There’s gold in them thar hills

As I wrote just before Christmas, I’m now working my way through the second module of the Occupational Psychology MSc – Personnel Selection and Assessment. I also appear to be on track as far as my own personal schedule is concerned, having read through and made copious notes on the module materials, suggested readings and the relevant chapters in the course textbook (Work Psychology, by John Arnold and Ray Randall plus a cast of thousands*).

There are two module assignments to complete – the first is due to be submitted early February and the second mid-March. I’m therefore at my favourite stage of assignment writing – carrying out the work necessary to track down the additional papers I need from the online library to support the arguments I’ll be making. It’s my favourite stage of assignment writing as … there’s no writing involved … just lots of activity that, to me, is just as exciting and frustrating as digging for gold must have been for those involved in the 19th century gold rushes. I suppose I might not make my fortune from the information that I find, but at least I don’t stand any risk of being challenged to a shootout at the OK Corral by my fellow students once I have found something. At least, I hope that won’t happen …

It’s frustrating, as sometimes I can diligently search for hours without turning anything up of direct use. That was my experience last Saturday. Sunday was different – I managed to find half a dozen really useful papers in the space of about half an hour’s work. The best parts of these papers really do look like gold nuggets now too – my bright yellow highlighter has been working overtime.

At some point over the next week I’m going to have to turn my notes and highlights into a coherent structure from which to write the first assignment from. For me, that’s rather less fun than scrambling around the foothills of the PsychInfo database wearing my cowboy hat and carrying my six-shooter filled with unlikely search terms.

But I do know that everyone approaches writing assignments in different ways. So if you’d like to share your tips on how you go about discovering and refining the research gold you need for your assignments, the comment box is open for your contribution now, partner.

(*) I’m exaggerating of course, but it seems like thousands when writing the in-text reference for the book …

This article was originally written for the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 6th January 2013.

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