There was talk in our dept about getting the research students to speak to each other more. I like this idea where the students manages to digest a significant amount of literature, as a group.
My student-researchers and I tried something a little different to kick off our semester. Instead of the standard syllabus that requires everybody to read a few articles to discuss, we decided instead to organize ourselves into a Smart Mob (more…)
I spend a few hours mucking around with Tumblr – only to discover that I may like posterous better. The real acid test is finding out which becomes "normality" in the same way that using twitter has become for me…
I guess that involves the weighting the value of community over having a nicely customised layout.
Hmph, I want to use tumblr for something – anything!
I am testing Posterous to see what happens when I email items from google reader. As I am enrolling on my Ph.D. course this coming Monday (12th of Jan), I am reading a lot about the Ph.D. experience and looking for tips for beginning the process.
I came across this entry via Academic Productivity. I am particularly interested in the progress from undergraduate/taught masters frame of mind into a more individualistic approach associated with the Ph.D..
In terms of using Posterous as a tool to share and comment on articles and other items of interest, I am pretty impressed. So far, so good. I am going to continue to use this site in the mean time in order to explore different ways in which to navigate the barriage of information I am exposed to daily online.
- Jay Jay
Jose posted an article last week about one person’s PhD experience, highlighting many of the common difficulties encountered when doing what’s largely a self-directed research project. There are loads of books about how to finish a PhD that expand on these questions – of supervisors, organizing your time and so on – but I’ve found that their advice can be frustratingly abstract. When I started my PhD I couldn’t help but wonder “yes but what should I do RIGHT NOW?”.
One useful trick I discovered was to set myself regular assignments. If you’re coming to a PhD from an undergrad or Masters level degree, chances are you’re more used to having teachers give you tasks rather than setting off into uncharted waters on your own. What’s more, you’ve got a big mountain of work sitting in front of you labelled ‘lit review’ and it can be hard to know where to start.
I tried to overcome these problems by dividing up the task into about 8 two-week long assignments. First, I did some brainstorming and together with my supervisor identified the subject areas with which I should become familiar, before dividing these topics into specific research questions. In my case, these were things like “How do people and societies respond to new technologies?” and “Describe the policy issues associated with metering of microgeneration systems in the UK”. I then gave myself two weeks to write an essay on these topics. It gave a clear direction to my reading and by the end of it, I could present my supervisor with a tangible product that we could then discuss.
In theory these mini-reviews could be edited together into your lit review chapter, making one of the most difficult parts of writing up much easier. In practice though I found that, because I was working in a fast-moving field, much of the material I’d gathered in the first months of my PhD was out-of-date by the time I got around to writing up three years later. But the essays only needed some updating, it was excellent writing practice and it was an invaluable way of establishing a routine at the start of a daunting project.
As a footnote if you have some experience in teaching and learning theory, you may recognize this technique as an application of learning outcomes (see this for a brief introduction). My assignment questions can essentially be re-written as:
In two weeks time, I will be able to:
- Describe the policy issues associated with metering of microgeneration systems in the UK
You can evaluate your own success against these outcomes, recognize how far you’ve come, and be clear about what you’ve achieved for things like your transfer report. The above link has some good tips on how to write and use learning outcomes.
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Joined SEEFILMFIRST a few weeks ago. Last night got an email inviting us to go see Slumdog Millionaire, for free, at the new Highcross cinema. When cinema is about 7-8 quid a ticket these days, why the hell not?
(OK – people have been doing this for years – at the same time as I’ve been paying for a unlimited cineworld subscription (In Glasgow, not Leicester – no cineworld in Leicester :-(), so not noticed the price creep up to ridiculous amount.)
If you aren’t signed up, get signed up. Steal your housemate’s dairy milk* and you’ve got a free night out there!
*Disclaimer: I didn’t actually steal the dairy milk – just incase you read this..
I was looking back at older blogs and realised that I hadn’t wrote anything reflective around this time of year – mainly out of fear of being a massive bloggin’ cliche. What I’ve realised is that you can’t avoid being reflective at the start of a new year – and especially after being off on holiday. I was ideally looking for something to compare my achievements and goals from 2008 to 2009. These things can definitely be helpful – even down to the process of writing it down and putting it out there. So, I thought, sod worrying about being a cliche and just do it.
Here are a few things I would like for 2009:
- Blog more and blog better. I know I always start my blog entries with this, but I’m hoping that when the Ph.D. FINALLY begins (12th of this month), that I will be able to document the process with much more clarity. Furthermore, through utilising my networks on twitter and delicious, I’ll be able to make the whole online “social media” process far more fluid and inclusive of what is going on “offline” as well. I would like to think that the last 3 months have been practise for just now.
- Complete my (part time) Advance Postgraduate year at the same pace as those doing it at fulltime level. As I will be on campus pretty much fulltime, I don’t see why I can’t do the work at the same pace. I can only confirm this goal once I actually get going – I have a copy of the handbook and I’ve been reading since before Christmas in preparation for this.
- Continue proactively thinking about work and where I can get it from. I am grateful to my department for putting me forward for teaching assistant jobs and I am sorted until end of term. I need to be thinking about what I can do over the summer and potentially looking for part time research positions as I gain more experience in my field. This is one thing I just need to be consistently focusing on and not something that will happen over night. 2008 has shown me that it takes a combination of being available, meeting and networking with people online (off) and just generally being into your work (and wanting to work with others are into to it just as much as you) has been the way to go about it. I understand that this will be the case for a long, long time as I believe the old school style of getting a job and sticking it forever is long gone.
- Continue my fitness plan. Continue to learn to cook. Use my new bike whenever possible. All of these things are quite easy to fit in and I have been doing it for the last 2 months, I just would to keep on that route. In addition to quitting smoking 4.5 months ago, I am also quitting alcohol temporary (30 days at least to see how I get on – these sort of things can change your whole social life, let alone imporve your health.)
Overall I just want to keep ploughing on in the same manner I have been these last few months. The latter part of 2008 has been good to me – I just want to keep going along the same sort of paths, meeting the same sort of people and generally just being happy.