The wrong way to conduct paper research
- Gather up a bunch of books and journals that seem relevant to your topic. Dump them in your dorm.
- Wait until the day before the paper is due.
- Start writing. When you feel like a quote is overdue, scavenge through your stack until you find something that seems to have some sort of connection to what you have written so far. Add this quote to your paper. (Bonus points if it includes the word “hegemony.”)
A better way to conduct paper research
- After identifying a useful book chapter or journal article, photocopy the relevant pages. Make sure you also copy the citations and the title page (if a book), so you have the information you need to later cite the source.
- Open a document in your word processor. Skim quickly through your photocopy. As you proceed, type in annotations of the form: page number — quick description of what type of info is there. These are not notes. They are pointers. For example: pg. 124 — discussion of impact of NAFTA on American auto ind.
- Print the annotations and staple them to the front of your photocopies. Return the book or journal to the shelf.
- When outlining your argument or actually writing the paper, use only these annotated copies to find the material you need.
- If possible: batch the above steps. For example, in one library trip, you might make photocopies of several sources. In a later session(s), you can provide the annotations. Like any good, efficient study technique, it decomposes naturally.
(Adapted from Part III of How to Become a Straight-A Student)