Category Archives: Research Survival Guide

Creating Research Questions

When I applied to the NSF Fellowship the first two times, I was just in the midst of switching fields and starting grad school. As such, I didn’t have a research project, nor did I have any real knowledge of what kind of research was going on in my new field. So, when fellowship season came around and I was was asked to write a “novel” research proposal, I just about panicked. How would I ever come up with legitimate research question in a field I was unfamiliar with?

Now, one year later I am being forced to come up with research questions for candidacy–on topics not even related to my research! So, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how I’m planning on approaching this, in hopes that it might help some of you in similar predicaments.

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Summarizing Research Articles

Back in my senior year of college, I took a graduate class that required me to summarize one or two research articles a week. Though I absolutely hated it at a time (mostly because I hadn’t yet figured out how to read research papers yet), I found that it became an invaluable skill. What better way to make sure that you understand a research paper than condensing its many pages into a measly paragraph or two?

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How to Read Science Papers: An Update

I have been doing a lot of reading lately. A lot of reading. I’ve been scouring through the literature so I can have a solid foundation before/while I write my NSF fellowship  proposal for this year…the last year I can apply.  However, as I’ve been reading, I’ve noticed that my methods of going through my many, many piles of papers has changed since this time last year. Perhaps it’s because instead of reading just to read, I’m actually reading for information; to appear like less of a dumbass in my field. And because my methods have changed so much since the last time I wrote about this, I asked Tumblr if I wanted to see an updated version of this kind of post and I got an astounding:


So here we are…Again.

I shall note that the following tips are just what happens to work for me at this point in my academic career and I’m still modifying my methods as I go along (so stay tuned for next year?). This is probably a good reading technique if you’re just gathering background information, but may not necessarily work if you’re combing through methodology or doing anything more critical… Either way, I’m simply hoping that if anyone is struggling to read papers, this or last year’s post can at least provide good starting points in order to develop your own way of reading papers. Anyway, moving on!

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Lessons from Packing for Field Research

recently-updated140-650x840So two weekends ago, I had to help a couple lab members get ready for their research field campaign. It was quite a learning experience, if I do say so myself, especially because I will have to be doing the same for my field work in a few short months. Anyway, because I found the experience so humorous and insightful, I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned with those who are or are planning to be in disciplines that do a lot of field work. Continue reading Lessons from Packing for Field Research


Narrowing your “research focus”


Hi everyone!

So as the thought of grad school gets closer, so does the realization that it might be a good idea to start thinking about what you want to focus on as a research topic. But of course, this leads to many questions such as, how do you even go about narrowing your interests? And how refined of a research topic do you really need before grad school? Will my lack of a focus reflect badly on my grad applications? Does this mean I can’t apply to fellowships? Help meeee!

Not to worry, my friends! Hopefully this post will answer all of your questions and more! For organization purposes, this post will be separated into three parts!

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How to Read (Science) Journal Articles


I remember one of the most daunting tasks I had as an undergrad researcher was reading science articles. I could just not sit down and read one, much less understand what they were trying to tell me! It’s like it went in one ear and out the other… or the sight-seeing equivalent I guess.

Well, eventually, after many, many, many journal articles after, I can actually read and (sort of) understand what they’re trying to tell me! Turns out I just needed to find own way of reading them. Since I’m a visual person, that meant colored pens or going through various annotating apps on my tablet…

So, in hopes this helps at least one researcher in the very beginnings of their career, I shall now present my own personal method of annotating and understanding journal articles!

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