We’ve discussed academic bullet journaling and how it can help you in a previous blog post, but what about keeping a research journal? While bullet journaling keeps a record of your deadlines and schedules, a research journal is different. Today’s blog will look at what a research journal is and how it can help you on your research journey.

What is a research journal?

So what IS a research journal? It’s a notebook in which you put thoughts you have while researching and writing. That’s really it in a nutshell. It’s a place where you can put all of your thoughts, findings, and concerns about your research, completely uncensored. You can think about what you’ve found, your frustrations with your research, questions you have, articles or books you need to get, ideas that you want to explore further, and where you want to go next with the research. It can be a place for your personal reflections or thoughts during your work, as well.

When you read over your journal, you may find interesting insights that can help with your writing, help you get “unstuck,” or even ideas for your next research project. Most of all, this is a place solely for YOU during your research process.

Can you do this digitally? Yes, it’s possible, but it's not the same. A good old-fashioned notebook is best. This way you can take it with you whenever you want – you never know when you’ll have some thoughts or insights about your research process, and it’s helpful to have your notebook next to you when working on your research and writing. With a notebook, you can have a system of tabs for organization, titling, labeling – whatever you want to do to make it yours. Get in the habit of keeping it near you at all times, even when you go to bed. We’ve all had those mornings where we wake up with an idea related to our work and tell ourselves we’ll write it down later, and then forget it when we finally have the time to do so. By keeping the notebook next to your bed, you’ll be able to jot down quick notes in the early morning or even late at night, when some of the best ideas might occur.

What do you put in a research journal and how can it help?

As you’re reading journal articles, you can take notes in the research journal, write down anything that strikes you as particularly troubling or interesting, and any data that you want to explore further, later on. You can also write down your reactions to the research and what your thoughts are. This observations and reflections are good starting points and can be helpful later on when you’re writing your dissertation, as well.

Write down anything that occurs to you about your research, even when you’re not officially “working” on your dissertation. Sometimes we can get “stuck” with ideas or writing, and often, ideas or strategies that can help us move forward come to us when we’re not working on our work. It’s that phenomenon of having a “light bulb moment” when you finally step away from the desk. Keeping your research journal with you allows you to write down every idea or thought that occurs to you. This might help with writer’s block later on.

If you’re collecting data, record your data points, responses to your findings, and interview notes. Your reactions to the interviews are important to note, too. While you won’t end up writing your reactions in your dissertation, this can inform your writing in other ways and shed light on how you interpret the findings or any resistance you might be having toward certain findings. Recording reactions to literature reviews can also provide you with talking points when you do go to write your dissertation, or even be of help with other work you may do later, like journal articles or future research in other ways.

A research journal can be many things to many people, and no two are alike. Is it necessary? No. But it might prove to be a helpful tool in fleshing out your work, helping you stay on task, and providing you with ideas for future scholarly work and writing.

Have you kept a research journal? Did it help at all?

Even if you’ve kept a research journal and reaped its benefits, having a professional editing service can help get your thesis or dissertation in tip-top shape. Thesis Editor has a team of editors and statisticians who can work with you to address concerns from your committee and polish your work so that it can be the best it can be. Contact us today to learn more about our extensive range of services!

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