Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Archive for the tag “researching”

Summarize your articles

book-1091628_640.jpgI use a variety of things to keep track of what I read. Some things are more effective than others. One thing that I found VERY effective, however, was always summarizing my papers in one paragraph. I even have a template that I created (and you can download it blow) for journal article summaries.

The most inefficient use of your time is to read an article in detail, then forget where you put the information, forcing you to read the article yet again (not saying re-reading is a bad thing, but it’s bad when you’ve got to repeat your work). So, make sure when you’re done reading, that you’ve put what you’ve learned into a system that makes it searchable. There’s a variety of ways to do this, but find your flow!

As for the template, here’s a guide to start:

  1. Read the abstract and intro and discussion. Depending on why you are reading the article, this may be all you need.
  2. Skim the rest.
  3. Write a one-paragraph (yep, just one) summary of what the article was about. Be sure to include (along with the page number):
    • The research question
    • What they did, and to whom
    • How they did it
    • What they found
    • What they concluded

If you’re reading a particularly seminal piece of work, summarize each section and highlight important quotes –  don’t forget to list the page numbers you’ve found them! Mendeley has a nifty annotation feature in their program. However, I still use my word template for important studies.

Happy Researching!

Journal Summary Template

Advertisements

Organize your references with Mendeley

So you’ve pulled your PDF file from your library and it’s sitting on your browser. Now what?

I’ve talked about reference management software before in previous posts. Today, I’ll show you a quick and dirty way to bring them into Mendeley.

1. If you haven’t done so, download the Mendeley desktop app. It’s free, and what I love about it is that I can access my references through my browser, phone, or my other computers, too!

mendeley1.png

2. Next, download the Mendeley Web Importer plugin for your browser, and activate it. For me, it shows up as a tiny little “M” to the right of my browser address bar.

3. Then, through your Google Scholar search, bring up the PDF article that you want to use. Click the Mendeley plugin button (note: Sometimes this works. When it doesn’t, there’s a work around that I’ll mention later below).

mendeley2.png

4. If it works, Mendeley will bring up a side window with the article info. However, this isn’t always perfect, and you may need to edit the information from here, OR, you’ll need to right click, download and save your article, then import it through your Mendeley desktop (drag the PDF file and drop it on Mendeley).

mendeley3.png

For info on importing your PDFs directly into Mendeley’s desktop, click here.

Happy Researching!

 

 

 

 

 

Search literature efficiently

There is no such thing as, “never been done before.” Humankind as written about every subject, and it is the job of the grad student to find out the extent to what we know, and push just a little further.

You can get so easily lost in the forests of knowledge that within a matter of minutes, you’ve compiled enough reading material to last for weeks. It’s not humanly possible to get though it all. Yet, it feels expected of us.

Today, I offer a breadcrumb trail to lead you to the cottage in the woods (we all know the story, but even though we know, we must follow, anyways, don’t we?). When looking for literature:

  1. If you are having trouble finding articles, look at the key words below the abstracts of papers, and in the titles of works cited in the references. Ask your advisor and fellow grad students for suggestions on a few papers to get you started.
  2. When you find the “magic words,” your search will change from being pithy to incredibly overwhelming. That means you’re on the right track!
  3. Look at number of citations, dates, and abstracts. If you know nothing about your subject:
    • Pick the papers with the most citations to start on first. Usually these will be older, yet key papers in your field. Use the abstracts to help guide you to what’s relevant.
    • Next, go by the recent (in the past year or two) papers. Skim abstracts. Usually they will tell you what’s hot/new/developing in the field.
  4. As quickly as possible, bracket your search. This can be difficult if you’re still learning about the field. However, the faster and more definitely you can define what you are looking for, the easier it will be to look for only papers that pertain to you.
  5. Avoid jumping down rabbit holes. This is coming from someone that spent a year in critical discourse analysis before switching to a year reading about online learning. Still, if I were talking to less experienced me, I’d tell her: STICK TO YOUR BOUNDARIES. It can be hard to do! Save interesting articles to read later, when you have time (HA! We never have enough time!)
  6. Prioritize what you will read first. Start with broad, theoretical papers to get a feel for the field. Then go to the narrow, empirical studies, ordered by most relevant to your topic.

By the way… it is normal to feel completely overwhelmed and lost. It is part of the cycle of being a grad student (think of a roller coaster). Get yourself “unlost” as quickly as you can, but understand that even when they are calling you DOCTOR, you’re going to have moments where you’re going to feel lost. That’s how we grow.

Happy Researching!

new-zealand-583174_640

Keeping a Research Journal

gravity_falls_journal_3_replica___gremloblin_page_by_leoflynn-d6f3jqd

Art credit to Leo

When I started my Ph.D. program, I kept a research journal as a requirement for one of my classes.  My research journal consisted of a simple Word document that contained all of my daily entries, separated by a series of dashes.  Each day, I would go to the top of this document, enter the date, and then write.  In this manner, my most current entries would be at the top and the older entries would appear at the bottom.

Throughout the semester, my professor had us try different things in our journal, such as: inputting notes from our readings, thinking memos, highlighting important things (through boldface, blinking text, or side comments) that we may want to revisit, and adding daily “to do” lists.  Through my journal, I learned how to paraphrase my readings, and to quickly synthesize several works into one or two paragraphs.  I later found that my notes were incredibly useful to use for later papers – especially toward the end of the semester.

My research journal quickly became a personal repository for processing my thoughts, theories, and experiences in both life and grad school.    Peg Boyle Single, in her blog on developing good writing habits, said that “Motivation occurs when you have done the necessary planning steps so that when you sit down to write prose, you have had time to subconsciously play around with the ideas and you only have to retrieve and type down the ideas, not to think them up.”  The research journal teaches you to do this sort of prethinking every day.

Later, I moved my journal from Word to Scrivener, which enabled me to keep my entries separate within a single electronic “binder.”  Each entry could be tagged, labeled, and summarized so that later, I could go back, search, and even categorize my entries by topic or subject.  This was incredibly valuable to me when I went through my comprehensive exam process, because I could compare my entries side-by-side to the actual working document that I needed to write.

Now, as I tackle my dissertation proposal, I have started a new section of my journal, where I keep my daily 10 minute freewrites.  In addition to developing a daily habit of writing, my journal has also taught me how to think by writing – a necessary skill for navigating through my frequent trips within the cognitive muck of research.

If you are interested in keeping a research journal (it is never too early or too late to start), check out this blog post by Anuja Cabraal.  She outlines the process of starting a journal, and provides suggestions for ways to use it effectively in our work.

Happy Researching!

Post Navigation