Becoming Academic

resources and thoughts for good academic practice

Category: Uncategorized

10 Things I Wish I’d Known in My First Lecturing Job

Moving from being a research student or research staff into a lecturing post can be quite a culture shock. This link provides some very good advice. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known in My First Lecturing Job

How to secure a job after your PhD – video

How to secure a job after your PhD – video

jobs.ac.uk organised a live video Q&A on the subject of ‘How to secure a job after your PhD’.

Their panel of experts answered questions from the audience covering:

  • Tips for understanding what employers are looking for
  • How to identify transferable skills from your PhD
  • How you can develop your skills and gain experience for an academic career
  • How to sell skills in an interview
  • What non-academic options might be open to you

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.

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

Giving presentations

Last week, we had our Doctoral School Summer Conference where we had presentations from 60 of our doctoral students on their research. Most students used PowerPoint, but some have started using an alternative: Prezi (www.prezi.com).

By coincidence, on the same day I read an LSE blog by Ned Potter that looked at the advantages and disadvantages of using Prezi as well as linking to a good presentation on “Death by PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)”. The presentations at our conference were just 15 minutes long and I was very pleased so discover that none of them suffered from “Death by PowerPoint”! However, it did get me thinking about my own presentations. I’ve been wary of using Prezi mainly for issues of accessibility, e.g. for people who are visually impaired or blind.

It is good to look at alternatives to one’s usual way of doing things and reflect on whether you can use the alternatives to  improve what you do. For example, for my last presentation at an international conference I used PowerPoint. But, I tried to make most slides consist of a photograph with a sentence or two of text to try to bring the topic to life. For that talk I was looking at divided communities in Ireland and I was able to use some photographs that I had taken myself of different communities in Derry/Londonderry. In that case I felt it went very well, but I expect to take a different approach for my next conference presentation where I will be presenting data in the form of tables and figures.

For your own presentations I’d encourage you to consider what you’re trying to communicate and how that can be best achieved: PowerPoint, Prezi or no visual aides at all.