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PNIplz

How to "School" In Psychology (Study Tips)

7 posts in this topic

I'm starting at a new school in the Fall for a Ph.D in Clinical Psych and, for some reason, I can't find much online about how psychology students work in classes. For example, when professors assign 5+ papers to read per class/week, how do you best take notes on this? I know there is an entire system for cases in law school and I have to assume someone has a similar system for psych. What do you find are the most important things to take from a paper when you're learning it for a class/what is your system?

I realize that, especially in psych, research is more of a focus than classes but it's still going to be a huge time consumer. Also, do you take notes on paper or computer? Just curious on how people on here do things!

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I think you'll get several different responses because most likely every psych student does something different.  Some of my classmates preferred to share the reading by dividing up the articles and then trading notes.  That doesn't work for me so I generally just didn't read the whole article to save time.  I read the abstract, methods, and results and took a few notes in the margins.  If the week was exceptionally busy and it became clear that I couldn't read 5+ articles times 3-4 classes then I picked 3 per class to read using the above method and just read the abstracts of the others.

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Are you already familiar with reading academic articles? If not, check this out: http://pne.people.si.umich.edu/PDF/howtoread.pdf (and even if you are, it might be helpful). One of the skills you learn in grad school is how to skim efficiently. Some people will split up assignments, some will prioritize classes during busy times, and some will read a reduced amount per class. It depends on what works for you. As for paper vs digital notes, it depends on what you're used to and what worked in college. Implementing a brand new system when everything else is new can be overwhelming, and you've established study skills for years at this point. It would be rough to try to switch to a new system then switch back and have to reconcile the methods. Personally, I don't like taking notes on documents themselves, digital or physical, so I create a separate document with the proper citation and notes. 

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23 hours ago, dormcat said:

Are you already familiar with reading academic articles? If not, check this out: http://pne.people.si.umich.edu/PDF/howtoread.pdf (and even if you are, it might be helpful). One of the skills you learn in grad school is how to skim efficiently. Some people will split up assignments, some will prioritize classes during busy times, and some will read a reduced amount per class. It depends on what works for you. As for paper vs digital notes, it depends on what you're used to and what worked in college. Implementing a brand new system when everything else is new can be overwhelming, and you've established study skills for years at this point. It would be rough to try to switch to a new system then switch back and have to reconcile the methods. Personally, I don't like taking notes on documents themselves, digital or physical, so I create a separate document with the proper citation and notes. 

I'm pretty familiar with reading articles, but I haven't even come up with a system that was quick and useful for taking notes. Useful usually meant very long and quick usually meant not enough detail, so I'm trying to iron that all out.

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11 hours ago, PNIplz said:

I'm pretty familiar with reading articles, but I haven't even come up with a system that was quick and useful for taking notes. Useful usually meant very long and quick usually meant not enough detail, so I'm trying to iron that all out.

I think your notetaking strategy is going to depend on what you want or need the notes to do.  Do you want the notes to function as a summary so that if you only read them then you'd understand the article?  Are you required to turn in detailed summaries as a homework assignment?  Either purpose will lead to notes taking longer to write.  I found this style of note taking really helpful in undergrad because often professors tested on contents of the readings, key terms, etc.  

In grad school I have stopped using this style of note taking (unless I have the rare professor that requires summaries be turned in) because I don't find it helpful and its time consuming.  Most of my grad classes haven't incorporated tests so the readings are strictly used for discussion purposes or as references for a paper I'm doing.  So when I read an article for a class discussion I tend to just underline key points within the abstract, methods, and results because there is no sense in rewriting something that was already written.  Then in the margins I write questions or comments that may contribute to the discussion or expand my own learning.  For example, if a key term is not defined and I've never heard it then in the margin I'll write what does *insert key term* mean?  Another example, if I disagree with the methods used in a study then in the margin I'll jot a brief note about why I disagree and what I would have done differently.

If the article is going to be used for a paper then I still skip writing my own detailed summary because the key points I underline can be paraphrased when I am actually writing a draft.  In addition to writing questions or comments I have in the margins I will make a note of where in the paper that tidbit might go.  For example, if I find national statistics I want to use then in the margin I'll make a note to put that in the literature review or if I find a table/graph/chart to use I'll make a note that it would go in the appendix.

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I took a course that my program offered that was incredibly helpful to me in learning how to read articles quickly and for a purpose, and how to write a lit review in a much more efficient manner than I had before. The course is also offered online but I think it's a little on the pricy side (don't remember exactly how much they said in the class).  You can look it up if you're interested, it's called The Grad Academy by Cisco Consulting.

Regarding notes, I like paper and pen in class, with my tablet next to me to open up a tab if the professor mentions something that I need to look up (then I read through the tabs I opened between classes or at the end of the day). If I have an exam coming up I will often type my notes as a review, and to better organize them for further review. 

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I don't have them, but my colleagues who have to take comp exams keep an excel file with different tabs for different subjects (e.g., biology, cognitive, etc.), and then have columns of citation, main points, methods, etc. Schools probably differ, but our comps are open-book, so people use these excel docs as efficient ways to find relevent articles to cite, then go back to the actual article for more detail. Obviously customize the excel to your preferences/needs.

I *thank goodness* don't have to do comps, so I just skim stuff for classes, sometimes don't read at all and just look at the abstract while we are discussing in class (efficiency, folks). If things are relevant to my research area I have a file I keep things in. I've tried Zotero, but I haven't gotten the hang of it. Otherwise, I just heavily rely on my cohort to keep track of stuff, clarify what I don't understand, etc. We have a running group text that I find super helpful.

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