How to Research Like a True Scholar
A word to the wise:
Do you want to study like a true scholar? Well, it’s going to take a lot of work if you want to be as good as Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Aristotle or Galileo. Or, maybe you don’t have any aspirations such as than. Maybe you just want to pass your big essay? Create the ultimate study space, create a research template, don’t rely solely on the internet and get help from those around you.
Studying can be a long and difficult process. To make it a little easier and become more effective, check out these techniques for studying like a true scholar!
Create the Ultimate Study Space:
Before anything else, I believe that having a great work space is one of the most important aspects of study and research. If you aren’t comfortable and inspired in your study place, you will not be productive.
The key components of a study space:
- Eliminate distractions (phone, tv, video games, novels and etc.)
- Good lighting (natural lighting is the best, to much sun with glare is to be avoided)
- Access to anything you need for study (pens, pencils, eraser, internet, and etc.)
- Comfortable chair (doesn’t have to be expensive, just needs proper back support and comfy seat)
- A good desk or table (something that allows you to sit straight and write/type comfortably. Laying on a couch is not a good option)
Pro-tip: Have Multiple Study Spots!
There is nothing worse than being stuck at one location for hours on end. Having multiple study spots can reignite your motivation and keep you working productively for longer periods of time. You should have at least 3 study spots:
- At home. If you are disciplined enough to not start playing video games or watching Netflix, you can create a comfortable space to work while jamming out to some study music.
- At school. Great for when you need access to library books and school resources.
- Somewhere else. For me I enjoyed going to a local coffee shop near my apartment. This was a great space for a concentrated hour of work.
Create a Research Template:
Whether you are doing a project or writing an essay, you will always need to start with research. To save yourself time and effort, create a basic template you can open at the start of any project and begin researching immediately.
What a research template should include:
After writing down the topic, write a short summary of why you chose this topic and what your aim is. While researching we will come across a lot of information. Having your initial feelings on the topic written down may help you stay on track.
This section is simply a list of reference websites and links for academic papers. At the beginning of every project I’ve worked on, I spend 15-30 minutes total googling all the keywords I can about my topic. This exercise is not to spend time actually reading each thing I find, but simply locate and save the links to interesting information.
For any book I take out from the library or a PDF book off online, I list in this section. The reason this is important is because if you are 4 months into research and you only listed the title of the book, you cannot properly reference any information without looking it up again. Make a list of your cited books:
- Author, A. (Year of Publication). Title of work. Publisher City, State: Publisher.
Here is a great site for APA format. They also have resources for other writing formats.
Follow whatever format your school requires and list your book references as soon as you sign them out. It makes it easier to copy and paste later on.
For most essays you will need to include 3-5 subtopics. List these sub-topics along with any key points below them.
Subtopic #1 – Star Wars species:
At the end of my template I like to put a notes section. This is great for writing down ideas when they come up. If you are working on a sub-topic and think of something interesting, write it down in this section rather than letting yourself get side tracked by it. You can always go back to the list later and review your ideas.
Research broadly before cutting the junk:
Research is essential for any project, essay or report. However, it is easy to waste time researching and end up with way too much information. The trick is to start your research with a wide scope and slowly start to focus your attention on the important information.
First focus on quantity, then shift your focus to quality by cutting out the bad and weak information.
Because you’ve already set up a research template, this part is easy. Start finding as many relevant websites, books and sources as you can and compiling the information. Give yourself a set time for this so you don’t over do it. If you have 1 month to do the assignment, take one week to do broad research.
Once the broad research has been completed, start to go through that information and cut out anything that is irrelevant or weak information.
Now that you’ve cut back all the junk, it’s time for focus on the information you have remaining. This will be information dense material that is relevant to your topic.
Don’t rely solely on the Internet:
It’s easy to focus on the internet because it is easy and quick. However, some of the best information can still be found at your school or local library. Take the time to look through books, thesis, dissertations and other written resources.
Using the library and books for references is a great skill to develop. Anyone can use the internet and chances are you will end up using the same sources as other people in your class. Make your project stand out with high quality information.
Utilize the people around you:
I can’t emphasize this enough. Working with your teachers, fellow students and family member can be an extremely easy way to get higher grades and learn more quickly.
If you want better grades, ask your teacher how! I mentioned a story in a post about mentoring that illustrated the benefits of making a connection with a teacher and asking what they wanted.
If you ask a teacher how to get better grades in their class, they will most likely tell you exactly what they are expecting on the assignment. It may be as simple as they want you to attend every class, or perhaps they really want to see you focus on your writing skills.
Whatever the answer, there’s no better way to increase your marks than giving the teacher exactly what they want.
Myself and 5 other students were all school friends. We had all the same classes together and spent our lunch breaks hanging out.
When we were working on our architectural projects, we would pass our drawings to each other and mark them up with notes and identify any mistakes. We would than rotate the drawings until they had been looked at by each person in the group.
This produced AMAZING results. We were often top of the class on our assignments because they had been so thoroughly reviewed prior to submission.
Offer to edit someone’s paper if they edit yours. Not only will you get valuable advice from their editing, you will also get a chance to see what they did well and what they did poorly, which will help you avoid their mistake and learn from their success.
Maybe you are a bit of a loner at school and prefer not to work with other. Regardless, it’s important to have someone review your work. My Dad is quite good at professional work style writing and my Mom writes for pleasure. This was great for me because they would be able to catch any spelling and grammar mistakes that I missed.
If you want to stay productive and focused, you need to take a break.
- Take a small walk to stretch your legs every 30 minutes.
- Give yourself a healthy snack every few hours to keep your energy levels up.
- After finishing your studying for the day, go spend time with friends to relax.
- Treat yourself to a nice meal after every milestone along the way.
It’s important to not only reward yourself, but also to take care of yourself. Remember to work out consistently, eat healthy and get enough sleep. If you don’t do those things, you will not be nearly as productive as you could be.
The Intro and Conclusion both come last!
Finally, you’ve finished all the research! It’s time to start doing some actually work.
Start with the meat and potatoes of the project or essay. You want to have all the information written in the correct format and all your ideas complete before you move on to your intro and conclusion.
If you are writing an essay or report, the intro usually consists of 3 things:
- Thesis statement/Introduction sentence.
- Introduction to body topics.
- The “hook” to transition into the essay body.
There are different ways to format your essay. Typically, the 3 body paragraphs are in this order:
- Strongest argument
- Second strongest argument
- Weakest argument
On the other hand, I have also been taught to write it in this order so not to end on a weak note:
- Strongest argument
- Weakest argument
- Second strongest argument
Ask your teacher which they would prefer if you are torn between the two options.
- Restate your thesis. Do not copy and paste, it should restate the thesis in similar tone to the original but not match it word for word.
- Summarize the body topics.
- Final statement to bring the paper to a close.
As you can see from the above essay breakdown, it is important to have the body done prior to the intro and conclusion. I’ve seen a lot of student who will write their intro and conclusion before doing the research for the body. This constrains them and makes for a very weak report/essay.
Spend the time necessary to do the research and format your arguments. Only than should you move on to the intro and conclusion!