Graduate School Chronicles of #ThePile

The Absent-Minded Professor

I’ve been a bit absent minded the past few weeks. Between the end of classes, finals, moving back to Middle Tennessee for the summer, cheering on my buddy in the Warrior Dash, and coming home to see the folks, I would have lost my head if it wasn’t screwed on tight. The future doesn’t look any slower. I have a brother and sister graduating from high school on Friday night and will be headed to Lexington, Kentucky for the Alltech Symposium Sunday morning. Whew…

Somewhere in the middle I must keep working on my research proposal and plans for graduate school. My research project won’t go down with out a little planning and a lot of reading and writing. Who knew there was so much to feeding pregnant cows? I’ve dubbed my reading and writing as #ThePile because it is always growing and never seems to be left far behind. In fact, I even sat up a desk at my parent’s house to continue working.

#ThePile consists of my literature review – covering all I can find on my research topic. Has someone done something similar? How can I make my research different? What do I need to look at? What do I need to know about this topic? All in preparation for my thesis. It’s a big task, but with a little planning, I think this #AgNerd will enjoy it. (Remind me of this when I’m banging my head on the wall for stress relief).

Stay tuned. I’ll use my reading as material for my blog posts. Writing out information usually helps me remember things better, so I’ll probably use it as an excuse to keep up with my blogging habits. Gotta work on the SEO! (Again, #AgNerd comment there!) Ok, back to working on #ThePile!

How’s your summer kicking off?

Crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis! Back to the Natural State and rough highways.
Look who I found! Pistol gets to come back home with me!
Watching thousands of people trudge through the mud made for some good people watching at the Warrior Dash!
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  1. Yes, I did a literature review for a thesis, as well as collaborative research papers with faculty. I remember my pile quite well.

    A lit review is a good overview of what has been done in the area. Mine had to address both theoretical and experimental foundations for my topic, which was not ag related. From lit reviews, gaps appear which demonstrate nuances that have not been addressed which lead to formations of hypotheses. The main hindrance is finding the structure, like chapters. If the department has a collection of published thesis documents (my department required each candidate to give one to the graduate school and one to the department), they give good ideas about structure. Then, sort all the articles in a logical sequence as to how they address your topic. This will help greatly when writing.

  2. I used a file organizer with hanging folders that I could sort my research articles by topic for my lit review for both my MS thesis and PhD dissertation (well I had to use 2 for my dissertation)!! It was easy to take all my papers from my office on campus and to my office at my kitchen table. It made writting easier as I got to each “topic” of my lit review!!! It is easier to stay focused on the actual writing if you can find the paper you want quickly. Digging through a mountain of papers in search for the 1 paper that had 2 sentences of interest that you don’t remember the exact title of the paper, and you are 70% sure it was written my author abc is a big time distraction. I would only have about 1-2 hours where my brain was fresh and I could write well, so minimizing the distractions and remaining focused helped get the writting done much faster!! Good Luck!!!

  3. A couple of thoughts having done them and graded them. First, while I am sure you have done it, read other ones. In fact, I always tell people to read the best ones you can find, and then think about what you might be able to say that is different. Your committee will have read so many of these, and your job is to advance the research, so I always try to think if I had a new way to structure them or evaluate the literature. Perhaps there are studies that have been overlooked, but when you look back, you see them as significant. Second, get the Papers app if you have a Mac and scan them or grab them from the research libraries. The digital world through tagging and searching makes managing the “pile” so much easier. Using the digital infrastructure to automatically build your citation and abstract indexes and lists is great. There are other applications that work well, but Third, start outlining from the first piece you read. Your organizational scheme will change many times over, but it was really helpful for me for both my thesis and dissertation work to always an organization scheme. It must have changed 50 times, but I always felt like I was making progress after each piece I read or reviewed I figured it out where it went in scheme, or if I needed a new one. Note cards work great for that.

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