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Studying and Literature Review Tactics

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Perhaps my method are normal for many. Conventional in a way. In case they aren't, maybe this blog entry might help someone who is in need of some general advice regarding reviewing and writing. However, it might not be optimal, as every tactic is up to the individual. Anyway...

In my current course, before we begin our final thesis, we are supposed to write a literature review, witha research question that we choose ourselves, regarding global media. This ranges from 3000-4000 words, with an obligatory reading reach of 500 pages, plus two books. This is very small, I admit. But being theprocrastinator that I am, it still spells trouble.

However, I've found a tactic that works quite well for me. First, the readings. The two obligatory books have been the primary ones during the first few seminars we've had and,despite being quite hard, has helped me understand them. As such,when I read a book for projects such as this I do it according to a structure. Normally, it seems to be a misconception that you need to read ALL of it, but it rarely is so:
  1. Check the book and its subject matter. Is it remotely related to your subject? If yes, include it.
  2. Check the name of chapters. Skim through the whole book if you need to. Note the ones that sounds related. Ignore the others.
  3. Skim through those chapters and throw away those that aren't needed.
  4. Read the chapters most relevant from the previous one.
  5. Read them again, but this time note down quotes and arguments, together with page numbers. Even include what line, if you need to (I make the mistake of not doing this all the time.)
  6. If you later get stuck, go back to the chapters you discarded and see if you can use them.
Alright, reading done. Easy.

As for the writing, it's a little more complicated. The tactic I use is based on my procrastinator background, as well as being unable to 100% focus for more than max 3 hours a day, usually. So:
  1. Form a skeleton. Create the structure, with your titles. Add placeholder sub-sections. Add potential references. Add more than necessary and then trash them if they become irrelevant. It's easier to cut than to add.
  2. Write arguments and ideas as they come to you based on what you've read. Ignore adding sources, unless you have them.
  3. Write from time to time. Check writing from 2. Write during gaming breaks, eating, whatever. It doesn't need to be perfect. Just fill it out.
  4. Devote some time with focus. Analyze your arguments and add sources if you can. If no source is available, trash it. You need the sources.
  5. Devote 100% of your concentration for as long as you are able per day. Flesh it all out. Mind, you don't need to be writing. Just think about it in your head, or read even more.
  6. Polish it. Fill out the rest from time to time.
  7. Polish more. Devote 100% of your concentration again.
  8. Think you finished it. Leave it be for a day.
  9. Actually finish it, rewriting what you need.
Often, as seen above, I find "time" to be a useless factor. What counts is concentration and focus. I could argue I work 10 hours a day because I'm at home, reading and writing from time to time, but the effective time is probably less than an hour, compared to being at the university with only this task at hand for approx 3 hours, ignoring all kinds of breaks. On the same token, I doubt those that spend 8 hours a day at uni really do work 100% of the time. I'd say it's roughly 60% efficiency.

Or, I'm just jealous. Which might be a possibility!

I now feel random for writing this, but hey. Hope it helped someone. Time to procrastinate!

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