Browsing the archives for the Academic Life tag

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #45 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Find friends from other disciplines. Switching from one discipline to another or doing interdisciplinary research can be a challenge, especially as methods change from one discipline to another.  Yet working with a colleague or friends from another discipline can bring a fresh perspective to your research. Some patience may be required to find a common lexicon, but it is likely that there is more common ground that we might expect from one discipline to another. Should a project idea develop that you can work on together, each of you can be first author for the work in your own discipline. More collaboration, less competition.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #44 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Take stock of what works. Much of the conversation about academic writing and publishing focuses on how to improve processes and be more productive. Many scholars are in the midst of transitioning back from summer break, and the demands on your time will change as the daily routine changes. Consider the good writing and research habits you developed over the summer. Are there routines or habits that you can carry forward into the fall? What can you modify to maintain some semblance of writing in your everyday practices?

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #43 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Walk with a light step. Maybe you’ve had a particularly vexing time with revisions. Or a computer error that resulted in a corrupted file. Or you just haven’t been able to meet those perhaps overly ambitious summer writing goals. You don’t need to make excuses for goals that are only in your head. If you’re accountable to a writing group or partner, chances are there won’t be any serious punitive measures. So don’t be unkind to yourself. If you’re gearing up for the Fall semester, think about how you’ll answer the inevitable question: How was your summer? Prepare an answer that demonstrates your satisfaction with something you did accomplish. A former boss used to describe demanding tasks as “good hard work.” What good hard work did you muddle through? And can you walk away from it with a lighter step?

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #42 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. In many ways, a successful academic career bears some similarities to owning your own business. While there are some disadvantages, focus instead of the benefits to your time as a writer and researcher. You can often select your own projects, set your own hours, create your agenda, and organize your plans. If you think of yourself as an entrepreneur, what might you do differently? Would you write out short term and long term “corporate” goals? Would you look at the trends in your field to see what new research is being published? Would you develop the equivalent of an advertising plan to make sure your “business” is getting the recognition it deserves? What incentives might you use to inspire and motivate your best employee…yourself?

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #40 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Get good rest. Discussions about the importance of being well rested are abundant. An adequate amount of sleep means you can think more clearly, process and retain information more effectively, lower your stress level, and, some say, even lose weight. Being well rested here refers not only to having enough sleep but to having your mind at rest. Whether you are anxious about the quality of your work (plagued by perfectionism), or distracted by what is going on around you or going in your head, most of us have had the experience of having our attention and energy drained by the inability to put our minds at peace and concentrate on writing and research. Spend some time observing yourself at work and see what changes you can make in order to establish a well-rested mind.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #39 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Stay hungry. In his Stanford commencement speech in 2005, Steve Jobs told a story about Stewart Brand and The Whole Earth Catalog. When the final edition of the catalog was published, the back cover featured a photograph of an open country road with the words “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” These were Jobs’ parting words to the students as well. There is much to be said about the value of staying hungry and staying ambitious, and aspiring to always accomplish more. But the first question: For what do you hunger? You may have a list of tasks to accomplish, like a university’s requirements for earning tenure or promotion. But how well do those tasks sync with your own aspirations? Figuring out how to make them match can be a step toward a more fulfilling professional life.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #36 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weeklly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Stay hydrated. During the summer months, there are often reminders in public discourse about making sure you drink enough water throughout the day. But the dangers of dehydration aren’t only for athletes and people involved in physical labor. Dehydration affects your mental labor too.

Neuroscientist Joshua Gowin, writing for Psychology Today, notes that we simply need to stay hydrated to stay at our mental best. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll have trouble staying focused. Your short-term memory function and long-term recall can both be affected negatively. You might even struggle with simple math, let along complex calculations.

So keep a glass or bottle of water or your favorite beverage close by. If your favorite beverage is a cup of coffee or tea, no worries:  Sarah Klein at the Huffington Post reports that “while caffeine is dehydrating, the water in coffee (and tea, for that matter) more than makes up for the effects, ultimately leaving you more hydrated than you were, pre-java. Consuming 500 or more milligrams of caffeine a day — anywhere from around three to five cups of coffee — could put you at risk for dehydration.”

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/dehydration-myths_n_3498380.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-illuminated/201010/why-your-brain-needs-water

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #35 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Express your gratitude. A recent blog post suggested not waiting until you write up the acknowledgements page of your thesis or dissertation to thank the people who have mentored and supported you and been allies during your academic process. Acknowledgements should not end with the publication of an essay or book either. So much of the service that academics do goes without appreciation. Take a moment to say thank you: if you submit an abstract and it’s rejected, you can still appreciate the editor’s and reviewer’s time. If you present at a conference, thank your panel chair. Thank your respondent. Thank the other panelists. Do so with sincerity, and your gratitude can go a long way to creating a lasting connection.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #31 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Keep a scrapbook. In the long-ago pre-Internet days, I took notes and wrote drafts in a small spiral notebook. Flipping back through the pages of those old journals, I find newspaper articles, advertisements, photographs, napkins with sketches, and an assortment of other material taped to the pages. Most of my writing, drafting, and collecting happens in digital spaces now, and there are good tools like Pocket, Evernote, and Keep to store the memorabilia of intellectual travels. The difference is that the digitized content is all flat, all similar, and has no shape to it. The shape and feel of the inspiring or nostalgic artifact can be evocative, reminding us viscerally of both the questions and the answers. Artist and author Austin Kleon has written quite a lot about keeping a notebook in a similar and beautifully creative process. You can read a blog post about one of his recent notebooks here.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #26 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Serve as a reviewer for conferences. While it varies across disciplines, large national and international conferences will often look to their membership to conduct peer review of conference submissions. Volunteering to serve as a reviewer has many benefits: You have an opportunity to see what research is underway in your field. You provide important service to the discipline, which 1) makes you part of the community, 2) strengthens connections and contacts, and 3) can be helpful if you are on the market or have service requirements toward tenure. You can also learn from the best practices and mistakes of other writers.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #20 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Have your day of hate (bear with me). Mentors will say you should select your research topic carefully. If you choose to study something you love, you might end up hating it. It happens. Should you find yourself having a serious wrestling match with your topic, wanting to scrap the whole thing, and wishing you had made a different choice, go with it. Throw yourself into the negative space until you exhaust all of the possible complaints. Then go for a walk, play a video game, or engage in some other activity you enjoy. Don’t think about or go back to your project until the next day. See how you feel when you come back to it, and plan to have a day of reconciliation with your work.

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Crossing Disciplines – From Fashion Undergrad to Geography PhD by Emma Waight
Posted by Linda Levitt

Bronze_bowl_pink_flowersEmma Waight (@EmsWaight) is a third year PhD student in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. She blogs at emmawaight.co.uk.

If there’s one thing I do a lot of, it’s write. Everything from my diary (which only I read), to my PhD thesis (which if I’m lucky three people will read) to my blog (which is open to all). I’ve always rather enjoyed writing; a helpful quality in a social scientist.

I haven’t always wanted to be a social scientist though. Growing up, I was dedicated to a career in fashion and planned my subject choices and work experience around being a fashion journalist. In my sixth form leaver’s book my English teacher wrote that he looked forward to seeing me as a future editor of Vogue. Now my main ambition is to publish a social theory text on consumption or material culture. Sometimes people find it difficult to comprehend the path I’ve taken to date, but actually, is a fashion journalist all that different to a scholar of material culture?

I recently attended a career and leadership development course and completed a MBTI psychometric questionnaire. The report suited me perfectly (apparently I come across as mysterious, which I like, so I won’t spoil it by saying which type I was) and matched me up to jobs such as writer, sociologist, teacher, artist, counsellor. I’m a conceptual thinker, creative and value driven. Being a fashion journalist would have suited the creative part, but perhaps didn’t fit with my values. This is clearly the case, as I directed my undergraduate dissertation to ethical fashion, followed by an MPhil on the same topic, leading to a PhD on consumption and its social role. I am very fortunate to have had the space to explore this; I doubt fashion could have ever fulfilled my inquisitive nature and desire to make a difference.

So now I’m able to do the two main things that I enjoy—I’m writing up my PhD in human geography and planning an academic career in the social sciences, whilst I continue to blog about ethical fashion for my own blog and others. Both roles stem from a desire to investigate the wider world, to find out about stuff that interests me. Both involve desk-based research as well as getting into the field for interviews and observation. Both involve writing up that research in order to communicate on a broader platform. And both allow others to engage with my ideas, provide feedback and become part of a wider conversation. Clearly, there are huge differences too and I’m sure many academics would be livid to hear me comparing academia to journalism, but I do believe many of the processes are the same.

Starting a PhD in human geography was a steep learning curve, simply due to the change in subject matter, not in the way I approached writing. Yes, I had to learn some new lingo but now I’m nearing the end of my PhD, I can see that an interdisciplinary background has helped rather than hindered in the long term. It allows me to draw on a broad range of literature, using them as I see fit to build up my argument. One thing I did struggle with at the start was the use of first person. I had been trained before to take a more report-like, business style approach to writing which becomes difficult when you need to discuss and highlight reflexivity as a researcher. My cultural/social geography PhD research draws strongly on ethnographic techniques; hence I had to learn to adopt a narrative approach to my writing and not be afraid to situate myself within my topic.

The fact that I was blogging in a fashion role before my PhD meant that blogging about academia was a natural progression. Not only do I write about PhD life for our departmental postgrad blog, but I also use my academic work as a basis for popular writing on consumption and shopping issues. I’ve found a happy medium where I can have two interlinked elements of my life, and both feed into each other. I hope in the long term my broad networks will lead to interesting collaborations both inside and outside of academia, and mean that my research has a use outside the ivory towers (which is happening more and more across academia anyway). Sometimes I still feel like I have a lot of catching up to do in the social sciences, but no academic knows everything and I intend to make the most of my interdisciplinary background as a strength rather than a weakness.

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Hackademic Guide to Networking: Be a Cerebral Stalker
Posted by Linda Levitt
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

BE A CEREBRAL STALKER. One of the wonderful things about social networks like Twitter is that you can find out about people’s work by watching and listening in on their public exchanges. Isn’t this precisely what platforms like Twitter and Facebook are for?* ;-) Certainly it makes the perfect way in for newcomers. So try this:

1. Find someone you admire on Twitter, follow them and the various topics that interest them – even follow some of the people they follow.

2. Lurk / listen for a few weeks, perhaps, before boldly @mentioning the person, directing a question their way, or asking them for some kind of feedback.

3. There are savvy and not so savvy ways of doing this, but we totally encourage tweets like this one, “Hey @charlottefrost, I noticed you’re working on a project about ______, what do you think of ______. Any advice?” OR, “@Jessifer, I just retweeted your new article, do you have any additional sources on _______?”

4. Rinse and repeat. Very meaningful conversations and even meaningful collaborative relationships can develop from this sort of educated (and polite) cold-calling. OK, that’s not really being a stalker is it?

 

* We don’t encourage stalking outside of social media channels (or even actual stalking within social media channels). There is a different set of ethics related to how we engage on social media and how we engage in face-to-face situations. Be careful to respect the boundaries of the medium in which you’re approaching someone.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #10 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Your glass is (at least) half full. During the holidays, well-meaning family and friends are likely to ask about your progress on your dissertation, book, or article. Prepare your soundbite in advance.

Focus on what you have accomplished, and what you’re looking forward to: It’s going well. I’m making good progress. I’m looking forward to having more time to work on it. It’s a good challenge. I’m working through the theories/the introduction/the second chapter.

It’s not that your loved ones think you’ll never finish. Asking about your work means they recognize that it’s important to you. Appreciate that, without ever feeling bad about what you haven’t accomplished, yet.

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The 25 Minute Text by Charlotte Frost
Posted by Angson Chow
By holyponiesbatman via Flickr

By holyponiesbatman via Flickr

This is a public worksheet/workshop for writing a draft of academic text in just 25 minutes. You’re invited to complete each task in the allotted time in your own Google/Scrivener/Word doc etc…. Set a timer for each writing task (1. 5 mins, 2. 15 mins, 3. 5 mins) and don’t go over! And then let us know in the comments how you go on. 

Task 1: create a structure (in 5 minutes)

  • Take the ‘tiny text’ template I made based on the Thesis Whisperer (aka Inger Mewburn’s technique for kick-starting your academic writing)

  • Take an idea from your research (this could be the idea your entire thesis is based on, it might be the concept being presented in one chapter, or it might be an idea you haven’t worked out yet that may or may not end up being a part of your thesis/current project,

  • In just 5 minutes, write one sentence for each of the sections listed below.

  1. Focus: Broadly important fact or relevant story (In….)

  2. Literature: What has been said already? (It is argued that…)

  3. Gap: What hasn’t been said already? (However….)

  4. Methods: How (By analysing…)

  5. Implications: What practical or philosophical impact will this have? (This research shows…)

(template credit: Gerald Graff, Barbara Kamler and Pat Thomson, Karen Kelsky, Inger Mewburn)

Task 2: build 3 core sections (in 15 minutes)

  • Now, spread out the tiny text you’ve written, or focus on the following sections: Literature, Methods, Implications

  1. Focus: Broadly important fact or relevant story (In….)

 

  1. Literature: What has been said already? (It is argued that…)

[write more here!]

  1. Gap: What hasn’t been said already? (However….)

 

  1. Methods: How (By analysing…)

[write more here!]

  1. Implications: What practical or philosophical impact will this have? (This research shows…)

[write more here!]

  • Take the Thesis Whisperer’s ‘Thinking Bundles’ worksheet :

https://sites.google.com/site/twblacklinemasters/thinking-bundles

and use her ‘sentence scaffolds’ to write a brief paragraph for each of those sections,

  • You have 15 minutes to do this (5 minutes for each section plus reading time of a couple of minutes) – literally fill in the blanks with your own work!

Task 3: craft your paragraphs

  • Now, read the following worksheets by the Thesis Whisperer (you have a couple of minutes to do this):

  1. Thesis Whisperer ‘powerful paragraphs’ worksheet https://sites.google.com/site/twblacklinemasters/powerful-paragraphs

‘Powerful paragraphs’ gives you a paragraph that looks like this (it starts with a more general statement and focuses in to make a point):

 

  1. Thesis Whisperer ‘PEELL’ technique worksheet:

https://sites.google.com/site/twblacklinemasters/powerful-paragraphs

‘PEELL’ gives you a paragraph that looks like this (it has a tight focus/ makes a point up front and then builds on that):

  • Pick which structure appeals best and write one brief paragraph from scratch. Make it something that fleshes out the next stage of the work. For example write a further paragraph of your literature review/methods section, or introduce a case study.

  • You have just 5 more minutes to do this.

  • For more help constructing your paragraphs, and finding the right phrases, see the University Manchester Academic Phrasebank.

OK, so it was probably a bit tight working on all this in just 25 minutes (it’s a bit like a Jamie Oliver 15 minute meal, not everyone will ever do it this fast) and academia is certainly not a race, quality thinking takes time, but this is one technique you can use to kick start your work.

I suggest you take a break straight after working on your 25 minute text and when you return, use ‘Task 3’ to fill out more paragraphs. You might like to continue by working on each paragraph for a set amount of time – this time will depend on how much preparation you’ve done – but the Pomodoro Technique of working in 25 minute time slots is a proven way of keeping on task.

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