I am studying sciences. Did I mention? I’m not going to college to do that. Rather, I’m collecting essays, blog posts from educational and science websites, and books to learn about astronomy, the composition and life cycles of suns, the earth and galaxies, and about gravity. It is not easy for me to learn this stuff sometimes. For instance, I was reading Isaac Asimov’s essay “What is Mass?” from his book Isaac Asimov’s Guide To Earth and Space. I just didn’t understand this essay. I must have read it twenty times (granted often late at night when I’m tired). I finally asked a friend who teaches math and science just what mass is. I learned from him the simplest of definitions: “the space an object takes up.” When I went back to the essay, Asimov’s instruction made sense finally and it expanded my understanding of gravity, so now I can move on with other essays in Asimov’s book and not feel lost. The point is, if you are writing fiction and need to understand something new and technical, you should have plenty of reading material, yes, but also get yourself a really smart buddy whom you can ask a question of now and again, when you don’t understand something.
I found it important to get Pocket or another bookmarking application for saving posts of interest. This application saves space on my hard drive, because the bookmark is saved on Pocket’s server. This keeps my browser free of excess stored information in the form of bookmarks, which makes my browser speedier to load. If you decide to use my example, I recommend that you spring for Pocket’s small monthly fee (about $5) or storing your research posts. For this fee, Pocket stores the original page, (as opposed to a link as with browser bookmarking) even if the page no longer exists live on the web. You can get apps across devices too. If you don’t like how pocket functions or it doesn’t play nice with your chosen applications, there are plenty of other services like it to choose from.
I am not fond of research at the library (gasp!), so I do most of it online. As such, I subscribe to a huge variety of interesting websites. I do that in several ways. I follow pages on Twitter and Facebook. For example, I subscribe to Nova, IFLoveScience, and many other science blogs. When I like a post, I can save to Pocket easily.
I also have Feedly, an rss feed reader for blog sites and other website pages with rss feeds. (You can use any feed reader. I just found Feedly easy to use since I have google email and use Chrome all the time. These applications play nicely together with Pocket too) When I find a post that I think supports my learning or project really well, I put it in Pocket right from Feedly, so I can refer back to it when I am studying or writing. If I’m in a real hurry, I can also save a post within Feedly for later reading, though if the post disappears, Feedly does not save the entire post for you, only a summary.
I use tags for my saved research. If you use websites frequently, you likely know about tags, categories, and hash tags. If you don’t, I recommend you research what these mean and how they are used on Google and start using them. If already know about these and are lazy about using them, you might want to consider that this is the difference between a towering pile of paper surrounding your desk, threatening to fall over, and a drawer full of easy to find files. Just say’in.
Good news by the way… I just got notes back from my advisor and second reader for my senior project. Their notes suggest some very minor polishing edits, but they like it. They both like it a lot! Looks like I’ll graduate September 20. Only a few things left to do: create a senior presentation, schedule my presentation, put one final polish on my senior study and resubmit, and then practice my presentation. Oh, and pay my graduation bill. Pretty soon I’ll have a college degree!