Efficient Research: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Study Time
  • 3-minute read
  • 29th August 2016

Efficient Research: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Study Time

Life as a student can be busy, so you might need to cram a lot into a short period of time. Knowing how to conduct efficient research will therefore give you more time to focus on other things.

This is especially vital when working on more than one assignment at the same time, or when balancing work and your studies. To help out, we’ve come up with a few guidelines for conducting efficient research.

1. Create a Research Plan

One big mistake some students make when researching an essay is diving straight into the library (or ignoring it until a week before the deadline). But this will mean your reading is unfocused, costing you additional time and effort.

By creating a research plan you ensure that you work more effectively. Be sure to consider the time you have to conduct your research, the questions you’re seeking to answer and what you intend to argue.

Once you’ve done this, you should be able to focus your research on the most relevant texts.

2. Have a Search Strategy

If you are looking for sources via an electronic database or the internet, it’s important to have a search strategy. This involves identifying key terms, knowing the databases you’ll be searching and using Boolean operators to narrow your search to the most relevant material.

Googling 'search strategy' is not the same as actually having a search strategy, by the way.
Googling ‘search strategy’ isn’t the same as having one, by the way.

Some universities require you to document your search strategy while writing up research, but even if this isn’t the case it can still be helpful to give this a little consideration.

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3. Location, Location, Location…

Once you’ve found relevant sources, make sure you also pick a good place to read them. This should be somewhere free from distractions, where you can be most productive.

4. Efficient and Effective Note Taking

The way in which you take notes is also important. Try summarising what you read, rather than copying it out verbatim. This will help you retain information and saves time overall (you can copy out key quotations, if required).

Other time-saving tips include using abbreviations where possible (e.g. ‘w/’ for ‘with’, ‘b/c’ for ‘because’, etc.) and noting down the publication information for sources as you read them (which will save time when you come to write your reference list). It’s also worth trying out different note-taking techniques, as we all learn in different ways.

5. Be Organised!

Not that we want to be accused of being anally retentive, but the benefits of a good filing system shouldn’t be underestimated.

Sorting everything into neatly labelled folders might not seem like an efficient use of your time to begin with, but when you need to check your notes while writing an essay or revising for a test you’ll definitely appreciate having made the effort!

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