John Hammett, Keith Whitfield, Jeremy Evans, and Dougald McLaurin recently came together at the Library at Southeastern to discuss practical ways to help you read well, take notes, and manage your time well.
By: Dougald McLaurin
We all need time to research. We need time to understand our topics, read our sources, and, analyze what others have said on our topic. We need time for our own ideas on the topic to mature. Finally, we need time to write.
Procrastination takes away the time we need to research well. Research cannot happen in an evening or even a week. If we do not allow sufficient time for research we will write with only a very poor understanding of a topic, and it will show. Ultimately, procrastination kills our creativity and the enjoyment we can experience while researching in seminary.
I think that procrastination is perhaps the main reason that students do not enjoy writing papers in seminary or college.
So, why do students procrastinate? I see two possible reasons why students might procrastinate.
1. They do not know what it takes to do good research.
2. They are afraid of the process.
In my role as Reference Coordinator at the Library at Southeastern, want to unlock the full creative potential of students. So, in this post I want to give a few tips on how to approach research and writing so that we can avoid procrastination and unlock your full potential. I want to see students engaging the world as creatively as possible with their mind.
Here are four basic tips to get started:
How do you plan your research? Some of that will depend on your personality. Each one of us is different. However, if you have not established a research process, you will not be able to plan well. I generally point students to the Minnesota Assignment Calculator. An assignment calculator will help students see the entire research process—from understanding a topic, analyzing resources, outlining, and writing.
Assignment calculators will also help students to understand how much time they should devote to a particular step in the research and writing process. This allows them to set dates for each step. By setting dates you will be able to break your research project into smaller segments and make the process a little less daunting, which is a big reason for procrastination.
Write Along the Way:
The first time you write anything about your research topic should not be when you start to write your first draft. Keep a research journal and write down your own thoughts about your topic, reactions to what you read, and restating the arguments of the sources you use in your research. All of this will help you when you sit down to write. Your thoughts will be more mature and your ability to express your thoughts will come more naturally when you have already expressed those ideas before.
This summer I had a Ph.D. student who visited the library after his graduation. As he left he turned to me and said, “The most helpful thing you taught me while getting my Ph.D. was to plan my rest.” Rest gives our minds a break and will allow us to remain focused. For example, I always save Sundays for rest from school work. It allows me to work hard during the week and then rest without worrying about school.
Ask God for help. Give him a chance to show himself in your research and writing. He will give you strength when you do not feel like you have it. He will open your mind to understand difficult subjects. He will help you stay on task. Do not miss a chance to commune with God by not involving him in your research.
My hope is that these steps will prove helpful in making the task of research and writing less daunting. Procrastinating less and planning more can make your research assignment more enjoyable, and will produce a finished product of much higher quality.
Dougald McLaurin is the Reference Coordinator for the Library at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary