Trying not to fail at grad school


Yes you are right it was a long process but I got there in the end. What are you studying? Welcome to the UK by the way.


Wow, that’s a really good idea from Jessica. However, I hate the sound of my own voice. Though I think I’ll try it. I can be those people in the movies that make voice memos to myself whenever I have an idea.

It’s a good idea to work with people from your class. I have a Master’s room in one of the lab buildings I can go to and students from my Master’s work there too. So we know we can’t distract each other but we can help when it’s needed.


I second this recommendation. It is what I used for my final project in my undergrad. The software is like a giant cork board plus a filing cabinet all in one. Simply amazing and well worth the price. I plan on using it when I finish grad school next year.

I too am in grad school and working through some very rough reading (CISSP study materials which are about as dry as reading gets). I have found that the kitchen timer method is helping me stay focused, as well as something to fidget with. I read all of my materials online so I can take notes via Kindle Books or via a copy of One Note, which is a great program for notes and materials. If your school provides a copy of Microsoft Office it is likely included with it, otherwise, I am pretty sure it is in the student version you can buy at a discount. I find it very handy for taking notes from the reading, drawing directly into the file via my iPad and you can post just about anything you want into it. Images work really well, and you can take notes on the same page. I combine this with the snipit tool for Windows when I need to grab a table or something from the reading.

Hope that helps!


Honestly though, it sucks when you get in the real world and it’s part time in your passion and just making money part time other places.


This is specific to the show so not sure how much it helps, but this is what I do:

I use the same binder for a long time, but I create 2 new folders for each video: one in the “draft” section, one in the “research” section, & I title them both the same thing. Anything I use to research that video gets dropped into the research folder. In the writing folder, I usually have a text doc for my notes, notes from my conversation with Patrick (our research consultant), my brain dump, an outline, and then several drafts.

Once I feel like it’s close, I drop the latest draft into Google Docs, set it to 30 point font & see how many pages it is. (I know I could just do word count, but the visual helps me. It’s kind of a ritual at this point). Then I try to cut it down & polish it before I shoot :slight_smile:


Hi Jessica, thank you for your reply. Yes, this is a great help. I will have to spend some time using it though, to get to grips with it. I just wish it had a Mendeley plugin to help with referencing. I feel Scrivner is ideal for keeping my dissertation organised. Trouble is the referencing.


Teacher and Masters student here… the FEELS! I have to print it out and highlight to get that visual/kinaesthetic learning going. Another idea would be to do your own version of those little pop out boxes or end of chapter summaries of what you are reading. @Jessica has covered most, but I also wanted to mention a cool ‘Speech to Text’ website. So it will transcribe your ‘voice notes’ as it were.

You can also find some templates online for documenting the major points in a text, and then fill those out.

Play around until you find the combo that works for you :slight_smile:


Hi Madelaine, I’m also a grad student trying to write my dissertation. I get through journal articles by making the process less linear, and more investigative. So I start by thinking about the specific questions I’m trying to answer by reading the article, then skip to the section that is most likely to answer them (usually the results or methods). When I come to something I don’t understand (like an abbreviation they defined earlier in the article), I use the search function to find it, then go back to the part I was reading, then usually have a question like, “but did they account for X when doing their analysis?”, and then skip to the methods to find out. I do this until I have found what I need to answer my initial questions, and to assess the quality of the information. It might not sound efficient, but since it keeps me interested it takes me way less time then trying to read straight through.

I’ve also started an accountability/support group with a couple friends, which has been super helpful. We meet on Skype once per week, and talk over what we’re working on, problems we’re having, etc. Then we set goals for the coming week that we write down in a shared Google doc. When we miss our goals, we help each other troubleshoot what happened, and help with setting a more realistic goal for the next week. It has seriously made the process so much more concrete for me, and also less isolating. Short-term goals are great, but for me it especially helps to have people support me and help me move forward when I fall short of my goals-- without that I just tend to beat myself up, and then give up on setting any goal or schedule since I feel like I can’t stick to it anyway.


I just delivered my final paper for grad school today! Yey! I should’ve send it a month ago so my director could reviewed it, but I didn’t because I was busy doing… stuff. Get this, my paper talks about attention and anxiety! My master’s degree is in Neuropsychology and Education! And now I have just one opportunity to make it in the first try.
Anyway, here are my tips:

  • Don’t think if you are going to make it or not. Just focus on doing it.
  • Use Mandeley as a reference manager. Use your procrastination time gathering information and saving it in Mendeley. It is the best reference manager that also can recommend you papers based on your searches or library. And, it has a plugin for microsoft word.
  • Just write it. I (finally) sit down and wrote everything I knew about the subject in an outline. Then I procrastinated. Then I wrote everything I knew for each paragraph. And I just looked for my missed information.
  • Anxiety can be a friend. A little anxiety can help you focus. Use it to “do things” and not to “think things”.
  • You’re not stupid or lazy. Your brain keeps looking for instant gratification and writing a paper, reading university papers or having a hope for better future, are not “instant”. Give your brain some gratification like 5 minutes of procrastination every 30 minutes of writing.

Anyway. Hope that helps.


Thanks @landa, that helps a lot and echos some of the conversations and experiences I’ve been having lately. I think that last one is the trickiest one for me, but I’ll keep fighting!


Wow, really great tips here, thank you all!

I have been procrastinating on my research plan since July already. Luckily managed to keep most of the other modules ticking over and even handed four of the six other things in so far, and since November I have an adhd coach which is helping a lot!

Onwards and upwards, I can do this!


Thank you for bumping this thread, @Lustforlife (and to everyone who contributed last summer!) Good luck to all with your projects!

I’m currently trying to write my PhD thesis and have barely made any progress for months (despite my stipend having ended, so I really need to get a move on!).

After reading this thread I’ve just downloaded Mendeley and imported all of my references, which had been scattered around in all sorts of random folders. The idea of organizing them felt impossible but it was actually really easy with Mendeley. Already the task of filling in citations seems so much less overwhelming!

Onwards and upwards for me too :muscle: