Tuesday, October 31, 2006

So this is how it's supposed to work...

My former research strategy:

  1. While writing, realise I need to find something else out.
  2. Do literature search until I have a list of potential sources that might contain the answer.
  3. Jot these references onto a piece of paper and put it in my bag.
  4. Go back to writing, skipping the bit I need the new sources for.
  5. Abandon piece of writing for something else.
  6. Several weeks later, in the library, find 58 scraps of paper in my bag and locate the references on them.
  7. Stagger back to the office under the weight of all the books. Line them up neatly on the bookshelf and congratulate myself on a successful hunting and gathering expedition. Admire the impressive fullness of my office bookshelves.
  8. One year later, after reaching renewal limit, open books.
  9. Wonder why I ever got them out in the first place.
  10. Return them.
  11. Several days/weeks later, return to original piece of writing.
  12. Begin cycle again from the start.

My new research strategy:
  1. While writing, realise I need to find something else out.
  2. Do literature search until I have a list of potential sources that might contain the answer.
  3. Jot these references onto a piece of paper and put it in my bag.
  4. Go to the library and see which of the references answer my question. Get these (and only these) out.
  5. Return to office and read the newly acquired sources.
  6. Add the new information into the current piece of writing.
  7. Keep writing.
Next time I stray from the path of research goodness, someone please remind me that my new strategy really does save time in the long run.

6 Comments:

Jana said...

Research strategy: take computer to library.

Use FreeMind (open source mind mapper) to write down branching questions and references as they occur.

Use WLAN to check location and availability of books in library.

Use OmniOutliner (free with Mac) to outline document.

Open word processor. Write. On finding questions or references, refer to step 1.

StyleyGeek said...

I have tried that a few times (without OmniOutliner). But my laptop is big and heavy, and the linguistics books are scattered across four different libraries on campus. Even within the one library, though, it's a pain to have to haul the laptop around to pick up sources.

Plus people in my dept keep close tabs on how much of each day PhD students are present in their offices and mutter suspiciously about people who are absent a lot. No one really believes you if you claim you were in the library all morning.

Acre said...

So wait, you're saying the first way won't work?

Tired Dad said...

I'm only a lowly M.A. student (in my spare time) so it works like this:

Go to library.

Glance at chosen title of paper.

Grab a dozen books that look faintly relevant.

Frantically photocopy any pages that look interesting.

Think for a bit.

Pencil. Underline passages. Construct chronology of qoutes by people far more intelligent than I.

Begin writing. Explain why all these people are wrong, due to the fact that certain points of their various thinking seem to contradict each other, and that I am right, due to the fact that I have found tiny fragments of each scholars theory to support my outlandish ideas.

Get a first.

I love arts degrees.

StyleyGeek said...

I used that strategy up until I started the PhD, Tired Dad. Then I realised that the step:

Explain why all these people are wrong, due to the fact that certain points of their various thinking seem to contradict each other, and that I am right, due to the fact that I have found tiny fragments of each scholars theory to support my outlandish ideas.

wasn't going to work for me any more.

Because having to show that I am aware of ALL the relevant literature on my topic made me realise that there are enough people among the contradictory nutters who are way smarter than me and do know what they are doing. Then my outlandish ideas start to seem really, um, outlandish in comparison.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

You know, Styley, I think you just outlined a good reason why I should be glad that the PhD students in my department only get one small office (with only three desks) for all bazillion (okay, 20 at the most) of us. No one cares where we work!

Unfortunately, as a result, I mostly work at home. Where all the procrastinating and the candy are.