This year I was asked to create a lecture for a small group of first-year graduate students as part of a weekly seminar designed to introduce them to aspects of graduate life.
I was specifically asked to discuss some techniques I use to help me manage all of the work I have to do. I was happy to have the opportunity to share what it had taken me a couple of years to figure out. I later tailored the talk to present to the senior undergraduates in my lab who were considering graduate school.
My lecture titled “A Brief Introduction to Grad School (and how to survive)” [PDF] focused on what is expected of every graduate student regardless of field: mastery of existing knowledge. This mastery usually culminates in a research proposal and an A exam.
I outlined three strategies that helped me:
- Make academic papers find you
- Understand and record what you read
- Organize your citations
For each strategy, I provided links to helpful resources like RSS readers and free citation managers. I built time into the lecture to click through these links and demonstrate how I use each of the resources to help me organize and understand information. Both of the times I presented this, the students appreciated the time I took to show them exactly how I set up my system. For the second lecture, I asked the students to bring their laptops so that I could walk them through the processes.
Creating this lecture and presenting it to two different audiences allowed me the opportunity to get feedback on what helped them and to whittle my message down accordingly.