I’ve been wandering the net looking for useful information for grad students (particularly those who are working on their dissertation and looking forward to the job market.) So here I will start compiling the useful information and links I have found and update as needed.
If you have your own materials or have links to ones you like, feel free to share in the comments!
As mentioned in Part 1, I am discussing my various workflow tools in order to have a more pleasant and efficient grad school experience. Last week, in Part 2, I discussed my general task management. This week I will be talking about reading and citations.
Readings and Citations
One of my jobs as a graduate student is to read. A lot. And when I am reading, I am synthesizing the information in order to use it in my own research. Some of the tasks involved in the reading process include: finding articles, reading (like the actual work of reading the documents), summarizes the work and creating an annotated bibliography, and citing sources in my own work. I will go through this process step by step.
To be fair, this step is a whole blog post in its own right and I really don’t have the time/space to do it here. Suffice to say, there are lots of ways to find the literature you need and determine if its right for you, etc. For the sake of this blog post, I will just use one of my own articles as found on Google Scholar.
I download and import into Zotero the first article listed under the Google Scholar results for “Ringland Minecraft.”
Reading the Article
I’m going to be honest here. At this point, if I’m seriously reading this article then I’m probably printing out a hardcopy and handwriting my notes in. If it’s not a deep read, then I might just be jotting down some notes by hand in my notebook or in Evernote. I just absorb better when I’m handwriting my initial notes.
Ever since having to write an extensive literature review as part of my PhD Milestones for my program, I’ve become a huge fan of the annotated bibliography. However, it has taken me almost an entire YEAR to come up with a workflow for creating these annotated bibs. Follows is what I’m finally happy with. It took a bit to set up, but it’s smooth sailing now that I’ve got it.
Read the article, take notes.
Summarize main points of the article in 3-4 sentences. May also use keywords or anything else that will help you find the article again later.
Add this summary to the “abstract” section of the article information in Zotero. Do NOT just copy and paste the abstract of the article – that will not help you find it later!
Use Zotero to create an “annotated bibliography” from the article. The style I use, APA annotated bib style, uses the abstract section to create the annotated part of the reference.
I then go to my Todoist Reading list where I probably had something like “Ringland safety paper” listed. I paste over the top of that the citation I just copied from Zotero.
Having labeled the task item in Todoist @reading triggers an IFTTT recipe that I created.
The IFTTT recipe looks for any Todoist tasks labeled @reading. It then takes the completed Todoist item and appends it to a note titled “Completed Readings” in my Evernote.
I can now search all the readings I have read and summarized this way in one Evernote list.
I also have the information in Zotero. So anytime I want to create an annotated bibliography with multiple items, I can pull the citations from my Zotero library. This way if I want to make a themed bibliography for a specific lit review, I can pull all the sources I need without having to dig through many different lit list files to find them. The other great thing about Zotero and Evernote is that they are searchable, so if I just remember some keywords about a paper – like “parent safety” – then I can pop those into my Evernote to get the full citation.
The final step in going through literature is to then cite it in your own work. I do this when I am working in Word. I use the Zotero Word plugin and just pop the cites directly into my document. The plugin also auto-generates the reference list, so that I don’t have to write it by hand. It is a huge time saver.
Hope some of that is useful to you as you go about designing your own workflow. Next week I will start talking about the writing process!
First, I will start discussing my workflow with the tricky topic of task management. I’m starting here because my task management system is fairly easy in comparison to some of my other workflow mechanisms.
My tasks can be broken down into Work and Personal. I will discuss my Work tasks here even though I generally use the same exact system for Personal tasks as well (because it’s all about keeping myself sane). Work tasks are then broken down into their various categories: general, PhD milestones, reading, writing, research (which is broken down by project). You can see these listed as “Projects” in Todoist below.
For task management I use Todoist. I have tried several different to do list apps over the last few years and Todoist works the best given my needs. It meshes well with my other tools, is robust, and very flexible. It also has the added benefit of being somewhat reinforcing with its fun “karma points.”
Todoist is great because it lets you write out your task such as “write 1500 words every weekday” and it will figure out when the next time you need to complete the task is. You can read about other cool ways to use Todoist here and here.
Tasks for me, once divided into their subcategories, fit into a few different molds: one-off tasks, repeating tasks, and floating tasks.
First are the one-off tasks. These are things I only have to do once and then they are done. These are easy to just go to Todoist and say “write final paper for Inf 232 March 14.”
Second are the repeating tasks. These include my daily reading and writing (self-imposed) requirements, among other things. For example, “1500 words very weekday.” This would also include my meetings and classes. For example, “lab meeting every Monday until June 9” or “send weekly update every Monday noon.” And yes, I include everything as a to do item on my list – tasks, drafts, things I have read, meetings, and so on.
These first two task types (the one-off and the repeating) then appear on my daily or 7 day task list. I can see them coming or I see them as past due if I missed something. I use this extensively in my daily routine. This is how everything gets done and I stay on track. I even include tasks such as “update blog every Thursday” and “clean out email inbox every Friday” just to keep up with the things I normally put off as unimportant (and, therefore, never get done).
Third are the tasks that do not strictly have a due date. These floating tasks are more likely to be things such as my reading list or writing ideas. My reading list is just a list of things I plan on reading (soon). I add to it as new articles come across my Google filters or my advisor suggests an article. Writing ideas are just brief thoughts about things I might want to write about at some point. They are good for the days I have writers block and I can’t think of what to write. I include all kinds of things in this list including blog ideas, thoughts about my research, potential future articles to flesh out for a conference or journal, even things that might evolve later into new research or my dissertation. I also keep a floating task list of things I need to discuss with my advisor. That way, I can just pull up my “Meeting with my Advisor” list and check things off as I go over them with her.
I keep my 7 day task list at hand on my phone, so I can check things off on the go:
That sums up my basic task management. Next week, in Part 3, I will discuss how I manage my readings and citations.
I was recently incapacitated by whatever illness was going around campus and when the fog finally lifted I finally appreciated how productive I am on a daily basis. It was time to triage my to do list and I knew some things were just not going to get done when I wanted them to be. However, since my maternity leave 6 months ago, I have been spending quite a bit of time working on my workflow, so things weren’t as dire as they could have been.
What do I mean by workflow? I mean the tools and procedures I have put in place to make sure that my project gets done in a timely, efficient manner. My project in this case is my PhD. And seeing as ‘project PhD’ is HUGE, I knew I wanted to get these things in place before I really start working on my proposal this summer and dissertation shortly thereafter. What this means is I do the following things (and what’s not on this list is be Mom to an energetic, mobile-enough 6-month-old):
reading (a lot of reading)
research, including, but not limited to:
observations (both in the physical world and virtually)
collecting lots and lots of data
service such as reviewing other papers, mentoring students, and helping with the graduate student association
writing (a lot of writing)
So, in order to stay sane and get everything done, I’ve been devising a way to automate some of my to do list and task and streamlining everything as much as possible. Some of the tools I use are: Google Calendar, Evernote, Dropbox, NVivo, Todoist, Slack, IFTTT, and Scrivener. I will be going over how I use each of these in detail over the next several blogs. They will be roughly in the following order (to be updated with links as they are posted):