This week’s post is about putting it all together. Little steps. 

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by Jason F. Martinez

What is it about large projects and taking on too much at one time? Why do we often find ourselves in over our heads when trying to accomplish such tasks after we’ve waited too long?

Or maybe it’s just me…

In any case, if you should find yourself in the middle of one project, or possibly juggling multiple projects at one time, attacking the challenge with some sort of plan is key. Being able to prioritize and organize the components to be completed will usually create less stress both before and during the process. And this is a concept that many have to learn the hard way, as is the custom of all good lessons learned.

When sitting down with a student during a consultation, there is often a sense of overwhelming stress, possibly fall across their face, or perhaps I can hear it in their voice as we discuss the paper. The stress is due to several factors, and the one factor that probably takes precedence is the project’s scope.

Finally sitting town to work when the deadline is too close usually removes any confidence about the assignment and its outcomes. When this happens, most begin to panic. Panic won’t change anything, I can promise you that much. Instead, make note of the procrastination and begin planning for the next assignment. Write down what you did up to this current point of anxiety and procrastination and resolve to avoid those circumstance the next go round.

Documenting where you went wrong is the first step.But when you come across your next assignment, you should have a new plan of attack. Here is what I have done at various points in my academic career in order to have better control over my projects:

Step One – Scheduling

  • Make note of all due dates or milestones for the project(s). Use your student planner or calendar feature on your smart device or laptop to do this.
  • Annotate each entry with contact and resource info in case you should need to reach out to your professor (for assignment specific questions) or classmates (for coordination if a group project).
  • Compare the academic calendar against your work and social calendars (so to speak). This should ensure that you do not over extend yourself and commit to things that you cannot follow through with, or that will interfere with your process.

Step Two – Evaluating the Assignment or Project

  • Determine how much research your assignment may require. Make time to visit the research librarians at the library to get any assistance finding your sources and to determine the legitimacy of the research that you find.

Step Three – Engaging with the Research

  • Begin reading your research, making notes and annotations as you go along to keep track of your progress. Consider making a matrix for your research to document your process and have access to information for the future. Some information to include in the matrix (hand drawn or in an Excel spreadsheet) should be: author(s), title, year of publication, direct quotes, summary of chosen quotes, page or paragraph information, and maybe a URL or location of where you found it.
  • Depending on your learning preference, you can engage with the research you have gathered either by traditional means with printed copies, hand written notes, and use of colored pens or highlighters. Or, if you are a true student of the 21st century, you can use other digital tools, such as Adobe Reader or any other modules that can be found online.

And that’s it for this week. This may seem like it’s cut short, but there is much more to the process that requires more discussion.

Take note of this entry and look for ways to implement a more solid process for you to tackle larger assignments.

If you have the time, please take a look at this website, the Assignment Calculator, as it will help to break down the process of organizing a project. The Assignment Calculator will be covered in a future post.

As always, if you have any questions, please come see us at the MFD WC in the Academic Center for Excellence located in Library 101.

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