Research requires a lot of diligence in order to be effective and productive. In this post, we share six tips and secrets which will help increase your productivity when doing research.
1. Be Part of a Research Team
There are multiple benefits of being part of a team when you’re doing research. These include:
Helping Others with their Research Projects
This is especially important for medical students who are still in medical school or a research fellow starting research time. You won’t have many research ideas to run your own projects so it is a good idea to ask other faculty, research fellows, or residents if they have something you can help with.
There are multiple things you can help with such as data collection, manuscript writing, or analysis if you have the statistical analysis experience. When you contribute to the research project, you would have your name added to the paper.
Getting Help from Others
The other benefit of being part of a team is that you have others help you with your research projects. If you are more experienced with research or have your own research ideas and running your own projects, you can ask other medical students, residents, or research fellows to help you with your projects.
For example, if you have a research project that requires you to collect data for 500 patients and that would take around a month for you to finish, instead of you spending one month to collect 500 patients you can ask other residents, medical students, or research fellows to help you with the data collection. This will reduce the time spent to collect data from a month to about 10 days and you would use these remaining days of the month to do other research projects, write the paper, and help others with their projects, thereby increasing your productivity.
In either case, if you are helping others with their research projects or they are helping you with your research projects, you are dividing the work and increasing the productivity of the whole team. So instead of spending your time on one paper, you have two, three, or even four papers.
Another critical advantage of having other team members is bringing new insight and ideas. For example, if you’re working on a project and you know how to write the paper and conduct the study but you have a collaborator from a different department or from the same department that has experience with the topic then you can ask them for their feedback when you’re collecting the data when you’re designing the study or when you’re writing the paper.
They might give you ideas that you did not have from their experience. That would add extra knowledge and insight to your paper.
The second tip to being productive, which is not actually a secret is hard work. There is no way you can be productive in research without putting in the effort and the time. Many think of research as a vacation time when they don’t need to work as hard as when you are in medical school or when you’re in residency but this is wrong.
How Much Time Should You Spend on Research
There is no one single answer to this question because some might be preparing for an exam or currently in medical school when they are doing research.
Research is like any skill. It takes some time for you to learn and may require you to sit for long hours without feeling bored or tired. Just like studying, in the beginning, you might be able to study for three or four hours and then you increase that as time goes on.
You must also have good time management skills. You need to minimize the number of hours you spend not working during your working hours. It is so easy to get distracted while doing research, so it is important to stay focused and pick a place that is quiet like a library where you can collect data and finish your work.
It is also very necessary to take care of yourself. Eat healthily and exercise to prevent burnout. You don’t want to be working so many hours and then end up being stressed and depressed. So take care of yourself and have fun. It is a very nice experience and you should make the best use of it.
3. Identify Value
In research, just like in the business world, there are projects that are:
- high-cost, high value
- high-cost, low value
- low cost, high value and
- low-cost, low value
You have to pick the projects that are high value and low cost. That means a project that is impactful, that would make a difference in patient lives without taking so much time. If you can not find a project that is high value and low cost, you should go for either high value and high cost, which is a project that is impactful but would take a lot of time, or low value and low cost which is not very impactful but wouldn’t take much time.
Try to stay away from projects that are low value and high cost. These are not impactful and they take a lot of time. If there is a project that you need to collect 2000 patients and you would spend 3-4 months on that single project without any reasonable impactful, stay away from such projects. However, this advice is mainly for experienced researchers or researchers that have options.
If you are a medical student who just started doing research or a research fellow in their first week of doing research, you might not have the option to choose different projects. But if you have the option, choose projects that are high value which means they are impactful and would not take a ton of time to finish.
4. Get a Good Research Mentor
This is probably the most important tip for you to be productive during your research. Your mentor will decide how productive you will be, how many projects you will be working on, and what type of projects. So be very careful when you’re looking for research positions.
The interview that you have with your research mentor before you start doing research is a two-way interview. It is not only for your mentor to evaluate you but also for you to see if this mentor is a good fit for you and will be able to help you achieve your goals in research and other aspects. Your mentor will be a huge determinant of your productivity.
Your mentor also has a huge impact on your chances of matching if you’re applying for residency or fellowship. It is important to pick a mentor who will help build your research skills, help you with your research projects, and is willing to help you with your residency application.
5. Balance Quality and Quantity
Usually, when you start with your research, you start with quality. You would be more interested in the numbers. So you look for case reports and review articles. But as you gain more experience, you transition to the quality of your work.
Some researchers keep a good balance between the two, so they have one or two high-impact projects that would take years to finish and they have on the side one or two low-impact projects that would not take much time.
6. Research Team Management
Managing a team and running multiple projects at the same time is the final tip. When you start with research, you don’t have much experience so you would be so overwhelmed with one project at a time but as you get more experience you would have multiple projects at the same time in different stages. Whenever one is done, you won’t just sit and wait for somebody to get back to you, instead you would start on the next project.
Along these same lines comes the idea of managing a team. So you won’t be only working on one project but you will be managing a team of medical students or residents who are helping you with this project. You can have two medical students on one project, then two other medical students on another project, giving you the opportunity to manage two projects.
While you are helping them, you also have a bigger team that is working with you to get more papers and do more research. In order to run multiple projects at the same time and manage your team, you have to be efficient in your data collection, your manuscript writing, and other aspects of research. You have to find a flow in which you can do things very accurately but also fast and that comes with time.
There you have it, the top six tips to increase your research productivity. If you have any questions about research and how to be productive make sure to leave them in the comments below.