By Mohamed Omar
As a graduate student, research can often feel daunting. One of the most common stresses is the feeling of little progress over long periods of time, as if one is getting nowhere. This can spiral into a lack of motivation and enthusiasm, which ultimately sets one back. How can such a rut be avoided?
One great tool to consider is a research journal. Writing a research journal is straightforward: at the end of your day, simply write a synopsis of the day’s research activities. This includes:
1) Writing results you have come up with, regardless of your opinion of its worth. Strong research is often the culmination of many small ideas.
2) Listing conjectures you have thought about. This gives you concrete problems to work on in the days to come.
3) Writing a synopsis of discussions with professors or other graduate students.
4) Reflecting on a talk and its connections to your problems.
The benefits of a daily journal are plentiful. By maintaining the journal, you develop a chronicle of your thought processes over a long period of time. This makes the big picture clearer, and adds a strong sense of direction to your research. On a microscopic level, viewing the daily entries once every few weeks gives you a concrete map of the progress you’ve made. Besides the tracking benefits, keeping a daily journal makes paper writing easier, you’re results are already written! All in all, a daily research journal is an effective and constructive addition to research.