The Internet is filled with tips for beginners: learn to take effective notes in class, cite sources in papers, support your thesis with evidence etc. But what about more advanced skills? Here we decided to provide a few tips for those who’ve already climbed the first few steps of the educational ladder.
While reusing papers is plagiarism and will get you in trouble, reusing the research you did for previous assignments will save you time and help build a firm base of knowledge. A smart thing to do is writing papers within a certain discourse, going deeper every time. Of course, it mostly works better for subjects that are closely related to each other in the general educational canvas. You will still have to research every paper you write, but by now you already have a broad picture on the issues you study. By the time you graduate, you might have a solid pile of materials for graduate research.
It is important to stay in the loop and up to date with what is going on in your field. You can search for and subscribe to discussion boards and newsletters. Some of them are professional-only, but the rest are open for students and pretty much anyone.
If you spent the first year trying to stay as invisible as possible and blend in with the crowd to avoid trouble, now is the time to change the strategy. You’ll need people to know and respect you. You’ll be asking for references and recommendation letters, so it’s better if professors at least know who you are.
Up until now, your professor or the TA was the only one who was supposed to read your papers. Now, you should be aiming higher and write as if there are other people who’ll have access to your work. It will train you for the future, should you decide to go into research. It helps you get used to the language of professionals.
You’ve been developing critical thinking skills for a long time, now is the time to use them. Try to analyze not only biases but also strong sides of the papers, search for a broader context, and understand how things work and how they don’t work. You can build on that successfully.
The reading load in the last years of college is much greater, which means you’ll have to find more time to do it. Or, you can learn to skim, i.e. identify the most relevant information and skip the rest. You can also learn to speed read, if you don’t want to miss anything.
Hopefully, you have already identified the key areas of interest and are ready to work within their boundaries. Stay focused on it. And if it seems impossible, go talk to your professor – they’re often pretty open-minded with students who have a passion for their subject.
Remember that this is your time to shine, so be smart about it. Don’t miss opportunities and srtive to become the best.