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Ezra's Research Diary: Tried and True Strategies for Effective Undergraduate Research: ARGH! What now?

This library guide is designed to help students understand the overall process of undergraduate research at Cornell.

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You're spiraling out of Control! There's too many things going on!

Tips for Managing Library/Research Anxiety

Maybe by the time you are reading this, it is the middle of the semester or near the end of the semester. You are exhausted. Between your work, classes, athletics, and (dwindling) social life/free time, your days have started to blur. On top of all this, you still have to do the research for your paper or project!

At this juncture, many students feel a nagging sense of anxiety when it comes to doing research in the library. The inertia starts to build and the end result is procrastination. If you are having some of these feelings, keep these points in mind:

  • Uncertainty and anxiety are natural and inevitable. These feelings signal inexperience--not incompetence. Even seasoned researchers feel a sense of trepidation when they have to start finding resources.
  • Recognize that your struggle is a learning experience.
  • If ever there is a time to make a "mistake," now is that time. You are truly in an environment where mistakes can be turned into learning experiences. Don't be afraid to plunge ahead and take some risks...because the greatest mistake is not getting started at all.
  • The library is an ever-changing environment, so don't be unnerved by changes to the catalog or the collections. If you have any questions, find a librarian! (Even professional librarians with Master's degrees have a hard time keeping up with the collections, so, hey, we don't judge!)

A few tips:

  • Limit your distractions! (Don't end up like poor Fred.)
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Observe the deadlines you set at the beginning of your project. Don't let these slide!
  • Write as you go, summarizing articles and jotting down ideas and questions
  • Keep revisiting your original research question to make sure you are on the right track. 
  • Count on teachers--and librarians--to understand your struggle. They are invested in your success and will be willing to help
  • Find a sympathetic yet critical audience. Have them read your draft. Ask them, Does this make sense? What am I missing? What else would you want to know?
  • Librarians sometimes use confusing terms. If we say something, like Boolean operators, and you have no idea what that means, interrupt us and make us explain.

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