Archives par mot-clé : reading

Research, or keeping up the desire to read

Going into research implies a strong inclination towards acquiring knowledge and highly developed curiosity. Being a researcher takes time and effort, yet not everyone is willing to spend that much energy acquiring knowledge, sharing discoveries, as well as doing a lot of reading.

We are constantly being told that new generations read less and less, that they spend their time otherwise, and that even if their curiosity has no limit, the written word is dying out confronted with the new media. If the world stops reading, the world will run out of researchers, or so one might think.

As I read Comme un Roman, a book by Daniel Pennac published in 1992, I realised that this book, which is as old as I am, voiced the same concerns about people reading less and less, preferring TV while books are being kicked to the curb. And yet, the author explains that the desire to read is linked to the desire for knowledge, and that this desire has not disappeared, it has only been displaced. He reasons that a young person, once nourished by fairy tales and clamoring for bedtime stories, does not reject reading as a teenager because of television, but because of how he or she was brought up. When reading is presented as a lonely chore to the child and other forms of entertainment as a reward, books are turned into objects instead of stories made of magical words teaching wondrous things, thus a change is wrought and young people are made to rebel against books.

As research students, we are asked to read constantly and profusely. Not only novels but research papers, articles, essays, anything that can help with our work, so that for most of us, what was once a pleasure becomes a chore. Being forced to read, with little time to do so and demanding assignments, it seems that our love of reading withers away in the exact same way. However, it appears that the phenomenon can be reversed, that people can be made to love reading and learning again, if their perception of it is changed. Because actually it is our conception that is false: young people, nowadays, read and write more than previous generations. Technology has made people use the written word without even realizing it. When only a handful of people use to write letters, everyone now texts. When only a small portion of the world had access to books and literature, an ever-expanding portion of the world has access to the internet, and all those people read, and consequently learn. The ways and means have changed, but the curiosity is still out there and so is the will to learn and share.

As students, and future researchers, we are aware of these changes. We know we read more, and we know the mandatory reading we face is not always easy to get through, and sometimes we would rather do something else. However, we fight our own misconceptions every day, and we keep on reading, because in spite of it all, we do still love it. And if as a researcher you feel your reading habits could use a boost, do read Comme un Roman

Evernote: a master student’s new best friend

After four years of study comes the final year with its master dissertation, which will be every master student’s major preoccupation for several months. This research project is quite demanding, and a good organization will help students pass the hurdle with an easy mind. Once the topic is chosen and approved by the supervising professor, an intense period of reading and data gathering begins for the students, who must know what has been written in their field of research and how to use it for their dissertation. They must also start developing their own reflexions and create an outline for their project. At this stage, the students should already have gathered a pile of eclectic notes (written or typed notes, photographs, reading notes, personal ideas, to-do lists, etc.), half of which might get lost or neglected due to lack of organization, instead of cleverly enriching the dissertation.
Luckily for all master students, there’s a fantastic tool that can make their work less difficult.  Evernote is an application which allows users to gather all their notes in one place, whether they be texts, photographs, audio recordings, web pages, etc. It also lets them organize these different notes into notebooks, create to-do lists and alarms so that no deadline shall ever be missed again, and to use tags for a finer classification. A well-organized set of notes can really prove helpful to identify underlying networks of ideas in research and therefore to build the structure of dissertation.
Evernote has many other attractive features that will make this piece of software the master student’s best friend. Evernote Web Clipper for instance is a very useful web browser plug-in as it allows the user to save web pages (such as articles for instance) and to read them later, even when offline.
Also, the time when many hours were lost combing through piles of disordered notes or skimming computer files is now over. Thanks to the search function and the fact that all notes are gathered in one place, users can find the information they need in a second, simply by entering the right keywords.
Another interesting feature of Evernote is that users with an Internet access can store their data in the cloud by creating synchronized notebooks, and then access them from other devices such as their smartphones, provided they have an internet connection. Thus, even when on the train or in a doctor’s waiting room, users can read, create, and edit their notes: genius can now strike at any moment without being forgotten for lack of paper and pen.
Last but not least, Evernote is easily accessible and downloadable on the Internet. Although users can pay for advanced versions, the Evernote Basic version is totally free and provides all the essential functions that a master student might need.
Surely, students using Evernote at first for their academic work will soon find how useful it can be in every other aspect of their lives.