1. When frustrated about the progress of your (by which I mean my) research, write out the difficulties you’re having. Writing out the problem
- helps/forces you to think critically about what’s really hindering your progress. The problem may turn out to be small and solvable once you’ve worried it down to its component parts.
- allows you to review the problem with a little more distance and offer the sort of critical advice you might offer a colleague.
- may result in a paragraph that looks like it could have been taken from any major research journal, indicating that your ‘problem’ is not indicative of any major flaw in your research, but is a natural part of the research process. (Welcome to the community. We have t-shirts, but will only wear them with black/tweed blazers so as not to undermine our professional appearance.)
- should probably appear in the final paper anyway, so you’re saving yourself memory space by recording it now.
2. Read writers’ blogs, especially ones about writing. Writing blogs are very realistic about the need to break up your work into small chunks, then carry through on them: if you don’t do it, you won’t write and publish. That no-nonsense attitude really resonates with me. If I expect to outline and plot my way through a 300-page novel that comes entirely out of my own head, I can darn well break this ten-to-fifteen-thousand-word paper down into manageable chunks and deal with them. Especially since the end result isn’t even required to be emotionally compelling, just useful.
Of course, you have to take my advice with a grain of salt, as I’m a grad student, not a master of research (although I will soon be a Master of Science, which sounds pretty bad-ass). Said advice did get me through the morning, though, so I’m going to keep it around in case I need reminding. Possibly on a daily basis.