My informative and peer-reviewed struggle (via scientific papers)
Want to hear where I am right now?
I am sitting at a desk on the second floor of the UVic library, eyes wide and foot unnervingly tapping the ground. I am sure the people beside me believe I am attempting to start my own mini-earthquake.
A variety of lecture notes, journal articles and coffee cups are strewn in a half-moon circle in front of me, as if I am the epicenter of some strange, caffeinated, loose-leaf explosion.
This is my nest. This is where I have resided for the past 12 hours as I have attempted to research, categorize and define the latest edition in my scientific arch-nemesis: the research paper.
My current paper is for my genetics class (BIOL 230). It is 4000 words long, 15 references deep and still growing.
For those of you who are not familiar with research papers, they are the designated method of presenting a conducted experiment to the world – kind of like show and tell from grade school but with much bigger words …and you can’t claim it’s your own if your mom or dad did it for you.
Being a biology major, I have had plenty of practice at these kinds of papers, but this in no way means I’m used to them. On the contrary, I have found that the style in which academic papers have to be written has had a temporarily negative effect on one particular aspect of my life: my creativity.
Whenever I go through what I like to call a “research rave” (it’s this darling thing I do where I procrastinate and basically push my report submission right to the deadline, when I frantically drop everything to complete it), I can feel my mind becoming attuned to the writing style required. It’s like I am a machine, computing the same format over and over:
“We performed this. Why? Because of this. How? This.”
It’s mandatory to use short words and strictly factual statements and, after 10 pages of it, you can start to sound like a robot if you’re not careful.
I know I am not alone in this. Somewhere in the vast wilderness of the UVic campus, there is another poor soul who also said “I’ll start the paper tomorrow!” one-too-many times.
Wherever you are, I feel your pain. Don’t get me wrong. I love biology and what I’m learning is generally pretty interesting and applicable to what I want to do later in life.
But every now and again, I feel that some separation between schoolwork and my mind is necessary.
So, fellow sleep-deprived friends, please accept my humble offering – here is my 3-step process of transitioning out of being a literary machine:
1. Look at this picture:
See this? This is your campus …the outside world. You know, that thing that exists beyond the isolation booth you’re studying in? You will be here again soon.
2. Watch this video:
This is creative genius at its finest. You likely need to hear words that aren’t in passive third person. Words that define a person, not an experiment. Listen as many times as needed until you start using words like “my” or “I” again.
3. Grab one of these:
This? This is your way out, when you finally decide it is time to rest your brain for the day. Looks plain, doesn’t it? But actually, this is not a blank piece of paper.
This is a premonition of a story. Any story you want – it can be put right here.
This is the start of a written documentary about the northern tree gecko (a species you just made up) – It is written like Morgan Freeman should narrate it, but your voice will do just fine.
This is all the material needed for the best damn paper airplane your friends have ever witnessed.
This is what the inside of an epiphany looks like.
…and, as it happens, there’s always one of these close by in any long-term study session.
So, those are three things I do in these times of academic hardship.
Hope this helps, fellow procrastinators. I wish you all the best.
P.S. If you liked that video of Shane Koyczan, there are plenty of slam poetry events going on regularly in downtown Victoria! I’ll most likely be attending one soon and I’m going to see Shane’s performance here in Victoria at the end of this month, so I’ll be sure to share it all with you here!