Study tips

Reading

One of the most challenging things when you’re (re-)entering academia can be the sheer amount of readings you’ll have to do. Especially, if you’re juggling work, family and studying time can be extremely constraint, making it nearly impossible to have enough time – and focus for reading pages after pages. 

Good news though – there are ways to improve your efficacy. 🙂

There are lots of videos on YouTube about how to read academic papers – namely, not front to end like a book. Here’s one I like and which has helped me a lot. 

Listening

Reading quicker is all good and well, but sometimes there’s just not enough time for that. If you could only do two things at once… 

Wait, you can! Well, kind of at least. You can listen to the readings while you’re commuting, doing housework, walk, workout etc. There are several apps that read out written texts to you. 

I’m an Apple user and I like Speechify. The paid version offers different languages and accents and you can change the speed to increase your productivity or your understanding. Some Android users like the eReader Prestigio, available at Google play.

Whichever tool you use I highly recommend you remove all the citations in the text for a better experience. Having an automatic voice stumble over lots of names and dates can be utterly annoying. I do two things after copy-pasting the text into Word before I import any academic text into my app: 

1. Remove all citations in brackets:

Click “More”, then check “Use wildcards”, then

In Find what, enter \(*\)

To remove the brackets and the text inside, leave the Replace With box empty

Then just hit Replace All

2. Remove all unnecessary hyphenation

Click “More”, then check “Use wildcards”, then

In Find what, enter “- ” (hyphen and one space, without quotes)

To remove the hyphen and space, leave the Replace With box empty

Then just hit Replace All

Research

Okay, you’ve done your readings one way or the other and now you’re supposed to come up with some eloquent answer or a sophisticated essay. To support your ideas and find additional resources, Google Scholar is one obvious choice in addition to your university’s online library. 

After searching for papers, you can easily cite each of them clicking on the quotation marks (“) under the short description. Google offers different formats, make sure you choose one accepted by your university (APA is accepted at UoL). 

You can also see how many times any particular paper has been cited in other works, which tells you something about the relevance/popularity. 

Another brilliant site is Connected Papers. Here the references are compared to link different papers together, not citations. The result is shown in a bubble graph with connecting lines. The darker the bubble, the newer the paper. The size shows the number of citations and the connection lines show, well, connections. By clicking on a bubble you see the abstract on the right side and more often than not you can even access the pdf there as well. 

Okay, you’ve done your readings one way or the other and now you’re supposed to come up with some eloquent answer or a sophisticated essay. To support your ideas and find additional resources, Google Scholar is one obvious choice in addition to your university’s online library. 

After searching for papers, you can easily cite each of them clicking on the quotation marks (“) under the short description. Google offers different formats, make sure you choose one accepted by your university (APA is accepted at UoL). 

You can also see how many times any particular paper has been cited in other works, which tells you something about the relevance/popularity. 

Wellbeing

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during doing my Bachelor while working full time it is this: do NOT neglect your wellbeing. It simply isn’t worth it and it does NOT pay off. 

Getting a degree is not a short term endeavour. That makes it more a marathon than a sprint. And while some of us might pull off a sprint while they’re sleep deprived, untrained or hungover, not many would attempt to run 42.1k/21.6 miles in that state. 

This means make sure you take breaks and you take time for your workout routine – weather if that’s a run or a walk doesn’t matter. Just take the time to keep your body fit and functioning. 

My biggest mistake was when I was writing my Bachelor thesis. I got stuck and felt like I’m not getting ahead as much as I “should”, so I forced myself to carry on working when my head was depleted. The result? Well, I wasn’t super productive and I wasn’t resting or recharging either. Which means I basically wasted time I could have better used working out or relaxing, since I wasn’t getting done much anyway. 

The moral is: take a break when your head shuts down and go for a run, a walk, do yoga, sleep, cuddle your pet or hug your loved ones. Just get away from the laptop and take a break. Whatever floats your boat and helps you to recharge is good. It can be 15 min or two hours, all that counts is that you rest when you’re not productive anymore.