By Lauren Cerretti
During the summer months, it’s hard to get motivated to write or work on projects. Often we, as writers, students, and professionals, want to take the summer off. We think that there is so much time between now and the new semester or deadline. What we all know deep-down, however, is that the summer is the perfect time to get moving on a thesis or dissertation, a professional paper, or new research.
If you’ve just finished your first year in a two-year Masters program, the summer is the perfect time to start really researching your thesis topic. Even if you’re two years into your PhD program, working through the summer is still a great idea. Yes, of course, you deserve a break. That’s why my plan for summer research is perfect for you: it’s a minimal effort with maximum return plan.
Research is often the most fun part of a big writing project for a lot of students and professionals. While writing is intimidating for a lot of us, research usually is not. What I mean by research is document research: looking for articles and books on your thesis/dissertation/paper project, not lab or field research. Lab and field research is another topic altogether (and still fun, I’ve heard). Book, Internet, and article research is great because you get to experiment with search terms and discover new information about your topic. You can discover how varied your very specific topic area is. Research is also a simple way to ease into working over the summer because the first step involves reading abstracts only. Abstracts are short and useful. They are not intimidating because they are concise. Abstracts are the perfect first step in a summer research plan.
For the most part, your summer can be spent looking for pertinent articles and books by simply reading abstracts, saving the link or printing the article (or securing the book from the library) and placing links or articles in a folder on your desk or computer. Easy, right? If you spend two months compiling research and one month reading through it, you are well on your way to completing your research all in one summer, depending on your project’s length or complexity.
Once you’re ready to scan through your research, make sure you take some brief notes and include page numbers and quick thoughts on how this research supports your argument or project. These little notes will be immensely useful come writing time. They’re also useful because your own notes can help you see trends in research and possible gaps that exist. These trends or gaps can influence your own work (the direction it takes) or can be worth mentioning in your literature review or concluding statements. Don’t forget to write out citations for books or materials you might need to return to their owner. Writing out the reference entry now is much easier than hunting down the information when your work is almost due.
While the summer is definitely the time to relax, it’s also the perfect time to get some research done. So enjoy the summer and enjoy your work.
About the author: Lauren Cerretti is the graduate writing tutor at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.