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does anyone have any advice on not getting sucked into a research hole so deep that you don't have enough time to actually write your coursework?

I never know how/when to stop reading about a topic to the point where it's detrimental to the work that I (eventually) output

thank you for all of your intelligent and considerate responses
@shoutcacophony @ehuxleyi @delibrarian @thelibrarian

They have, uh, really hammered home the importance of outlines and planning!

@ratking I do about 60% of my research before I start my outline/first draft, and then look things up as I realize I need them for my paper. So when I can start to see some patterns in the research or get an idea what my take on the topic is, I can get started on that draft. I don't usually see the holes in my research until I'm writing.

Every scholar ever: "No, but please let me know if you figure this out."


- outlines
- sidebarring anything that's not on the outline for later
- if that doesn't work, start scaling my out-of-scope interests until i'm sated enough to keep researching

also, writing whatever isn't directly relevant down quickly, either by hand or digitally, and saving it helps me. "at least it's saved somewhere i can find it later."

@ratking "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

@ratking My method for research rabbit holes is:

-skim a bunch of papers/abstracts and add them to a new Zotero folder
-add short notes on what I took away from each paper
-if possible writing down an overarching summary of the research hole (usually on paper, sometimes in Zotero)

Then when it comes time to completing work, I've already synthesized a few ideas and it's easier to pull stuff together.

I'm really really bad at not getting sucked into irrelevant holes though...

@ehuxleyi ah, Zotero looks very useful! I've gone between like, rudimentary systems using post-it notes to spreadsheets to word documents to scribbling in disparate notebooks, which has gone about as well as you might expect.

@ratking 1) Accept that you will NEVER be able to read, or even find, everything on a topic.
2) Come up with some idea of what a "good enough" knowledge of the topic might look like. Obviously, this is going to take some research! (Danger! Danger!) You might have to revise this, but it gives you a framework to start with.
3) Stop when things are feeling familiar. You've already read something like this before. That's enough for now.


4) When actually writing (or whatever) you may have to dive back in -- be specific about what you need here!
5) Keep a 'for later' pile/file. (It's OK if you never actually go back to it, too.)

Not to say that is always works, but it helps.

@delibrarian number 1 is really the hardest! My ability to read academic/dense/difficult texts and articles has improved dramatically in a fairly short span of time, and with it the pressure I exert on myself to read as much as possible (and beyond!).

The ideas of finding out what a "good enough" knowledge is, and keeping a for later pile are particularly helpful, thank you. Hopefully keeping them in mind will help my academic career going forward :)

@ratking This is a hard question to answer. As you see in the replies thus far, it is more of an art learned by experience, than a science.
I start by identifying the terms of art for my topic, i.e., how other researchers of the topic talk about it. I search using these keywords & pull 10-20 articles/books based on the title. If I can I read the most recent review article, including the reference list, first. Then I read abstracts & assign reading priorities, H M L, to the articles I pulled. 1/n

@ratking I may only read the review and the high priority articles. Then I outline/mindmap. I then use a similar process to address any *obvious holes*. Then I get to writing: 3-4 sentences per paragraph-level outline node. I only look up new stuff if it is critical to success. I read my draft and add additional information for clarity and flow, bolstering points that need more or better support. Then I edit for consistency (make sure I use the same synonym in all instances, say). 2/n

@ratking I use a electronic dictionary and thesaurus while writing as I try to write concisely and with precision. I don't like reading long-winded articles or books, and I judge my reader's time at least as valuable as my own.

Also if you have an academic library that makes available Oxford Bibliographies Online, check it out and see if it has a bibliography on your topic (or a 'parent' topic). They are a good way to make sure you didn't totally overlook a major author in the subject. n/n

We really did, didn't we? I think the generalizable principle is that research as a process is about boundary setting. Use whatever tools help with that.

@shoutcacophony @ehuxleyi @delibrarian

@ratking This also make me think of other ways I avoid rabbitholes or freeze-ups: I keep a notebook of ideas & topics for further investigation that have occurred to me but are not currently germane. (I feel like there was something else, but it is escaping me at the moment.)

Oh that's what it was...I use filters, flags/stars, and label/tags in my email to keep track of interesting, but distracting items.

Both of these things lessens my anxiety about forgetting or losing something important yet somewhat ephemeral.

@thelibrarian ah! that's an excellent phrasing that has clarified the general idea even further for me. now, to actually enact it...

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