Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Information Overload

This will be short, but I do want to say it: I know a TON of stuff.  Sort of.

Over the past two days I have been working on my literature review for my dissertation (for those of you lucky enough to never have had the need to write one, it is a giant synthesis of all the research that is out there about a given topic).  In order to write a review of the literature, you have to actually review the literature.  I have spent the last seven years doing just that, and as a result, there is a whole lot of information bouncing around in my brain. 

Here is the problem: my brain does not have a highly developed system for organizing all this information.  Have you ever seen "Dreamcatcher"--the Stephen King movie?  The main character's brain is described/shown as a giant warehouse full of filing cabinets, and Jonesy (the main character) is a master of knowing where each piece of information is stored.  In fact, that is what saves him when he is bodysnatched by an alien.  (There, I just told you the whole movie).  If I were bodysnatched, I would be screwed! 

My brain is more like a tar pit, burping up random pieces of long-ago digested material.  The frustrating part is that I threw everything into that tar pit, I just can't ever get back exactly what I want.  Sometimes what comes to the surface is great--it is a helpful connection about an article I read long ago and it fills in an important missing piece in my work.

Other times, not so much.  Like when my friend Reid gave me a list of things he would look for in a girl and my brain gave me the Pina Colada song.  I mean, I get how those two were connected, but really?  Did I NEED that brain?  No. 

But as I have been going through drawers, writing my bibliography, and revising my lit review it occurs to me just how much stuff I have put in the pit that is my brain over the past few years.  It is overwhelming to think that I am responsible for the storage of all that information.  And a little humbling.  So, I guess I should not get so upset when the system gets a little bogged down and gives me Simpsons quotes instead of citation about metacognitive strategy use.  Because obviously, they both have an "s" so I am sure they are filed next to each other in my mind. 

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