Making the most of your research

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Dissertations are looming, and we all suddenly have all the time in the world.

Or do we?

With everything constantly changing, I believe the time is ripe for a brain dump. More students are being forced to work remotely and teachers are being stretched thin trying to accommodate the rapidly changing climate. If you’re travelling home, get that to do list out as now it’s time to read all those papers you’ve been ignoring.

Academic reading has to go beyond any reading list you are given. Saying that, those reading lists are a great starting point, and so are those references at the bottom. It can be incredibly frustrating when you can’t find exactly what you want on your library website or Google Scholar, but in many cases the references that academics use in the paper you’re reading may hold more relevance to your study topic than you think. I search for them on my university library database first, as it is a lot easier to gain access and download papers that are already on their system.

Once you’ve got the papers, how do you read best? Do you need to annotate and print out and scribble all over them like a caveman? Or are you a robot that can read on computers without the eye strain and the headaches? Some people prefer to write notes separately while others will want to type them up, and split screen will be your new best friend. It’s very easy to be demotivated when you’re not comfortable, so find a way to read that works for you before you even start.

Another thing that is easy to forget or admit is the discovery of words and terms that don’t make sense. Define them as you go. Keep a separate list running, or underline them and look them all up at the end, because if you’re planning on reading more papers on a topic then they will come in handy later! Not going to lie, I still sometimes search “(insert term here) for kids” for a simpler definition if Google is being particularly unhelpful. Adulting is hard.

Don’t forget that your own points are valid too! Do you agree with what the paper is saying? Do you think it could be expanded on? Is there something you picked up in class that they haven’t mentioned? Bringing together these perspectives will give you a more well rounded understanding of what you’re reading and you’ll feel you got the most out of it as a result!

Stay safe and sanitised out there folks.

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