We are now a few weeks into the semester – long enough to get comfortable with the trajectory and expectations of a class, but not far enough, in most cases, to feel pressure from a final paper or project. More and more, though, students want to keep it that way.
If you’re one of this new type of student, you may be doing some of your major research early, to reduce the demands on you at the end of the semester. A little pre-research, or ‘presearch’, if you will. And that’s great – that sort of dedication and forethought is commendable. But how do you make sure the value of what you do now is maximized later? If you forget or misplace everything, after all, the time spent is wasted. Even tracking down a citation for something you used can be a time sink. So how you organize things – saving, sorting, and documenting – is important. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques to help you.
If you’re doing research on the computer you plan to write the paper on, download the articles you want to a folder created especially for that semester or class. Make sure the filename for each document is something you can interpret (i.e., 100910482.pdf won’t be meaningful ten weeks from now, but W131article1.pdf or RhetoricOnTheBrain.pdf probably will).
If you’d rather keep the content online, make a Word (available for free for IU students) or simple text document and paste the links into it. Most ebooks and articles have a button that will let you access a permanent link to them – although it might be labelled as ‘stable URL’ or ‘permalink’ or something like that. It frequently has a picture of chain links associated with it. Here are a few examples:
Also, most ebook and article databases have an auto-cite feature. While you would want to review these to make sure they are correct (machines make mistakes, and these auto-citations are all machine-generated), quickly copying and pasting these rough citations into your Word document now will save you a lot of time tracking down obscure information (like the issue number, DOI, or publisher) later, when it comes time to write the paper. The auto-cite button frequently has a picture of quotation marks associated with it. Here are a few examples:
Having this type of information now will make your life a lot easier later – and ensure that you don’t waste more time trying to retrace or recreate what you did previously.
If you’re doing your research on your phone instead of the device you will actually read it or write your paper on, making an account with the databases you are using might be the best way to go.
Note that you do not automatically have an account with any of these databases – you will need to make one. The create account button may be labeled, or only appear after clicking, a link that says something like ‘sign in’ or ‘register’. Here are a few examples:
With an account, you can save your research – individual items, the whole searches you used, bookmark great content like ebook chapters, and more. If you read through and make notes about any of the things you are finding at this early stage, Gale and Ebook Central will let you save colored highlighting, exactly as if you had marked a physical book with a highlighter pen.
You can benefit from an account even if you’re only using the computer you plan to write the paper on, but it’s significantly more useful if you switch back and forth between desktops, laptops, and mobile devices like tablets or smartphones. With an account, you can also download full ebooks from either EBSCO Ebooks or Ebook Central – useful if you want to read them later in a location with inconsistent internet access, like an airplane.
What you do now will make a big difference in the last weeks of the semester. If you need help navigating these resources or have any questions, ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org!