking for a bounty which may never be there. How does one gauge the potential applicability of a book to his work? When does a student decide to pull the plug on such an effort?
Related Question: Skimming through a paper