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Undergrad Research & Self-Directed Studying

Undergrad Research & Self-Directed Studying

Hey everyone! I’m sure we are feeling a bit anxious and stir-crazy at this time, and perhaps especially overwhelmed with having to do school work on top of everything. I originally planned to write this week’s post about my experience doing undergraduate research, and I still plan on doing so, but with a twist that feels more relevant right now. 

Desk.

Quick background: I applied to do a research project at the end of last year (with the Jackman Humanities Institute) and have since been doing research for basically an entire year. I’m supposed to finish my academic article (about Atwood and Euripides’ different uses of nature as setting) by April. Ack!

But the one thing that both research projects and completing school work in self-isolation have in common is that they are both self directed. I’ve been finding it difficult to keep up with school work these past few days, however, I’ve also learned a few things about study habits from doing my undergrad research! 

When there is no in-person class to attend it is important to: 

1. Take time just to THINK about the work. I usually do a lot of brainstorming during lecture because it’s when I’m most focused on the subject matter. At home, sometimes I just lie on my bed, eyes closed, so that I can come up with more ideas for my next essay etc. 

2. Make a schedule, and stick to it. This doesn’t mean knowing when things are due. No, its best to have a schedule for each day (or at least week) with what you need to accomplish. 

3. Have a conversation if you are feeling stuck. I have my research advisor to consult with when I’m having difficulties understanding content/getting work done. Professors are definitely willing to help you out at this time. However, having a convo with a friend or a family member (my go-to is my mom!) about the subject usually helps sort out thoughts and helps with motivation. 

Those are the most important things I’ve learned about doing a self-directed research project this year, and I hope some of this helps right now.

Books.

I know it’s a weird time to think about these things but, if you are interested in doing a research project, get in contact with the undergraduate coordinator of your department and/or the professor you hope to have as your advisor (and they can set you up with a 299/399 course). 

Three things I would tell my past-self before starting the research project:

1. It requires A LOT of reading, and you will never feel confident that you’ve covered  everything.

2. You will doubt yourself (and possibly have multiple breakdowns about your research not having any relevance in the grand scheme of things). But that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, you’re still doing something! 

3. You need to motivate yourself constantly. It is up to you to be excited about the work you’re doing! (Your research advisor is there to help you along the way too, but it makes all the difference if you make sure you’re keeping on top of things). 

If you have any tips about keeping on top of our online coursework please comment below. Stay healthy everyone! 

 

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