I know there are plenty of you just starting your PhD journeys, and now the orientation days and the free lunches are over, you are probably wondering where to exactly start with this PhD thingamebob.
I’m sure you have a rough idea of what you are interested in researching, you may even be super organised and have your research questions ready (I thought I did, but they keep shifting), but you have looked at anything in such great detail before.
I started out the year with the basics, some database and internet searches, on what I initially thought was a pretty obscure topic, only to find that there is a plethora of theorists out there, calling my area of research all sorts of titles – cognitive literary theory, evolutionary literary theory, cognitive narratology, cognitive poetics, cognitive aesthetics, biopoetics, etc, etc, etc – and arguing among themselves which is the right way to be doing things. So, I have spent this first year trawling through all these theorist, as well as filling in my own background knowledge, to try and figure out which one is saying what I want them to say, and so far it has been close, but no cigar. I am still not sure if this is good news or bad news. But I finally feel ready to write a proper literature review, which is unfortunate, because I was actually asked to write one about 10 months ago.
My guess is that you will be asked to write a lit review soon too, so it might be a good time to think about how to organise your reading and note taking with this in mind.
There is a good post from Pat Thompson (the first of four she has written on lit reviews), on how to think about your goals before you start reading.
There is also a good one from the Thesis Whisperer on notetaking.
And, if you haven’t discovered it already, I recommend Evernote. It is free and so easy to use, and a great way to store those webpages and articles, that you want to keep, just in case.