One of my biggest challenges when getting started with graduate studies was I had no clue what I was reading.
Academia can be thought of as a grand gathering of people who are having conversations with each other, with each journal article a point that a scholar wants to add to the conversation. The thing is, the conversations have been going on for years. Possibly decades. The topics themselves have developed their own style of conversations, combined with different use of language and unexpected jargon.
Fortunately, there are also conversations in Academia that can be considered “meta-conversations.” Enter: The Annual Reviews.
The Annual Reviews, including the Annual Review of Political Science (ARPS), are collections of conversations about the conversations. In each of these articles, a scholar presents where the conversation about a topic currently is and what the main lines of the discussion include. In other words, they provide context and overviews of the conversation, for many different topics. They’re quite helpful.
Here’s some advice, then, that I frequently give in-person: if you’re a graduate student in a seminar and there’s an ARPS article on your reading list, read that one first. If you’re about to start graduate studies and have access to the Annual Reviews, I suggest you look through some of the articles that sound interesting. They help provide context, and sometimes might highlight interesting areas of research you might not have thought about previously.