A lot of people wonder how Ethos briefs could possibly be so long. Do we have lives? Are we just research zombies? Are we, possibly, robots? While all these are very plausible theories (and while I have considered the last one for *certain* members of our staff :P), there’s a very simple, human explanation for how we can get things done so quickly: we’re efficient researchers. Here’s how you, too, can become an efficient researcher:
Learn how to type fast
According to TypingTest.com, I can type at 95 words per minute. That means I can type something in five hours that an average person could type in sixteen hours. In other words, I can write three times as many briefs as the average person. That also means I don’t forget what I was searching for by the time I finish typing out a long phrase. And it’s a skill you’ll use for the rest of your life. My father still tells me that his best high school choice was to take a typing class. Learning how to type is an essential life skill that you should learn. There are a lot of learning programs out there; I used Jumpstart Typing (this was when I was much younger 😉 ), but I’ve also heard good things about Mavis Beacon. And for goodness sakes, learn how to type without looking at your keyboard :).
Learn how to use keyboard shortcuts
Picture this: A debater finds a killer piece of evidence. Excited, he highlights it with his mouse. Oops! He didn’t get the whole thing. He tries to re-drag, but it doesn’t work. So he clicks to unselect, then reselects. Then he right clicks, and hits Copy. Then he peers down at the dozens of windows on his taskbar, trying to find the right brief. There it is! He opens it up, scrolls down to where the card should go, right clicks, and pastes. Phew. Done. One card down.
That’s a lot of unnecessary work. And if that sounds like you… it shouldn’t happen.
First, let’s look at what happens if you need to select more of the evidence. No problem! Hold down on shift, and click one of your arrow keys. For example, if you want to select more evidence to the right of your current selection, do a Shift-Right Arrow a few times.
The cut, copy, and paste shortcut keys are also essential. They’re Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-V respectively (if you’re a Mac user, that’s ?-X, ?-C, and ?-V). They will save you time. Lots of time. Because right-click menus are fairly time-consuming.
Switching between windows can also take a lot of time. But again, it shouldn’t. Alt-Tab switches between all your windows, in order of your most recently used. It takes some getting used to, but once you’re used to it, it’ll save you lots of time.
Learn how to use computer programs
A lot of things that researchers do takes up far too much time. For example, do you know how much time it takes to remove all those annoying line breaks from a PDF? If you do it manually, it’s a lot. What amazes me, though, is that debate researchers still remove them by hand, whereas if they had just taken a few seconds to google “line break remover”, they would have discovered this amazing tool. That’s just one example; there are countless instances of debaters doing a lot of unnecessary work and being too lazy to find a program that does it for them. Time is money, especially for debate researchers. If you find yourself doing repetitive tasks over and over again, see if you can’t find a program to do it for you.
Very good advice. Learn how to maximize time and efficiency and you can write bigger, better briefs than you would previously thought you could.
One note, I tried using the “Remove Line Breaks” site that you put a link to, but when I put in some text from a PDF article, the program fused a bunch of the words together. It’s just worth mentioning, that as far as Line breaks go, no program is perfect.
Remove Line Breaks: Hmm, really? What PDF? (or, if you’d prefer, you could email me… I think you have my address :P)
Sometimes that’ll happen with low quality PDFs. I remember I pulled a bunch of stuff from a JSTOR article written a while ago, and the OCR or whatever they used to put it into PDF was rather horrible. If fused words, split words, and so on. So yes, it happens. but I doubt it was a result of the TextFixer (which has been a phenomenal time-saver.)
Andrew’s dead on throughout the article– great post. 🙂
I would also add something about indexes: using styles and doing it automatically is well worth the time to learn. Putting in all the little periods is not my idea of fun… but maybe it is for you. Personally, I’d rather have three mouseclicks build an index and be done, though. 😉
Good point; I think Anthony hit it on the head.
Jonathan, basically, the remove line breaks site removes all line breaks and replaces them with a space. So, for this:
Russia is awful
Goes to ->
Studies have shown that Russia is awful.
The problem I have with the Factsmith one is that it DOESN’T include the space afterwards. That sometimes leads to:
Studies haveshown thatRussia is awful.
(though sometimes it works, depending on the PDF formatting)
However, especially with older JSTOR articles, sometimes, the OCR just didn’t work. You START with this:
Rssuia s awful
No line break tool can fix that 😉
On a mac, it’s the command key (?) instead of CTL. Also, to switch between applications on a mac, it’s ?+tab. To switch between windows of the same application, it’s ?+[that key right above TAB that has the squiggly on it]. Of course, since Firefox with tabs is superior to multiple windows open, that last one probably has limited utility.
Oh, and, great post. 🙂
I have two additions:
1. Learn to read fast. Personally, I think this is a lot more important than typing fast. If you can read and process information quickly, you can get through a lot more, and find a lot more quotes.
2. FACTSMITH FACTSMITH FACTSMITH. I honestly think this is one of the most effective tools to speed up research. You can quickly cut dozens of cards, with perfect formatting, without ever leaving your browser. Plus, it features a lot of little useful features, like an integrated line-break remover (which, in my experience, is a LOT faster and more accurate than the website linked above.) Check it out, y’all: http://www.cogdebate.com/factsmith.