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How to Avoid Procrastination and Other Research Problems

By Priscilla Coulter
Associate Director of Academic Engagement, Richard G. Trefry Library 

We get it. Your life is busy, and there are times when the whole idea of working ahead on an assignment is laughable. There are other times when you just want to find a good binge on Netflix and disconnect your brain for a while. 

But September 6 is Fight Procrastination Day, and your librarians are on your team. Putting off a research assignment can double or triple your stress levels as the deadline draws near. We’ve got some advice that will help you make a start and maintain momentum on your research projects.

Librarians Can Show You Time-Saving Research Tricks

Think of the University’s librarians as your friendly research coaches. Reach out to us as soon as you’ve read your assignment instructions and chosen a topic.

We’ll tell you the best places to search and help you choose some research keywords that will bring up the most relevant results. We’ll show you time-saving tricks, like database filters that let you quickly target the kinds of sources you need most for your schoolwork (peer-reviewed journal articles, anyone?).

We can also assist you if you’ve already got a start on your research, but you’ve hit a roadblock in your search. Maybe you need an article that’s not available in our library, or you’re seeing an error when you try to access the full text of a book.

Maybe you just need one more source, but your searches are turning up the same results over and over again. Don’t waste time spinning your wheels – let us help you get back on track.

Since the University’s librarians are online 365 days and nights per year, you can almost always find one of us ready and waiting to help you get started. We pride ourselves in our student service. So whether you choose email, text or live chat, you can expect a prompt, helpful response.

RELATED: How to Write a Well-Crafted Research Paper for a College Class

Citation Managers Make Sure You Never Lose That Perfect Source

Nothing is more panic-inducing than sitting down to write and realizing that you’ve lost track of the research sources you were planning to use, especially if the assignment is due in just a few days. There’s an easy preventative measure for this nightmare scenario: citation managers.

Citation managers are online tools that let you keep track of each good source that you find as you’re searching. You’ll basically build a searchable database of all the sources you’ve gathered. They’ll all be there waiting for you when you’re ready to write. The bonus is that the citation manager can do a lot of the citation formatting work for you.

Do you prefer a low-tech approach? That’s fine. You can start a research journal to keep track of your research, too.

Go with pencil and paper if that’s your thing, or you can use a Word document in your free Microsoft Office 365 apps, where it will be saved automatically as you add your sources to it. MS Word also has some good citation help features built into it.

But if you’ve already lost track of some of your research, don’t panic. Ask the librarians! If you remember anything at all about that perfect article or book, such as part of the title or the author’s name, we’ll probably be able to dig it back up.

We’re trained information professionals, after all. And in the unlikely event that we can’t find it, we won’t rest until we’ve found you a good alternative to use in your paper.

RELATED: Returning to School: Tips for Student Success

Microsoft Editor Acts as a Built-In Writing Assistant

Proofreading is time-consuming, and if you’re down to the wire, you may not have time to catch all of those pesky typos and grammatical errors. If English is your second language, reviewing your own drafts is even more challenging.

However, there’s a fantastic (and free) tool to help you quickly smooth out your writing: Microsoft Editor. Whether you’re writing in Word, PowerPoint, or even in your classroom discussion, Editor can automatically check your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and clarity as you type. Best of all, it makes suggestions to fix any problem spots – insert them with just a click.

Beyond grammar, Microsoft Editor can also help you avoid plagiarism by checking your text for similarity to online sources. If it finds a passage that’s missing a citation, the software can insert a citation for you with one click.

Getting Your Work Done Early Leaves Time for Research Consultations and Writing Tutors

Everyone procrastinates sometimes. You might even feel that you work better when you’re under the pressure of a looming deadline.

But if procrastination is adding stress to your life, see if you can break the habit of procrastination in your schoolwork. If you work ahead, even just a little, you can take advantage of:

  • Research consultations – The University’s librarians offer research consultations in Zoom. We can share our screens as we walk through the search process with you and talk out any questions that you have. A lot of students find some face time with a friendly librarian to be reassuring and helpful, especially those who learn best by hearing and seeing. But be sure to sign up at least an hour in advance.
  • Free tutoring sessions – APU and AMU students have at least 10 free hours of tutoring available through, and that assistance includes writing and proofreading help. If you’ve got a draft of your written assignment ready a few days ahead of the due date, you’ll have time to let the writing tutors check your work and help you fix any problems.

If you submit your written assignment ahead of time, you might just end up with an evening or a whole weekend free to do whatever you like best. Power up Netflix, hit the beach, visit a museum or revive a hobby.

If you’re really feeling the power of working ahead, you can get a head start on your next research assignment. Your librarians will be here for you.

Priscilla Coulter is a science librarian with 20 years of experience in university libraries. She holds a bachelor's and a master’s degree in biology from Stephen F. Austin State University and a master’s degree in library science from the University of North Texas. Priscilla is a member of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and The Wildlife Society.

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