You’re already defining a research problem, reviewing the literature, formulating hypotheses, preparing a research design, and collecting, analyzing, and interpreting your data. That's not to mention all the steps that come after conducting your research, including drafting your paper, having your paper edited by a professional, revising your paper, having your paper proofread, finalizing your paper, choosing a target journal, and submitting your paper.
Why add journaling to the list of steps? Will your half-baked thoughts even be useful to you as you are writing your research papers or journal articles later?
Actually, they very well could! If you're asking why you should journal during your research journey, in this post we outline the main benefits of journaling as an academic writer. But first, you might be asking yourself …
What Is a Research Journal?
A research journal is a space for you to record any thoughts that pop into your head during your research journey. Like any journal, it should be a judgment-free zone for your eyes only; as such, you shouldn't have to worry about perfecting the writing within it.
Instead, you should feel free to write whatever you like about your research, including notes on the topic, analyses of the research, personal observations, and doodles. Most research journals aim to reflect on the research process, seek a deeper understanding of the topic at hand, and keep a record of the research journey for later review.
With these noble aims in mind, you might be asking yourself why you should journal. What are the main benefits of keeping a research journal? Below, we have outlined three ways journaling can benefit any academic writer. Take a look!
1. Sort Your Thoughts
Seeing your thoughts recorded during your research journey in real time will allow you to see what you were thinking and when you were thinking it, which could become invaluable information upon later review. You could record your thoughts when you are drafting your paper, when you are revising your first draft, or even later.
Journaling could also result in further reading, observations, notetaking, and thinking. It may even help you make connections between themes you hadn't seen before visualizing them in written form.
In addition, journaling will aid in your data collection, your data analysis, and your reflection on all of your research steps. Finally, it will give you the practice you need to structure and communicate your research findings. Notably, this will all occur in a low-pressure environment, which is good practice for any academic writer!
2. Record Your Data Points
Writing notes about your observations as they occur during a literature review, interview, data analysis, etc., may allow you to record data points even before you recognize them as such. A journal will also allow you to record opinions and half-baked ideas about whatever pops into your head about your research at whatever time, and you will be able to review these thoughts later.
You can also include responses to research or interviews that may be deemed inappropriate if they were written in your research paper, such as emotional responses. Though these musings may not be mentioned in your final research report, they could still be interesting to note during your research, and they could end up enhancing your understanding and/or interpretations of past research or findings.
3. Break Your Writer's Block
Keeping a research journal will help you get into the practice of writing and continuing to write in a no‑pressure situation, which is especially helpful for beginner researchers or those who are out of practice.
In addition, if writing is rewriting (as they say), your scribbly journal text might be what you need to break that writer's block once you sit down to draft that dreaded research paper. In fact, a research journal may be the much-needed first step in your research journey, moving you toward publishing and away from the dreaded perishing your academic friends may have warned you about (read Publish or Perish). Though your scrawled jottings may be just that for now, with a bit of work, they just may turn into your next big project!
Researching, with the many steps that make up the arduous journey, is tough enough as it is. Instead of asking why you should journal, ask why shouldn't you take advantage of as many useful tools at your disposal as possible?
A research journal could be just what you need to ease your burden. Sort your thoughts, record your data points, and break your writer's block with this handy tool! In doing so, you may be able to lighten your workload and thus make the process of formulating that first draft a little bit easier.
After you have done that, make the editing process a breeze with Scribendi. We will help you take the first draft of your research paper from good to great so that you can take on the rest of the research journey with the peace of mind you need.
About the Author
Jes is a magician and a mechanic; that is to say, she creates pieces of writing from thin air to share as a writer, and she cleans up the rust and grease of other pieces of writing as an editor. She knows that there's always something valuable to be pulled out of a blank page or something shiny to be uncovered in one that needs a little polishing. When Jes isn't conjuring or maintaining sentences, she's devouring them, always hungry for more words.