Five Memory Improvement Tips for Researchers

Field encounters become more meaningful when you gather and recall as much detail as you can. If you do not have a system or technique to do it, it will be difficult. Here are five memory improvement tips that work.

Good researchers need a sharp memory; if not, then they will be losing valuable information from field encounters. The ability to recall things is not a matter of genes alone. It can be developed with practice and through the use of creative means.

If you have trouble recalling things, then the following memory improvement tips will help you remember those things observed in the field.

Five Memory Improvement Tips

1. Bring your notes and pencil/pen with you.

Notes are indispensable tools to help you recall things. Jotting a few words or phrases on a small notebook will remind you of important statistics such as the number of people who benefited from a project, the number of animals that your interviewee spotted, or the frequency of sightings. When your automatic audio or video recorder fails, you always have your notes to write on.

2. Always tote the indispensable camera.

For the modern researcher, the camera tells a thousand words. You can describe the study site by just a quick shot of the landscape. Or document a new species which cannot be easily trapped. Setting it in video mode will help you capture people’s conversations and reactions useful making those available during post-field work analysis. Just make sure you have the memory card inserted inside the camera and the battery is full.

If your camera is not weatherproof or waterproof, bringing along thick, transparent plastic bags to wrap your camera in when unexpected rains come. You will need a rubber band to seal it dry.

3. Always bring a young assistant with you.

Why do you need a young assistant with you? Well, that’s simple. Younger people tend to recall things better than aging researchers who spent most of their time studying and narrowing their frame of mind as a result of specialization. If you are a professor, choose a student who performs well in class.

4. Consciously mark things with objects and arrange them in pairs
bottle and twin

It is easy to recall things when you associate them with something. For example, you can represent a series of numbers with the following objects: 1 – a bottle, 2 – a twin, 3 – a tree, 4 – a paper clip, 5 – a hand, 6 – a man with six-pack abs, 7 – a sickle, 8 – a twisted tire, 9 – a cat, and 0 – an egg.

How do you use these numbers to represent a series of numbers say a telephone number? Easy. If you want to recall 432-7812, associate this number in pairs of objects representing the numbers in the previous paragraph. This number converts into the following symbol combinations: paper clipped on a tree, tree hugged by a twin, one of the twins holding a sickle, sickle cutting a twisted tire, tire containing a bottle, and bottle with two small twins inside.

Now, imagine those objects and their relationships in your mind. Whether you recall them forwards or backwards, it is easy to get back to the numbers. Else, you lose an extension of your memory.

5. Associate events that you want to recall with a traumatic incident.

Traumatic incidents in your life are easily recalled. Associate an important event in your investigation with a traumatic incident in your life. Although recalling that unpleasant experience in your life can make you feel bad, it can help you recall important things. In so doing, you will also allay that horrible, nasty, obnoxious or bad experience of yours.

Try these memory tips and see a difference in your research output.

© 2013 September 19 P. A. Regoniel


  1. Shirley Burrill May 24, 2014
    • Patrick Regoniel May 24, 2014