Dissertation triathlon and circuit training

When you are writing your dissertation, it is good to know yourself and the ways you work the best. I think I have been a bit lost lately. I just did not believe in my own product: dissertation triathlon. And now I think it is going to save my dissertation process.

The idea is simple; just have three different kinds of workshops in different places. I personally like one workshop to be article reading, other marking/making c-map/rewriting the information from the article. What ever you do, do not have more than four (4) workshops. Going over 4 makes the space too long between leaving and coming back to the same workshop. The last workshop is usually something practical. I have a list of things I need to do for everyday. On that last workshop I do things from that list. If something comes in to my mind, e.g. “wash something” or “call the mother”, during the first two workshops, I just add that to the list.

One ground rule is that every workshop lasts about 20 minutes. During that time I CAN NOT and WILL NOT do anything else including answering the phone. Between workshops is break (5 minutes). After one circle I will have 15 minutes time to do whaaat eeever I want. And this really works! Until I really get deep in the dissertation process. Then I just forget the time and the other workshops. But as for many writers, starting the proses is also the hardest part for me. So, this will do the trick. Just do not get too hooked on the training. Go outside too, even if it´s raining!

If you need help with counting the time, “Tomato” is a good tool: http://mytomatoes.com/

Researcher of Death and Dying

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

Mirka Smolej (2011) writes in her research´s ”News media, crime and fear of violence” preface: ”Itseironisesti olen todennut, että Suomesta harmittavasti puuttuu apurahahakemusten tekemisen mahdollistava tukimuoto.”

She argues (in an ironic way) that researchers should have financial support to writing applications for research grants. There is lots of truth in her words. Have you ever counted how many hours you have been writing applications, reports and other forms? I must say, it takes far too much time from the actual research work.

If you add to that the time you spent carrying books back and forth to library because of the limited online check out systems, you get a picture of the two most time consuming parts of researchers` routines.

The competitor is not the popularly blamed email, but the bureaucracy of the doorkeepers!

Deep in the archives?

Have you covered your research material well? I think I have, at least most of the time. I have made safe copies and I maintain the copies and the material in different rooms. But, once in a while I get a bit paranoid with it. I get these thoughts about fires, then floods, robbers and myself destroying the material. What will I do if I pour some Pepsi over the drawings? Could I, by accident, do that?

Many of the researchers have experienced lost of data because of they have not remember to save while writing… And then of course the computer has crashed. Well, I have done it in an effective way some time ago. I was writing my master´s thesis and then I felt thirsty. I noticed that my glass was empty, so I picked up apple juice bottle from the kitchen. I poured the apple juice… straight into my laptop instead of a glass. The computer shut down immediately. Naturally I did not have any safe copies. I tried to blow dry it, wipe it and call to different places for help. And after awhile the help finally came. But it was the most back-breaking part of my thesis writing process and I will never forget it.

Imagine that would be your doctoral thesis or the research material you are using. Do you still think you have covered your material well? I think you never can do that. There is always something that can happen because “this is life”. So you need to be ready.

It could be a good idea to do collaboration with real archives (like Finnish Social Science Data Archive). And I do not mean after you have finished with your material. It really could be useful to do collaboration during the whole process.  Then, you would really know that your material is in sanctuary. Also the archives could safe useful data for other researchers to use in the future. Now, I think, there are two real risks: to destroy your material by accident and not to give the material forwards after you have had that refreshing experience of defending one’s doctoral thesis. Could this be part of the doctoral education in the Universities, or are we too afraid of openness, one of the foundations of science?

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Julkisrahoitteisen tutkimusdatan avoin saatavuus ja elinkaari

Social Media for Researchers

Social media for researchers is a great opportunity to social interaction, using accessible and scalable communication techniques. At least, If you know, how to do it… and where to find it. I have dedicated last few days to searching for good social Medias for researchers and watching lots of demos. I hope that these links below will be also useful for you. Or do you already know them? If so, I am looking forward to your comments and experiences.

Have you forgotten how to find things? These are for you:

Traditional Google

Google Scholar

Yahoo

Dogpile

And if you need some words… These are open 24h/daily

Your Dictionary

Thesaurus

Canbridge Dictionary

Free Dictionary

Do you need to organize yourself?

Todoist

Evernote

Diigo

Citavi

Do you want to share online?

SlideShare

Google Dokumentit

Etherpad

Google Sivustot

Docs

Zoho Docs

DropBox

Box

For those who are tired of Power Point:

Prezi

Author Stream

280 Slides

SlideRocket

Animoto

Cmap

Mindomo

And finally, There are lots of blogs online:

WordPress

Blogger

Vuodatus

Posterous

Tumblr

Webnode

Wix

Yhdistysavain

Blogilista hakukone

Yes, even researchers need to meet real people sometimes:

Survey Monkey

Doodle

Sumpli

Osallistujat

Nimenhuuto

Socializer

Researcher and vicissitudes

Have you been sick?
Has your friend or family member been sick in a way that it has had an effect on your work?
Have you had crises that have had an effect on your welfare and work efficiency?

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If you answer no, you are probably lying or your self-knowledge is not that good. Vicissitudes belong to life even though we would not like it to be that way. And when something serious happens, it is normal to response to that (in individual ways from low spirits to the hyperactivity). Even a common cold can have a major effect on cognitive processing. Or for example the inflamed maxillary sinus can make your eyes leak and hurt when you try to use your computer or read a book.

So what? This is no news to you. But, how about researchers and postgraduate students, can they have vicissitudes in their lives? What happens if you cannot use your computer for 2 weeks (or more) or/and you cannot participate in the courses you are in? … And of course all this happens unexpectedly…

In many cases you lose all lectures (even though they could easily be recorded and saved in the net) and the thoughts of your peers. Courses come and go, but when we are talking about researchers and postgraduate students they usually take part only to the courses they really want to be in. We actually lose something we really appreciate and sometimes also something very unique. When vicissitudes emerge, you will not get your writings in time to the teachers/professor/peers/editors etc. The work you have done for example for some journal can go to waste. At least you can be labeled as an unmotivated and lazy person who cannot be trusted. In researchers life there are some deadlines you cannot miss (whatever the reason is) without undesirable consequences.

The pressure to be a superhuman is unavoidable. No wonder there are more mental problems among students. But what could we do about this, when the demands for universities and results become tighter all the time? Could the net and all new applications be the answer? For now, there is no time to rest when it is needed, or you will rest and pay for it!

Some links about the topic (sorry dudes these are in finish):

Kamppi & Leppänen: Uupuuko opiskelija jo koulussa? -eväitä kannustavaan työssäoppimiseen

YTHS: Sähköinen terveystarkastusprosessi lukuvuonna 2009-2010

Luomala: “Terveyden sairastuttava velvoittavuus – Näkökulmia terveyden ja sairauden vastuuajattelun eroihin korkeakouluopiskelijoiden käsitysten rakentumisen valossa”

Publishing in the Internet

Have you ever had a feeling that the peer-referees makes your life more complicated? You have wrote this nice article and after awhile you get it back with questions concerning about your methodology and ethics (and lots of other smaller stuff like reliability). You should make the chances even if you would not like to do them. You are at the mercy of the peer-referees and the editor, their slave on the boat of science.

But, it do not have to be that way. You can always publish some unconventional writings or what you actually would call “the voice of truth” or “creative way of expressing yourself” in the Internet. Publishing on line is an effective way to spread information because it is so easy to reach (And also a good quality way of doing it in “real journals”) . You can open your own blog (something like this) or do your own journal and publish what ever you want in there, of course in the name of the real science defined by yourself.

One can only imagine what kind of harm you could do, even if the writings would be on line for awhile. You could let go all the ethical principles like empowerment, design flexibility, non-maleficence, beneficence and justice. You could tell all the facts strait to the readers brain and you would not need to safe all the juicy parts of the stories. And of course, when there is no story, simply make some up!

Researches sometimes are afraid of on line publishing because of the possibility of stealing ideas. But actually the real problem is the beast in every researcher. How is your beast doing right now?

Humans as Books

“Newness sniffers” -programs and other services can be enslaved to find the right writings (all the wonderful articles and books!). But would not it be better to find the wonderful people, instead? I feel a bit distressed by the new information and directions about how to be more effective in acquisition of information. It just means that there will be new floats of information coming right at me like a hurricanes.

In symposiums and seminars I am (almost) surprised how nice and talented people are behind the writings. It is too easy to forget the writer, when you do not actually know the person. Most of the time I am only processing writings and scanning scientific texts around the world. And all the time! Really, all the time, there are real people available, if we only would look behind the letters.

I must confess that the scanning is more effective, BUT what is wrong with us when we do not REALLY connect? Why are we so busy or ignorant? Maybe we are afraid of the deeper knowledge, though I think we definitely would need it. Exceptions are also made like on a special occasions for example in ERMEC-program <3

But would not it be nice to connect more with people than with programs?

And then, press ”SEND”

It is actually quite hard to get this far. First you need to clean the house, organize your books and articles, seriously write something and of course you should not become inspired by new articles (which are “naturally” vital to include to your work).

It sounds really simple “I am writing an article”. And the writing is in fact quite easy. But the process takes a lot of energy from a person. You dream of the moment when you have sent the product. It feels great and you are relaxed, even though the product itself would not be excellent. In the most cases the writing is at any rate better than you have evaluated yourself. Why is it then so stressful? You have the idea, writing skills and the sources of information, but do you actually have the courage to let go?

The phenomenon has a name “overloading”. On researchers´ workdays lots of time goes to corresponding to messages and arranging meetings and timetables. Generally this is done by email (many researchers have odd day-rhythm and time zones can be tricky). Every time you check your email you have at least 10 new messages waiting. We are socially busy without leaving our house. We have too much of everything. We have far too good computers, programs, kindles, internet connections, University´s intranet and services, online libraries with e-books and articles, not to mention Jurassic library monuments that wait for us in every corner.

With all these sources, online life and real life contacts, I wonder how someone actually gets anything done and completed?

The Seven Steps to Effective Writing