What do you write in your research journal?
- Interesting questions
- Possible solutions
- References to read
- Notes on articles and papers you've read
Begin your journal early in your graduate school career - long before you're searching for a dissertation topic. Don't plan to share your journal with anyone -- write freely.
When you read an interesting article, note it in your journal:
- What was the research topic
- How did they study it
- What did they find
- Ideas the authors suggest for further research
- What was striking about the article
- Your own ideas
Every now and then, read your journal. Over time you may notice themes, thoughts that seem to connect, and patterns. Recurring themes will suggest avenues for research to form your dissertation. Sure, not everything that you capture in your journal will fit into your future research, but a journal is an important way of learning about your research interests, defining them, and crafting workable ideas.
As you find potential dissertation ideas, thoroughly read the related literature, noting your thoughts in your journal. You'll never complete your review of the literature as new articles are constantly being published. Don't wait to finish your literature review to start your research or you will be forever reading and never conducting research. Be aware of the literature in your area and note how your work is different from others.
When you begin your research, note it's progress in your journal. Write down questions, problems that emerge, and notes on your methodology and results. Your research journal is a record of what you hypothesized, did, and found, as well as a place to consider the implications of your work. Continue to read current articles about your topic and record your comments in your journal. You'll find your journal, your research record, invaluable as you write your dissertation.