|RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS|
Indiana University, Indianapolis
Resolve to Research
I know that it will be spring time when you read this, so I should apologize in advance for foisting a New Year's resolution piece on you at this time of the year. But as I put pen to paper (actually, fingers to keyboard) this morning, it is a bitterly cold January morning and such things are on my mind. Besides, if you are like me you probably are just now getting serious about your resolutions, if you have not abandoned them altogether.
In a way I am writing this column to myself. (Of course, you are invited to read along too!) It has been a while since I have worked on a research project, so I have resolved to decide upon a topic and submit a draft to a publication by the end of this year. But as a notorious resolution-breaker, I have recognized that I need help in keeping my New Year's resolutions from becoming New Year's dissolutions. Fortunately, I was able to locate a few articles that offered valuable hints on how to do this.1, 2, 3 There were several redundant suggestions in the articles, so I have culled and combined the best ones and given them a research slant. If the desire to publish has been percolating in your brain but you keep putting it off, why not let this be the year that you turn your research reluctance into resolve. Maybe these tips will help you start down the road to writing.
Have concrete goals
Putting your goals and ideas into writing often serves to keep them in the forefront of your thinking. Write down, even if it is only one sentence, what it is you want to achieve by the end of the year and leave it in a prominent place on your desk.
Setting a goal is a good first step, but, if it is too vague, it only expresses a desire. What needs to be included in the goal is the means to accomplish it. So if your goal is to publish one article this year, what steps do you need to take to achieve it? The more specific details you can include in your goal, the better. Also, think short-term and long-term. Success breeds further success, so accomplishing short-term goals aids in accomplishing long-term ones. For instance, you might say, "I will spend 2 hours a week doing some preliminary research on this topic until April 30. I will then send my idea for a prospective article to the editor of XYZ Journal by May 15. I will spend an average of 5 hours a week working on the first draft so that it is completed by August 15. After I receive the editor's comments and deadline for revisions, I will then set aside the necessary time for rewriting the article." Granted, it is hard to be too specific when dealing with publishers' timetables, but once you have reached the writing and revision stage, my guess is that your project will have gained sufficient momentum and you will force yourself to find the time to finish it. It is the initial inertia that is hardest to overcome.
As humans, we all have limits and boundaries. Goals that overwhelm us are not realistic goals. A goal that says, "I want to write one book and three articles this year" may be ambitious but probably has not taken into account the fact that you have other obligations. Little things, you know—like eating and sleeping. This is where we librarians sometimes beat ourselves up, especially those of us who work for law schools. We fall into the trap of comparing our output with that of the teaching faculty despite the fact that most of us work on twelve month contracts and have supervisory and performance duties that they do not have.
This dovetails nicely with the above suggestion. If you are like me, you often do not know what your limits are until you see them in the rearview mirror. If you find that your original goal was not realistic, devise a plan that allows you to stay on course, even if it means it will take longer to achieve your goal. A success that takes longer than expected to attain is better than an on-schedule failure.
As with any process, a regular examination of our goals every two or three months enables us to stay on course, assess our progress, and readjust if needed. Ask yourself...
The writing experience can be a frustrating one, so having an "I can do it" attitude is essential. This is where the momentum of success, attaining a series of short-term goals, is crucial. If you feel like you are really getting bogged down, however, recall other times in your life when you have faced obstacles and persevered.
Value the process
Sometimes we get so focused on the goal itself that our only gratification is reaching it. If you can find meaning and fulfillment throughout the research and writing process, you will be less likely to run out of gas. When you are doing research, for example, counteract feelings of drudgery by thinking about how much new information you are learning and how great it will be to share it with others. As you are writing and revising, concentrate on how this exercise is improving your writing skills. Even if you make mistakes along the way, think of them as learning opportunities. Take comfort in the knowledge that at least you are "in the arena," as Teddy Roosevelt would say, and not "with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."4
Here are some publications from our colleagues "in the arena":
Brian L. Baker, "Collection Reduction and Development: A Guide to Weeding Your Law Library," Law Library Lights 45:4 (Summer 2002), p. 14-15.
Susan Chinoransky, "Interviewing for Dummies: Ten Questions for a Public Services Librarian to Ask at an Interview for a Cataloger," Law Library Lights 45:4 (Summer 2002), p. 11-12.
Edmund P. Edmonds and Margaret Maes Axtmann, "A Law Library in the New Century: The Creation of the University of St. Thomas Law Library," Legal Reference Services Quarterly 21:2-3, p. 177-188.
LaJean Humphries, "How to Evaluate a Web Site" (http://www.llrx.com/features/webeval.htm)
Wei Luo and Joan Liu, "A Complete Research Guide to the Laws of the People's Republic of China (PRC)" (http://www.llrx.com/features/prc.htm)
arguerite Most, "Electronic Journals in the Academic Law Library–Law Reviews and Beyond," Legal Reference Services Quarterly 21:4, p. 189-?
If you have published something recently, let me know about it and I will include it in future columns!
1 Barbara J. Peppriell, "Keeping New Year's Resolutions While Counting Down to the New Millennium," Searcher 7:1 (Jan. 1999), p. 54-58.
2 Tamra Orr, "Happy New Year: Writing Resolutions You Can Keep!" Writing 24:4 (Jan. 2002), p. 22-23.
3 Joan Esherick, "Resolution Solution," Today's Christian Woman 24:1 (Jan./Feb. 2002), p. 30.
4 Theodore Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena," Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.