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In case you’re not savvy, GTD stands for getting things done and the concept is rather self-explanatory. I would go so far as to say it’s a popular trend and it seems to be based off of a book by David Allen. While I haven’t read the book, I am a big fan of productivity and efficiency.

I feel like one of my strengths is my ability to draw connections where others might not see them. That’s a rather bold statement for me, but I’ve been told by many others I have that trait, and let’s face it, that’s what social science trains you to do.

So, I’d like to share some of the GTD concepts I’ve gathered through my anthropological training.

Theory. Strong training in anthropological theory, or any theory for that matter, helps to make situations easier to approach and evaluate. While learning the theory isn’t easy for most, it helps later in life- trust me. As an example: I struggled with the dilemma “do you chose a client and then the focus OR the focus and then the client?” for about a year. I’m concerned about this because my practicum (thesis) is staring me in the face even though it’s at least a year away. Enter Singer’s Community-Centered Praxis (1994). Singer suggests that researchers should let the community chose their own focus in their research (there’s more to it than that). While I might not adopt his approach, it could answer my question if I want it to. Point is, others’ have come before you and made similar mistakes- do your literature review: follow their led or at least learn from their mistakes. Let theory guide your decisions because it may help to make them easier and thus quicker to make. Also, let it guide your analysis, there’s a million different ways to interpret things. My approach is a hodge-podge ranging from Nader to Singer to Bourdieu to Foucault at this point.. but that’s OK.

Literature reviews. While they just might be one of the dullest and most time consuming aspects of research- they’re vital. Unless you want to test for validity or reliability there really is not much sense in re-doing what was done correctly (emphasis on correctly!) the first time. And this saves you time in the end. It will also save you time by not having to defend your work to those more knowledgeable than you. At the AAA this past year, there was a session where it quickly became evident to a lot of the attendees that the group had not done their (literature) research. It may take that group a lot of time to repair their image now and I’m sure they’ve spent a fair amount of time (beyond that day) defending themselves.
Now of course, this is all subjective. In the vast field of medical anthro it might not be as easy to do a thorough lit review and/or there may not be over-arching agreed upon theories. But on this particular day the design anthropologists in the room showed the importance of lit reviews.

Organizing your files. After reading LeCompte and Schensul’s Analyzing & Interpreting Ethnographic Data last semester, I was inspired to organize the files on my computer. There’s a section in the book about organizing field data and while it’s helpful, I think you have to learn that by experience. What I got out of the book was the importance of organizing my own personal files on my computer. I do this for two reasons: it makes referencing things quicker and easier and it gives me practice for when I have to manage field data.

My personal files are organized by steps in the research process so that when I do a research project I can reference the materials I’ve collected and chosen as great along the way. I hope that this will save me the hassle of having to re-find the things I’ve read in school and I’ll probably have a pretty good database by the time I graduate. If an article assigned in class is good- I put it into my “research file” and I also try to tag it on del.icio.us if I can. I also have a benefit from my classes being online because all class discussions and lessons are electronic- if they’re good, I can save them and file them away.

My “research folder” consists of:
*Lit reviews= instructions on how to do an abstracts, etc
*Research HowTo- data collection methods, IRB examples, Informed consent examples, etc
*Analysis- tutorials in atlas.ti, spss, coding instructions, etc
*Transcription- linguist transcription keys, tutorials, software, etc
*Ethics- AAA guide, certifications, etc
*Writing- style guides, etc
*ToRead- articles that I’ve enjoyed, etc
*My Abstracts- I’ve written in courses that I think I’ll use again

I’m actually trying out yep software, it’s $34 (free trial) and is for OSX. It’s a document database that allows for tagging, or “coding” if you will, so I’m tagging sections of documents for easy future reference. I’ll post a review when I’ve had some more experience with it.

People skills. As anthropologists, we learn the art of establishing rapport. I see this as being helpful in “non-research settings” because we learn better people skills. But you can also use “real life” to strengthen your rapport building skills. You can also read a few (non-anthro) books about the subject strengthening your people skills and apply that to field work. It applies in research and life- two birds with one stone.

If I think of more tips- I’ll post a part II. If you have some tips- please share!


Singer, Merrill
1994 Community Centered Praxis: Toward an Alternative Nondominative Applied Anthropology. Human Organization 53:336-344.

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