Trying not to fail at grad school


I love the How to ADHD videos, but I realized I need specific help this time. It’s been weeks, and I’ve made very little progress on my dissertation, due in September. Does anyone have tips on how to read technical and usually boring journal articles? Even when I’m interested in the topic I just can’t stay focused. Sometimes when I’m reading the text, I’m thinking about reading, so nothing sticks, and it’s four hours later and I’ve only read one paragraph.

I’ve learned a lot about not calling myself stupid and appreciating the progress I have done, but not being able to do this is putting a shadow over my confidence.


Wish I could help you. My college experience was I would wait until the night before and get no sleep.


Same, but it’s not something I would attempt for this scale


Hey Madelaine!
Maybe this could be helpful, but it is more time-consuming than only reading:
If I have a text I need to read and remember the information I‘ll start with separating the text into shorter paragraphs. In the next step I read the paragraph and try to write the context down (like if the paragraph was about the advantages of a certain technology, I would write next to it „advantages of technology xxx“)
After that, I have an overview in the margins where to get certain information. If I need to specify my knowledge, I can jump to the paragraph and summarise the important information on an extra sheet of paper.
In addition to this I like to draw little pictures that have something to do with the text everywhere in my notes, because my brain processes the images way better…

Good luck with your work! :slight_smile:


I have to read them all the time for the channel, here are my tips:

  1. print it out.
  2. read it out loud while doing something else: pacing around the room, highlighting anything that seems important, taking notes, etc. Start with just the abstract & the conclusions/discussion.
  3. explain it to someone else (this can even be future you! just use the voice recorder on your phone)

Also, I use a program called Scrivener so I can keep all the articles, my notes about them, and my writing together in one place :slight_smile:


I have found some software called MarginNote. It really helps you to extract information and has a screen reader built in. Enables me to break down the subject matter into easier chunks. When my
Concentration gets worse or the subject gets less interesting I use the screen reader. There are other similar apps but this one works for me. May take a little effort to get to grips with it though. I am currently working toward my MSc and will shortly be starting my dissertation. Best of luck to you.


Thanks @ramona , that’s actually really useful. I went to a study skills meeting earlier in the week and they taught me this method, and I wasn’t sure how well it would work (bit of a pessimist), but it’s super helpful to know this works for a Brain!

Thanks @clarkie1977 for the MarginNote suggestion. I will check it out for sure. My school has me using OneNote, so I’ll have to investigate and compare. I’m really curious to see how the screen reader works :slight_smile:


Thanks Jessica! Tbh I always wanted to ask you because I knew you read them for the videos, but I never got around to it… So I’m really lucky and grateful you saw and replied to my post! While I’m at it, thank you so much for everything you do! Not only have you helped me, I’ve been able to introduce three people to your channel :slight_smile:


Something that‘s really good about this method is, that I can always stop after my paragraph, maybe do something else and then get back to the text, because the work I did earlier is still written on the paper and I can get back into context easily.


awww thank you for sharing it!

This is the link for Scrivener btw, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it:

I think there’s a free trial even, if you’re interested :slight_smile:
It lets you split screen too so you can read the paper while making notes in a document above it. It’s meant for authors to keep track of all their research while writing a book but I find it helpful for writing anything.


Dear Madelaine,

I don’t know if this is helpful but I like to write my notes on scientific papers and I usually make a mind map or bubble map with Xmind software (it’s free to download) with those notes. That makes it easier for me because I can create topics for a paper, thesis, or test and have it all map out, like an outline. It makes me focus more on what I am reading because I have to think about where it goes in my mind map or under which topic.

I also need to overstimulate my brain when I read, especially when I am bored, so I watch a show I have watched before or listen to some music. This helps me focus on my reading because I am entertained. However, if I find myself too distracted, I listen to music with no lyrics or I might need some silence for a period of time.

If reading doesn’t help, try some software that can read out the text to you. Sometimes that helps me form my thoughts on what I am “reading” or memorize the information.

Hope this helps!

  1. Get enough sleep.
  2. Don’t distract yourself.
  3. Do not stress.


I bought Scrivener for writing my dissertation to help with organising it. I’ve not had time to suss it out yet though. I’d be really interested to find out how you use it? I only got diagnosed on the 11th of this month. I’m a firefighter in the UK and don’t have an abundance of people to talk to about it with. I’m still coming to terms and adjusting to the news. I was very relived though, as it finally allowed me to understand why I am the way I am. Your videos are a huge support. Your Ted talk reduced me to tears. It was so refreshing to understand that other people will understand and have been through similar stuff. I just need to go find some to talk with. I think it seems the USA are somewhat ahead of us here regarding ADHD in adults. Thank you so much Jessica you are very brave :sunglasses::metal:


I’m an American studying in the UK, and we can talk about this on another forum, but I found out the NHS don’t officially recognize ADHD in adults, so I had to go private to get psychiatrist and a prescription- it was a whole thing.


I have access to Xmind through my university, so I’ll definitely keep that in mind!


Sounds a bit like you (also) have trouble with crippling self doubt/loathing). If not, apologies for having misunderstood you.
What helped me with this was to work fixed ours on it and reward myself for the time spent working on whatever, regardless of how well it went. A clear plan of when will I start, when will I stop, how many breaks,… It sounds a bit childish, but it really helped me to remove the expectation to excel and being disappointed when I didn’t do as much as I wanted. And once the expectation was gone it was so much easier to work, and I managed to do so much more.


Thanks @Noldos. Sometimes my self-doubt is crippling, and I think one of the hardest parts is that I don’t always respect myself enough to respect the boundaries I set. Like, I could say I was going to read for an hour, but because no one outside myself is enforcing it, I don’t really feel like I have to. and if I don’t want to and don’t have to, then I usually don’t- until it’s the night before an assignment is due and the anxiety is finally bad enough to stimulate my brain.

But I’m taking things one step at a time, I’m working actively with the disability center on campus, and I’m not giving up.


Dear Madelaine,

Is it possible to work with someone while you read or do other school work? Sometimes having a friend checking up on me helps. I also go to the library, and that forces me to work on assignments, if I know other people might be watching me or judging me if I’m watching netflix and not doing my work. Or I like to use people as “soundboards” as I call them, where I can explain to them what I just read or learned and if I can’t explain it or they don’t understand what I am saying, I know I need to read that information again. Sometimes, I just have a family member, if they have time, just on the phone in silence and if they don’t hear my keyboard clacking away, they know I’m not doing my work.


You could ask someone to send you a message at the beginning of your working time asking whether you have started. You can still lie, ignore it or simply say no, and that’s perfectly fine, but it does help. It’s always easier to rationalize your behavior to yourself than to someone else. I do this with my sis or my mom if I need it.


@Picabo33 Thank you, this is also super helpful! Yes, having friends does help, as long as it’s not the friend where we distract each other and just talk all the time. I will definitely use the soundboard idea, although part of me is nervous about boring people after awhile, but Jessica mentioned earlier about sending recordings to myself, so maybe I can use myself as a soundboard.