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 and in Part 3 I discussed reading and citations. This week I will be starting my sub-series about writing.
Sources: Much of what I’ve learned about my workflow, I’ve gotten from other folks. What I’m discussing in the next few posts is an amalgamation of different work management patterns I’ve gotten from around the internet, people in the lab, or figured out for myself. I would like to give a big thanks to Hacking the Thesis.
Over the next month I will be posting about the various steps I take in my writing. My plan is to talk about the following:
academic paper drafts
writing for blogs or other “general” audience media
One book I found very helpful was Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day. The habit that I have picked up since my first read through is writing everyday. I do this by setting aside roughly 45 minutes of my day for my free writing. I aim for about 1500 words per day of this kind of writing. The next level of writing is slightly more structured memos, which usually have some kind of focus (a question I am trying to answer, or something specific I am analyzing or drafting up). Finally, the free writes and memos then feed into my rough drafts. When I know what kind of question I want to answer for a particular venue, I can start a more formal drafting process. This is also where I bring in coauthors to help with the argument, literature, and clarity.
While my main focus is my academic writing, I also change things up to give my brain a rest by writing fiction and journalling. Perhaps I will have more on this after I’ve finished this series of blog posts.
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!