Learn to curate references & customize an organizational system to help you retain what you’ve read
Want a system for keeping track of the educational administration books and articles you’ve read?
A recent article by Inc. suggests that simply reflecting on what you’ve read helps to retain the content in your memory and connect it to your existing knowledge on the subject. Imagine applying this system to your educational administration & leadership research - how helpful would it be to be able to recall important information from all the research you’ve read?
One of the greatest challenges of grad school can be retaining information from countless books and academic articles. If you’ve ever experienced forgetting most of what you’re read right after reading it, a research reading journal can change that!
A reading journal will help you to:
Remember key concepts from books and articles you’ve read.
Build on your existing knowledge on the subject of educational administration.
Connect more deeply to a field of study.
Create a go-to reference library for whenever you start a new research project.
The best part of starting a research journal is that you can start one today, and for next to nothing.
A journal or notebook.
Curated articles, books, and online articles from your research collection (optional).
Coloured tabs or sticky notes to organize your research (optional).
Choose a Notebook
Everyone’s preference for choosing a notebook is different - and yours probably is, too!
While you don’t need to necessarily go out and buy an expensive notebook for this project (student budgets are tight, am I right?), consider investing either some money or some time into making the notebook something special that you can easily carry with you. I recommend an A5-sized notebook.
Pro tip: Science says that when we invest our money into something, we tend to take it more seriously. So, even if it’s $9 (like my notebook from Indigo, featured in the photo below), investing some money into your notebook almost guarantees that you will appreciate it more.
If you already have a notebook, great! If not, find one or buy one, and don’t stress about how beautiful it is. The best notebook is one that is full of your thoughts and ideas.
Curate a Collection of References
You’ve got a notebook and now you’re ready to start writing.
If you’re anything like me, you may already have a bookshelf crammed with books and stacks of journal articles. In fact, the real challenge may be choosing just one research article to start with. Hint: start with the one that sparks the most interest and inspires you!
But maybe you haven’t already curated a small library of reference materials. And that’s totally fine. If you’re a newbie, there are some helpful places you can look for inspiration:
The reference pages (also called bibliographies) of your favourite research articles.
Search your university library using keywords.
Recommendations on Mendeley, Goodreads, or Amazon.
Ask your instructor(s) or peers for recommendations (this is how I discovered many great books!).
Start collecting references that you’ve read or that you want to read. These could be journal articles, books, online articles, blog posts, social media posts, and recordings. It’s important to note that not all texts you choose to write about in this journal have to come from the field of educational administration & leadership. In some cases, they might be texts that are seemingly unrelated, but which actually have a connection in some way (e.g. articles from the fields of public administration or educational technology).
Organize Your Research Reading Journal
There is no one right way to organize your reading journal. Take some time to think about what information you want to capture. I recommend ensuring you can fit all the important information on 1-2 pages of your journal so that it’s easy to flip through.
You may want to include the following content:
Title of book/article and a numbering system (e.g. 001, 002, 003).
Publication info, such as name of journal, volume, issue, no., year, page numbers, and name of publishers (also include location information for books).
Methodology and overview of research design
A brief summary of the major findings of the study
Memorable quotes that you can draw on for future research
Of course, there may be times when you want to refer back to a research article you read or even re-read it for a new research project. A free management tool such as Mendeley allows you to create a library of research articles, which you can use for future reference.
Bonus Step: Set a Reading Goal
Now that you have a collection of articles and books to write about, how about setting a reading goal to keep you on track? By setting a reading goal, you’ll ensure that you make time in your busy schedule to read new research.
Share Your Work!
I hope that your reading journal is a success! Please post below to let me know how this project worked for you or tag me using #valentineacademia to show me your journal on social media. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!