Snapshots of Brown: Workload or Work Woes?

LibraryWelcome to Snapshots of Brown, your destination for pics of Brown all year long! I’m Celina Stewart, and I’ll be bringing you little photo insights into my third year on Brown’s campus. What’s up this week? Let’s take a look… 

I was sitting here beginning to work on my first final (The great thing about seminars? Mine have usually ended with presentations- and with 20 students in a class, we take a couple weeks to complete them, so going early frees up a lot of time later on in the crunch before reading period) and started thinking: is this studying?

Technically, I’ve been looking up sources and reading. Which, for a seminar course in anthropology, counts as time spent “studying” to me. This week, I wanted to share my workload with you all- give you an insight into how much time is spent “studying” and how  work and homework play into my schedule here at Brown. This week, I…

had a lot to do:

  • Country Memo for my Latin American Politics course (I’m following tech in Uruguay!)
  • HW3 for Intro to Java Programming (wooo recursion!)
  • Design Check for my Tetris project for Intro to Java Programming (wasn’t too bad)
  • Final Research Proposal due for my Ethnographic Research Methods course (I’m researching, unsurprisingly, the effects of the One Laptop Per Child policy in Uruguay)
  • A short primary source book on the life of Charlemagne for my History course
  • Five readings for my Religious Studies course (all conveniently online)
  • Three readings for my Latin American Politics course (again, online)
  • Organize interviews for the CS course I’m a Head Teaching Assistant for next semester

That looks like a lot- and it is. However, there are a couple things that I have learned about getting work done efficiently and effectively, especially when I have a lot of small assignments.

For short papers (like my country memo), just get it done. It’s that simple- set aside an hour or two to look up articles and write notes, and knock it out.

For readings, wait until you have spare time. I usually don’t set aside time to do readings, especially when they are online. I find myself waiting at office hours and getting a couple pages in here and there, or grabbing coffee while waiting for a meeting or in between classes and getting a surprising amount of reading done in the spare twenty minutes to an hour I may have.

For a homework set (like HW3, which required looking at lecture slides), I reserve enough time to sit and finish the assignment, from beginning to end, so that I don’t lose my place. While this required about three hours of concentration, I fortunately had a shortened choir rehearsal last night and was able to spend enough time to turn it in.

The same was true of the design check, or when I’ve done problem sets in the past: make sure you have enough time to keep your focus.

For papers, I tend to start early: find sources as soon as you can. I use a bibliography organizer, Zotero, to keep track of my citations. Brown’s library catalogue online (Josiah) had a wealth of online resources- not to mention academic journals and other online academic aggregators. My Zotero program has an internet plug-in, so tapping it once means that I don’t have to worry about copying down bibliographical information (and once I’m writing the paper, I just insert a citation, and it does all the work of footnotes and a bibliography for me!)

Once I have my sources, then the grunt work comes in: taking notes, and finally compiling those notes into a final product. Writing a paper, especially a final, takes time. I started this one about three weeks ago, but am just now getting down to writing the final draft.

Now that you know how I organize my time, how do I go about sources? It depends. For some classes, like Economics, I only really had to use the textbook and workbook for the course. For other classes, like History, Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Political Science,  I tend to need other resources. These are pretty easy to find. Depending on what courses you’re taking, you may use:

  • The Sci Li (for math or science courses, or to study)
  • The Rock (for most humanities courses, and again, as a study space)
  • Library share with other Ivy League libraries (and other colleges in New England)- I needed a book Brown didn’t have last semester, but thankfully, Dartmouth sent it down for me!
  • Library Online (Josiah- it’ll pull up links to full text books on academic libraries online, like Wiley, Ebsco, etc)
  • Online Academic Journal sites, including other Ivy’s online sites (I tend to use Yale’s online library for many history assignments)
  • Jstor and other aggregating sites
  • Online news publications

One great thing is that many online journals and academic sites (such as Jstor) allow you access with your Brown log-in credentials, which makes almost everything you could want accessible.

What I’m getting at here is that scheduling is your main friend when it comes to getting your work done- prioritize your assignments in a way that works for you, and stick to it. Use citation aids and other programs to make the process easier for you (as long as you’re, you know, not plagiarizing or cheating). Finally, take advantage of the wealth of resources and information that Brown can give you. I’ve found myself occasionally getting bored in the library and checking out the books left over on the study carrel I happen to be sitting in. You’re here to learn, so take it in.

And if you’ve played your cards right, when it gets to the weekend, you’ll be free to spend some time off having fun.

Have questions or comments? Want more details? Send an email to and I’ll get back ASAP!


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