Maximize Your Time: Lessons Learned from Writing A Research Paper

Thursday, June 26, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| |

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I have a confession to make. The scheduling gods were looking down on me in school and I was able to avoid taking the one class in my major that requires a long-ish research paper. So I may not be the most qualified person to write the post below, and feel free to correct me if all of my advice is completely skewed or irrelevant. These things I know to be true: It is not wise to begin coming up with a topic/thesis two days before the paper is due, you have a 50/50 shot of getting away with slightly increasing the line spacing and spaces in-between punctuation

If I had had to go through this collegiate right of passage, I would imagine that these would be the skills that can be applied after graduation.

Importance of setting goals on multiple levels

The big picture is you have thirty pages to write. But a lot has to happen before that. When setting longterm goals or working on longterm projects, take the time to think about all of the smaller steps that must happen in order to achieve it. Learn to bite off smaller chunks so to avoid being overwhelmed and not writing it until the night before. 

Sometimes you have no choice but to camp out in the library

I was more of a study in bed or in a coffee shop kind of person. I can't count the number of times I stepped into the library for more than to print something off or make copies. But sometimes you need to work in a dead silent environment with no distractions and just get to work.

Take good notes the first time

One way to save time in any project is to take good notes the first time when reading through a lot of material or listening to a speaker. With haphazard notes, you will inevitably have to go back and reread it all. Especially if a lot of time has passed since your initial reading.

Your highlighting system is a secret code that sometimes you don't even understand

Just because the 24-count highlighter pack was on sale at Costco does not mean that you must use every single color at once. If you have to make a key to let you know what each color is referencing, then you've gone too far.

You can get a lot done in a short amount of time when you need to 

Even if it was not your intention to procrastinate, perhaps you had a short deadline to start with, you will amaze yourself how fast you can accomplish a task when under a time crunch. Without distractions or thoughts about what you want for dinner, all you will hear is the clacking of your fingers on the keyboard. 

Sometimes it's important to have a solid idea of what you want the final product to look like

Having an end goal in mind can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and help propel you along. And other projects are a work in progress and evolve over time. If this happens to be the case, make sure you set aside enough time for changes, revisions and moving in a different direction.


Jess Hnatiuk said...

Great tips! I have a hard time focusing, so these will come in handy!

Jess said...

Best of luck, Jess!

Rachel Jones said...

Research papers are the worst. I just always struggle taking the words in my mind and putting them on paper. Apparently I like to keep things to myself and not put them on paper.

Jess said...

Yeah, the whole brain to paper process is kind of a challenge. I'm one of those that may have a hard time starting, but once I get going, I can't stop.

Camila said...

Completely agree that you should have an idea when you start! I know in undergrad I more or less knew what I was doing and when I arrived to write my dissertation in grad school I was just baffled that we needed a title before starting the research! Like I knew what I was going to write about - then I was told I was supposed to lol it's needless to say I worked hard to try and figure it out early on. I think it's normal for the plan to change and transform along the way, but having a clear idea of where you're heading before starting is the least :)

Jess said...

I can't even imagine. Thanks for sharing and I'm glad you were able to make it to the other side of your dissertation :)

Kasi Zlochevski said...

These are some great tips! Thought the thought of writing another research paper makes me cringe, they are THE WORST. One thing that helped me in my undergrad was putting sticky notes on all of the important pages in books! That way you wouldn't have to look through 20 different books looking for a specific point.

TheJessaOlsonBlog said...

I love all these tips! If I could just translate these tips to blog posts that would be great.