Browsing the blog archives for December, 2011

Those Wonderous [Academic] Stories by Claire Warden
Posted by atarrant

A few weeks ago I indulged another of my slightly off-the-wall passions by heading to Glasgow for a Yes gig. Progressive rock (at least the softer side of this movement) is one of my ever-growing interests. Before discovering these bands I only listened to classical music in the assumption that only poor musicians play rock. How wrong I was! I am always amazed by the dexterity, talent and incredible musicianship of these performers and, even as they get older, their commitment to creating challenging music. For these guys are risk takers. They do not hide behind G,D,C chords or 4/4 time signatures; their music is dangerous, unpredictable and exciting. Through all the perils of tough tempos and impossible lyrics, they strive for excellence while being aware that such risks might necessarily mean that perfection is impossible. As always, I find it inconceivable to disconnect my work from my passions and began to wonder how we might incorporate a level of risk taking into our daily academic lives.

 

It is certainly important to develop this strategy in teaching. Safe teaching, trudging over well-worn ground is as dull as it sounds. Risky teaching (exploring new methods of learning, asking students for feedback, incorporating new material on to the syllabus, making lectures more interactive) is exciting, though, of course, fraught with danger. Imagining the classroom/lecture hall/studio as a space of exploration, experimentation and constant learning on both sides of that artificial student-faculty divide transforms our teaching style.

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Weekly Wisdom #67 by Paul Gray and David E. Drew
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PROTECT YOUR INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL WHILE TRAVELING.  You can publish your research findings in a journal after you presented a paper about them at a conference.   Be careful, however, not to present creative initial speculations and hypotheses,  that you are not yet ready to publish. They can be stolen by unscrupulous members of your audience.

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Adapting to Scientific Styles of Writing by Katherine Reekie
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Katherine Reekie is PhD2Published’s new Science Correspondent and she has recently joined Twitter as @katreekie.

Anyone who has ever read a scientific research article will be familiar with the somewhat formal and impersonal writing style in which they tend to be written. Adapting to reading this kind of prose can be a challenge. The way they are written can be very different to the informal style which tends to be used for most other forms of modern communication, and it is this “scientific style” which is in part to blame for the reputation of scientific articles being complicated and hard to understand. But how about writing it? It is unlikely that most people will have been required to write in this style before they are an undergraduate student, and even then it may only be for a project report in the final year. There is often no formal training for this kind of writing, and the degree of assistance provided can vary greatly. I know from my own experiences of editing undergraduate reports that one of the things which can be difficult to get across is the need for a specific tone and format, which is often in complete contrast to anything the student has written before. Adapting to this way of writing can also be one of the hardest parts of writing a PhD thesis or journal article, as it is something that scientists often pick up as they go along, rather than being taught.

So can the “scientific style” really be defined? It must be emphasised that the way in which research is reported tends to be guided by convention rather than anything else. In general, the tone is impersonal and devoid of opinion, factual and often highly technical. Scientific reports are intended to be functional, and the way in which they are written is designed to emphasise the facts without distracting from them with the use of flowery language.

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Weekly Wisdom #66 by Paul Gray and David E. Drew
Posted by atarrant

BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP YOUR RESEARCH. Don’t be victimized by unexpected electronic failures that could destroy your files. Always back up important electronic files, including your raw data and draft text for your research. If you have questionnaires or computer output, keep the originals at least until the dissertation is handed in. After editing or modifying a draft chapter, resave it on removable media.  Print out a copy from time to time.  Back up text material frequently. Similarly, keep all valuable devices (including computers and removable media) that hold important, valuable information secure from theft.  Do not assume that theft won’t occur in the ivory tower or when you travel.

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…and all the academics merely players
Posted by atarrant

In this post, regular contributor Claire Warden offers her top tips for giving excellent conference presentations. She is Lecturer in Drama at the University of Lincoln where she has been working since 2010. She blogs at www.clairewarden.net and tweets as @cs_warden.

Here in the University of Lincoln’s drama department we are approaching our first performance fortnight of the year: a chance for students to showcase their talents and explore new methods. Currently I spend Thursday mornings amid a sea of robots, fake blood and apocalyptic visions as we rehearse a version of Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. In recent days I have been thinking a little about the way we ‘perform’ as academics. Our performance ability is particularly tested at conferences and, in this my third short meditation for PhD2Published, I want to consider the way we perform at these events.

For as a postgraduate I remember being taught about archives and writing journal articles and the need to develop a workable bibliographic system, but I cannot recollect ever really learning about conference presentation. The assumption, I imagine, is that it must come naturally to anyone considering an academic career or passionate about their research. Anybody who has sat through long days of conference proceedings will know that this is far from the case and, though I do not claim any real expertise in this area (I am the presenter whose Powerpoint didn’t work at my first major international conference as well as the panel chair who introduced a colleague with the wrong university affiliation), I have been considering what help us ‘performing arts types’ could provide to colleagues in different departments. So, below are my top tips for excellent conference presentation and, for those of you balking already at the thought of a drama scholar at the helm, I can promise that there will be no exuberant jazz hands, no actorly hissy fits and I will not call you ‘darling’ at any stage…

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Weekly Wisdom #65 by Paul Gray and David E. Drew
Posted by atarrant

PREPARE AN “ELEVATOR SPEECH”. Throughout your PhD studies, your professors grounded you in your discipline and taught you all the caveats and disclaimers that must accompany your scholarly research.  Then, in the dissertation defense, and afterwards, for example when you seek a job, you will be asked to succinctly summarize your work and what it means. Imagine that you are attending a national conference.  You step into an express elevator on the 45th floor of the building, and push “lobby”.  the only other person in the elevator is, say the senior Federal policy maker in your area of interest, for example, the National Endowment for the Humanities or the President’s Science Advisor, or the chair of the department you really want to interview for a job.  He or she says that they heard that you completed an important dissertation study.  S/he explains that s/he would like to know about your research, but,given a packed schedule, only has this elevator ride to learn about your work.  What do you tell them?


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