Organizing what you Learn

Regardless of what you are studying, you have to consume an incredible amount of information. And you have to keep it all in order so that you do not waste time remembering something you read several years ago.

When I started my PhD, I started a spreadsheet. Every paper I read (and want to remember) gets its own entry. This was very useful as I studied for comps. And it continues to be useful as I write my dissertation proposal. Also, make sure you back-up your data! I lost a lot of my entries due to hard drive shenanigans.

This is the file.

Here is the structure:

  • CONTROL
    • Write down the class and semester
  • AUTHORS
    • Write the authors
  • TITLE
    • Write the title
  • ABSTRACT
    • Copy the abstract
  • RESEARCH QUESTION
    • What was the research question?
  • MAIN ARGUMENT
    • And their main point?
  • CONTEXT
    • List the data and the context for the study
  • IVs
    • List the Independent Variables
  • DVs
    • List the Dependent Variables
  • KEY TAKEWAWAY
    • The main conclusion? If you were to cite this paper, what idea would you cite?
  • LIMITATIONS
    • The authors usually discuss these.
  • FOLLOW-UP
    • Did the authors cite any interesting papers that you should read?
  • RESEARCH IDEAS
    • Did you come up with any ideas?
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