What is visualisation?
It’s a term that’s used to help people realise and achieve goals and dreams, but what do we mean exactly by visualisation and what impact can it actually have?
Well, fundamentally visualisation is a cognitive tool used to picture exactly what you want to happen.
In doing so we are creating all aspects of the scenario that we to experience or obtain. Now, I mean everything, so that could be sounds, sights, smells, feelings.
The more realistic the visualisation you take part in and the more it stimulates you, the more impact it will have in you realising and moving closer to what you want to achieve.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter gives a fantastic explanation of what visualisation is and its power:
“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more”
So, with this depiction, we can start to understand that visualisation is an opportunity for us to try and control what we are struggling to control.
It is a tool that helps us create what we want to see and achieve.
This all sounds great, ideal, give me some visualisation!
Well, hold on for a second. What is important when thinking about concepts that talk about how they are the key to success, is to look at the research.
What does psychology say about visualisation?
Well, often in psychological services, visualisation boards are used to help illustrate what the client is seeking.
These external tools can help in keeping the client focussed on visualisation.
Visualisation boards are often used for people that want a better future, a healthier lifestyle and even for those attempting to overcome addiction.
In psychological services, concrete objects are often utilised to help with the process of visualisation.
This is often used with patients with depression to visualise a better future and used to great effect.
These concrete objects can include things such as pictures in wallets for example, or mementoes that the individual carries with them.
Visualisation is also used in psychological and therapeutic services for patients with severe anxiety to create mental holidays to retreat to a calmer environment.
This might sound abstract but it has been shown to have incredible effects.
So, it’s clear then that visualisation techniques can be used to incredible effect in therapeutic and psychological contests but where else is visualisation used?
Where else is visualisation used?
Well the easiest one to appreciate perhaps is in the world of sports
Athletes will spend huge amounts of time visualising good performances.
Recent research has in fact inferred that spending time visualising performances and potential different outcomes and responses in sports settings have as much a role to play in how well an athlete performs the practice itself.
I watched the Winter Olympics earlier in the year and saw bob slay team captains pretending to go through the motions of the full course in their minds.
They would turn in ways that they would expect when they go down the track, all to ensure that they fully utilise the power of visualisation.
Visualisation can also be really effectively utilised in a studying context.
For example, you might visualise exams and coursework that you have due. Visualising what questions, you might get asked and best to answer them are all really powerful ways of utilising visualisation in studying.
The trick here, with regards to anything in visualisation, is to go through the entire process.
Don’t just focus on one questions in an exam or one move on the sports field. Visualise the full thing in its entirety.
That means, from waking up that day, to what you have for breakfast, to walking to school or the gym, to entering the room and sitting down and opening the paper…you get the idea.
The important thing is that you go through as many different scenarios in your head in as much detail as possible.
This way, you teach yourself not to expect anything unpredictable. You also reassure yourself of the different outcomes that could happen and how you might react as a result.
How can you use visualisation to great effect in your everyday life?
Well, you might to create your own visualisation board and keep it somewhere that you will see it every day. Whenever you walk past it, take some time to visualise what it is you desire as you look at the pictures.
When I was studying for exams, I used to pin my notes and mind maps around my house and when I went to the fridge for milk, there would be some notes there, I would take my time and read them through and visualise how I might use them in a potential question in an exam.
When I went to go out the front door, there would be another page of notes and I would do the same.
I was utilising visualisation to improve my upcoming performances.
Fundamentally guys, visualisation is seriously powerful, it’s not just a generic term thrown around by people who think they know what they are talking about, it has real psychological backing and is a toll that you can use every day to achieve and progress more in whatever you want to do.
Interested in learning more about visualisation? The check out the recent video I did about the psychology of visualisation on my YouTube channel GetPsyched by clicking the link here.
Reading journal articles can be one of the most time consuming and challenging aspects of any form of higher study.
Whether it’s for general reading, preparation for an essay of for a presentation coming up, journal searching and reading is a necessity.
However, its common that journal searching and reading can be really challenging and time-consuming. There are some tips and tricks that I have learned over the years that have with this process, which I’m going to share with you here.
THE BASIC SEARCH
Before anything happens, we need to actually find some good journal articles relating to our field of study and the topic we are looking at.
Here is an example essay question so we have a guide for our journal search – ‘Critically evaluate the theoretical and empirical literature that accounts for the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on young people under the age of 16 suffering from severe anxiety’
Now, the process of fully understanding your essay question is something I have already covered on my YouTube channel GetPsyched, take a look at the video here.
However, what do we do with a question like this when we need to search for journal articles?
Well, some general background reading will be helpful for the essay answer. We need to obtain some articles on cognitive behavioural therapy (both theoretical and empirical literature) and we need to find literature on severe anxiety in young people under the age of 16.
The first thing to do here is to establish some key search terms you want to look up online and in other resources for relevant articles. Some examples of good search terms based on our example question may be as follows:
- ‘Effectiveness of CBT’
- ‘Criticisms of CBT’
- ‘CBT and young people’
- ‘Severe anxiety in young people’
- ‘CBT and severe anxiety’
For me personally, the first thing I do to get my basic background reading is to go to Google Scholar and type in these key terms. See what hits you get and if you find any relevant sources.
What I am attempting to do here is to develop a background reading list. The articles you find here will be useful and will no doubt be referenced in your assignment; however, we will come to the point where we need more specific studies that have researched exactly what we are looking at. However, we’ll come to this.
Now, with Google Scholar it can sometimes be helpful to put ‘PDF’ at the end of your search. That way all the articles that are freely available through Google Scholar relevant to your topic, will come up in your search.
The next step would be to go through the resources available to you at your university. Via journal access or other means, typing in your background reading terms into a search engine from your university can be really helpful.
A few key tips:
- You cannot use Wikipedia obviously, but you can Wikipedia what you want to look at and go down to the reference list they have used and access some studies that way. I have found this really helpful in the past.
- When reading journals that are relevant t your topic, be sure to see what they have reference and what sources they have used. You can then access them and perhaps use them in your own work.
THE ADVANCED SEARCH
Ok, so by now you have done a bit of basic searching via Google Scholar and have some articles that are relevant to your question.
This is a good position to be in with your search so far. However, we need to step it up a little and begin some more advanced searches to find some sources that will be even more relevant to our question.
We do this via database searches.
Now, accessing databases can be very different for pretty much any university. Hopefully you will have access to your university library online, in which case you should be able to access databases. If you are struggling with this, then my best advice is to go and speak with your library directly and gain access that way.
So, what are databases?
Databases are basically a massive collection of different journals based on subject. It basically stops you having to go through ever journal in your field of study to find relevant sources. By searching in a database, you effectively are searching multiple journals all at ones.
Database searching is one of the most effective ways to find the articles you need.
Now, there are a few databases that I love to use in psychology, the first is PSYARTICLES, the second is PSYCH INFO and the third is Science Direct.
My advice is to start with these as these are pretty user-friendly and go from there.
Now, remember the whole purpose of us using the databases is to find sources that are really specific and relevant to our topic. So, if we go back to the question – ‘Critically evaluate the theoretical and empirical literature that accounts for the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on young people under the age of 16 suffering from severe anxiety’ – We want to be looking for articles that have to do with the effectiveness of CBT on young people under 16 suffering from severe anxiety. We’ve done our basic search and now want to get to a more advanced level of article searching.
Now, I could write a whole blog on database search, which I might do in the future but for now, I’m just going to give you a few tips and tricks to get the most out of database searching.
Always use the advanced search option.
- This was you can be more specific
Use quotation marks in your search.
- If you search for something like – severe anxiety – you’ll get thousands of articles that are related to articles that have the word severe in them, and articles that have the word anxiety only. We don’t want this, we want to get sources that are related to both. So, instead what we do is we search for “severe anxiety” in the search bar. The quotation marks group the two together, we get a much smaller search hit total and all the articles we find will be related to severe anxiety as one.
Use multiple search bars at once.
- This is a feature you will only find in the advanced search option.
- You’ll have the option to add another search bar, and when you do you have the opportunity to add more detail to your search.
- So, what we might do here is search for “severe anxiety”, then add another search bar and search for “effectiveness of CBT”.
- Now, when we add this other search bar we will have a drop-down menu next to it that gives the option of either AND, OR, NOT.
- This speaks for its self. In our case, we want to search for “severe anxiety” AND “effectiveness of CBT”
- So, what happens here is we are going to get articles that are relevant to the effectiveness of CBT on severe anxiety.
- We might eventually also add ‘young people’ into another search bar to focus the search even more.
Utilise the additional options after you have your search results.
- After you have your search results from the database, you have options to condense the year of publication and where the articles come from etc.
- Use these options at your own discretion, they can be really helpful to reduce your hit rate and find the most relevant sources. Especially when you get a hit rate in the tens of thousands, which is common.
The bottom line is that journal searching always takes up more time that you first anticipate.
It can be really frustrating too when you can’t get the sources you need. Hopefully, with these tips and with a systematic understanding of how to be successful in your basic search and your advanced search, journal searching challenges will be a thing of the past.
I would put organisation at the very top of most important factors when it comes to studying a doctorate in psychology, or any university degree of any subject for that matter. In a recent blog post of the top tips for post-graduate psychology students, I highlight this point along with should initiative and the importance of self-care. With these ten tips below you will be well on your way to not only being organised but staying organised. The rest will be a breeze…eh…
- Make a consistent effort to write out the structure of your day, every day. Account for every hour and what you will be doing. That way, you know how much time you have for everything you have to do, and you’re more likely to stick to the tasks at hand.
- Including course booklets and overview documents.
- Make a daily effort to check in with all your material, re-read some important emails about classes or coursework, check you haven’t missed any emails, and check over course hand booklets to ensure you are up to date with hand in requirements and expectations.
Set of Weekly Goals with Max 3 Monthly Goals:
- Take your course week by week whilst still keeping focused on some long-term goals. I have found this the best way of staying organised with the tasks I have to do.
- You shouldn’t have too many monthly goals, I advise a max of 3, that way you can stay focused on them and maintain their importance whilst still working on the weekly tasks you have to get done.
- Write these goals down week by week and month by month, keep them in your daily diary perhaps. Whatever you do, don’t just keep them in your head!
- When you think you have enough highlighters, you don’t.
- Make sure you have highlighters of every colour and have a use and a place for every colour.
- We will discuss why in the next point.
Create Your Own Colour Coding Chart:
- Create your own colour coding chart and stick to it throughout your studies.
- Have a colour code for each subject you learn. Use these colours to highlight the lecture notes that correspond to the subject for the headings of the notes, the title of the file you keep those notes in and use that colour to highlight information you read that is applicable to that topic.
- Colour coding is really important and makes the process of organisation that bit easier.
- Apps on your phone can be a fantastic tool for any university student that wants to prioritise organisation. They are portable, you always have it handy and you can update it as and when you need.
- The list below outlines some of the apps you should be considering for your smartphone in order to stay organised
- Voice recorder – For your own notes, you might have ideas and you don’t know how to write them down. A voice recorder can be ideal for this.
- Scanner – To turn lecture notes into pdfs.
- Evernote – Evernote is a brilliant app to log all of your ideas and additional notes on your studies that you can reflect on later.
- Uni app – Your university may very well have an app that keeps you up to date with the course and/or university updates. This app should be a priority on your phone.
- Study timetable and schedule planner – Make sure you have an app that outlines your weekly planner for your classes. You’ll never miss a beat when you have all the details on an app like this.
- App diary – Having a daily diary that highlight deadlines, daily classes, placements and important meetings with reminders. This will really help you stay on top of what will already be a hugely demanding schedule as you study and work.
Assigned Folders and Corresponding Clip Filers:
- Throughout your day of classes and studies, you will have numerous pages of notes from lecture and/or your own reading. As has already been said, you should be using your colour chart and highlighting these notes appropriately. With you in your bag, you should also have corresponding plastic wallets or folders where the notes from each topic go into. So, if you have a class on social psychology, all your notes from social psychology for that day go into that folder. Your notes from each folder should then go into a clip file folder when you get home. This way you never misplace notes and you keep track of what you have been learning.
Start Projects Early:
- This is a factor to staying organised that is so often overlooked. Yes, you may have an essay or two due together in 6 months time and not much else, coursework wise, up until that point. Start now!! Get the work done early and that way you feel much less pressure come deadline time and you end up with a better product. You will come to realise that the most valuable commodity you have during your studies is time, so make the most of it!
Keep All Notes and Have a Place for Them:
- This is simple enough, make all of your notes easy to find as you never know when you will need them.
Organise Your Materials Before Your Studies:
- Organisation, and a system of organisation should come before you even start studying. The time you have before undertaking a course or subject should be used to create your system.
- Have all your materials and all of your organisation systems in place before you even pick up a journal article.