Academic writing is an important part of your student life. You may think that because you are a STEM student, you have no use for writing. STEM enables you to experiment, invent, and innovate, and writing allows you to communicate these experiments, inventions, and innovations.
Whatever field you are in, research and writing are essential skills that you should master, especially when you begin the thesis-writing stage of your life–the last stage before you finally graduate as a STEM student!
When you write your thesis, you will be required to write a review of related literature or RRL, which is usually the second chapter of a research study. The RRL is an “evaluative report of information found in the literature related to your selected area of study.” The RRL is not merely a collection of related studies and published materials. It requires organization, analysis, and evaluation.
Now, if you think that the RRL requires a lot of reading and writing, then you are absolutely correct! But don’t get intimidated–there are hacks that will help you power through writing your RRL.
Read, read, read, then skim and scan!
The rule of thumb in writing the RRL (or anything, for that matter) is that you can’t write if you don’t read! So make the most of your school library, journal access, and the Internet. Allot an hour or more each day to read books, journals, and other studies. But don’t just devour anything and everything! You have to identify resources that are absolutely key to your study and focus on them. For other studies, you can apply your skimming and scanning skills. Read the paper’s abstract, introduction, and conclusion. This will help you get all the information you need in a limited amount of time.
Organize your resources
It’s easy to lose track when you have so many reading materials to go through. That’s why it is important that you create a filing and organizing system that works for you. Make sure to archive both digital and printed copies of your materials. For the digital copies, create a file-naming system. For example, the title of the book, journal, or article. This will help you find the material you need quickly, without getting lost in a sea of files with random letters and numbers as file names. For the printed copies, you may opt to use physical folders and binders and arrange your materials alphabetically by the last name of the author.
Follow the breadcrumbs
Many teachers may discourage you from using Wikipedia as your source, but that doesn’t mean you should take it for granted. Remember that each Wikipedia article has a list of references and external links. By looking through these, you might find your way to credible and scholarly resources. This also goes for all the studies and articles that you will come across. Follow the breadcrumbs by going through the reference list, bibliography or works cited page.
There is no denying that the world wide web makes researching easy. But did you know that you can make it even easier? A simple Google search will return thousands of results, but what you want are credible, academic, and published resources. Search smartly by appending the keyword “filetype:pdf” into your Google search. Doing so will make Google display results that are only in PDF file, and these results are usually scientific journals, experiment reports, and research studies. Try it out for yourself!
STEM fields usually follow the APA citation format. However, your teacher or your school may require you to use other formats such as MLA, Chicago, or other style guides. Whatever the format is, the intent is always the same: for you to avoid plagiarism by properly crediting your sources. Citing your sources is always a must!
Keeping track of all your citations can be difficult, so it’s a good thing that many word processing programs have built-in automatic citation feature. All you have to do is choose your citation style, input the necessary information such as author, title, publisher, and link (if applicable), and the rest will be done for you! At a click of a button, you can easily put an in-text citation and even generate an entire bibliography list. How convenient!
Writing your RRL might seem like an insurmountable endeavor, but by breaking it down into bite-sized tasks, you will be able to finish a well-researched and well-written RRL.