Becoming Academic

resources and thoughts for good academic practice

Month: September, 2013

Reading a (scientific) paper

This interesting blogpost (http://violentmetaphors.com/2013/08/25/how-to-read-and-understand-a-scientific-paper-2/) on “How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists” caught my eye and I thought it worth sharing. It’s not just worth reading if you have to use scientific papers as it highlights issues such as what is a good journal and what are ‘trusted’ institutions.

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Defeating your greatest enemy – yourself!

Vitae has published an interesting PDF on self-sabotage:

http://www.vitae.ac.uk/CMS/files/upload/Vitae-PGR-Tips-on-defeating-self-sabotage-2013.pdf

Doing a doctorate is seen primarily as an intellectual challenge – am I smart enough? – but actually the most difficult aspect is surviving to the end, steadily working away at producing the thesis. Looking back on my PhD I was always very busy, but I certainly wasn’t always productive. In fact, sometimes my behaviour was actually stopping me from getting the important things done. For example, it’s very easy to spend huge amounts of time carefully crafting emails (as I used to do), but it’s striking how quickly you can write them when you don’t have a moment to spare!

Efficient emailing is a skill that can save you a lot of time

Emails can take a long time to write – or very little!

Being a reviewer

Something that can be overlooked when becoming a researcher is the skill of reviewing other people’s academic work. A typical example is being asked to review a submission to a journal. A good set of tips can be found at:

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2007/april-07/twelve-tips-for-reviewers.html

In particular, I think it’s worth highlighting the emphasis on not being overly critical or negative. One of the reasons why I encourage researchers to review other academic’s work is that it’s one of the best ways to improve your own practice. I have found myself reading some poorly-written text and recognising some of my own bad habits that I was able to remove from future writing (I hope!). Similarly, I’ve read examples of clear writing that have served as a guide for how I might write better. Finally, it’s important to remember that you should be trying to help a fellow academic to improve their work – and even the worst submission is the product of somebody’s hard work. Try to make the world a better place!

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)
“He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven