Research habits

You may have heard about research skills, but what about research habits? What are those and how do you develop them? Let's define a habit as: 'Action that is instigated by a trigger and leads to a reward.' Successful people may be competent and skilful, but really these are the byproducts of useful habits and positive behaviours. Students who score well on the EE, often attribute their success to their 'work flow' or routines. So what kinds of routines are going to help you research your essay well? Here are several sentence starters to think about, before revealing their endings and discussing them with your supervisor my Researcher's Reflection Space (notebook) to read my previous thoughts and list of 'next steps'. At the end of each research session, I should also make a short list of 'next steps' to activate myself for the next session.

...make notes in my RRS or record an RPPF entry, and date the conversation. Even a small bullet-pointed list will help me reflect on and remember what we have agreed to. Looking back on these notes will help me move forward.

..take a deep breath. Take out my calendar and make a (new) plan. Before making new plans, think about what went wrong with the old plans. It is less stressful if EE work is frequent and concentrated. Most people work in bursts of energy. Try to get ahead of deadlines. Ask: How much room is there for renegotiating deadlines? What consequences are there for missing deadlines? Knowing answers to these questions will help determine stress levels.

... write it down in my RRS and see how it fits with my original thinking and notes. Revist any mind maps or previous outlines and make changes to them. Any new sources should be noted in an annotated bibliography, recording all of the information and a comment about the value and relevance of the source. Sources may be 'tagged' in a tagging system like Evernote, Zotero or using the bookmarks function in a web browser. Discuss new ideas with my supervisor. Think of new search terms. Add to 'next steps' in my RRS.

...ask myself why and if it is worthwhile or feasible at this stage in the EE calendar. Narrowing the focus of the research question over time is only natural. Think about the consequences of major changes and conduct new, preliminary research. Where am I in my timeline of deadlines? If it's still early in the timeline, then there's time to discuss new questions with my supervisor. If it's late in my timeline, then I should ask myself if it is worth the risk of starting all over again.

...make notes on its strengths and weaknesses, apply the assessment criteria and write a short list of 'lessons learned'.

...embrace it. Run with it. Learn from it and include it in the existing structure of my essay or possibly restructure my essay. I should write about this in my RRS or RPPF. If there is more counter-evidence than evidence, it may be time for a new research question or line of argumentation.

...write it down, word for word, or copy-cut-paste it into a rolling document of valuable quotations, tagging it with a few key words about its relevance and value. 'Key quotes' can also be a column in a table called my 'annotated bibliography'. Revisit any mind maps or outlines to see where the new quotation fits into the bigger picture and structure of the argument.

... save it, possibly with a different version number, so that I can see the history of the essay as it evolves. Eventually, I will want to print it, read it, re-read it and annotate it. Remember, my supervisor can only review one complete draft. Make that feedback count.


One of the Approaches to Learning is self-management skills. What does it mean to manage yourself? There's only so much a supervisor or parent can 'manage'. You're in the driver seat of your EE. You're responsible for the end result. Struggling with motivational issues. Reach to external 'rewards' to develop good EE habits, such as an hour on the PlayStation AFTER an hour of meaningful research and note making in your RRS.

Last modified: Wednesday, 27 May 2020, 2:33 PM