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A Better Research Writing Process

Tips and tricks adapted from Rutgers University guide to make writing and research easier from the following books:


Boice, Robert. How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency : A Psychological Adventure. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 1994. Print.  [HWJ]

Boice, Robert. Professors as Writers : A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing. Stillwater, Okla., U.S.A: New Forums Press, 1990. Print.  [PAW]

Single, Peg Boyle. Demystifying Dissertation Writing : A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final Text. 1st ed. Sterling, Va: Stylus, 2009. Print.  [DDW]


Some of these ideas are supported by research and the experiences of writers and writing teachers.


1.  Write more frequently, but for a shorter time (30 minutes to no longer than 1-2 hours daily).  (PAW, p. 84).  Writing every day leads to shorter warm-up times (DDW, p. 132) and more creativity (PAW, p. 80).


2.  Have a designated place or places for serious writing (PAW, pp. 76-7).


3.  Stop when you are planning to stop.  Make notes about what you are planning to do next, so that when you sit down to write again, your warm-up time is minimal.


4.  On taking notes.  

  • Read to write, which is different from detailed reading.  Scan for the important parts for your research, then read and take notes only on those.  (HWJ, pp. 54-7) 

  • In order to save time, read an entire book or article before taking notes on it.  Mark the good passages as you read, then return to make more meaningful notes at the end. (DDW, p. 64) 

  • Take two kinds of notes:  your detailed overall notes and then, in a different place (different paragraph, different field in a citation manager), the "citeable [sic] notes" you can derive from your original notes.  (DDW pp. 69, 82-83)  The purpose of this dual note-taking is to prevent having to return to the original documents to look for material.  You should have begun summarizing and making sense of  the source as you make your notes, building a bridge between your reading and your writing to make the final writing task easier.  (HWJ, pp. 54-7).