Archive for the ‘grad school tips and tricks’ Category

A Master of Science?

August 28, 2009

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Sticky markers and notes post-dissertation.

It’s official: I am now finished with my dissertation, and more importantly, my master’s course! I won’t get my marks until next month and graduation isn’t until December, but I am now free from papers and assignments (at least for the time being). Overall, I am happy with the way the dissertation and course went. There are of course things I wish I could have changed about my paper, but that’s always the case.

Here’s a bit of dissertation advice for future MA and MSc students:

  • Collect a number of take-out menus, you may be too busy to cook.
  • Create PDFs of your documents, so that your formatting remains consistent. If you’re working with multiple documents, you may combine them using a PDF maker.
  • To avoid the crowds, get to the print shop early. I visited the print shop in David Hume Tower a week before the dissertation was due to get price quotes and binding/printing options.
  • Make sure you have enough time to proofread. Big thanks to Naomi Salinas and Thomas Hancock for editing my work.

Good luck and happy mastering! It’s going to be a great next school year.

the big D: draft 1

August 9, 2009

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After three months of intensive research and writing, I have finally finished my first dissertation draft! It still needs a ton of revising (I am about 1,000-2,000 words over the 15,000 word limit), but I am glad to be done with the bulk of it.

To mark this momentous occasion, I’d like to share several dissertation tips:

  • If you have writer’s block, don’t be afraid, just start writing — even if it’s just, “I have writer’s block and I don’t feel like writing.” You’ll be surprised how quickly you start fleshing out your thoughts and ideas.
  • If you get stuck on a section, move on and then come back to it. No point in forcing it.
  • Read your dissertation aloud. This will help you ensure everything flows.
  • In addition to your supervisor, get a friend or two to edit it for you. Ideally, you should get one editor from your field and one from outside.
  • Once you’ve finished a chapter or a major section of your paper,  treat yourself to something special.
  • Once you’ve finished a draft, take a break for a few days, so that you can revise and edit with fresh eyes.

Happy Dissertationing!

from Word(s) to Images to Pages

July 20, 2009

I just completed the first chapter draft (I started with Chapter 3)  of my dissertation, now only two more to go! I started writing my draft in Microsoft Word — the universal default for word processing, but have indefinitely put my relationship with Word on pause to start a love affair with iWork Pages.

Pages is much more amiable when it comes to inserting images and formatting. What takes me twenty minutes to lay out in Word, takes only about seconds in Pages.

Since I am using dozens of photographs in my dissertation, having software that operates not just as a word processor, but also, as an image processor is of extreme importance.

Although InDesign is probably the best program for image-based design — after all, it is the industry standard, Pages is perfect for novices who would like to incorporate more design into their writing.

Although Pages still has its faults (not everything is as intuitive as it should be), I think I have a much healthier relationship with my dissertation.

links of the week: acing grad school and scoring a non-profit job

July 15, 2009

Discover how unis share information on Facebook and Twitter.

Learn how to kick butt in grad school.

Stay positive and motivated to get your non-profit dream job.

the moleskine podcast #3: interview with dr. ecks

June 26, 2009

This is the third episode of The Moleskine Podcast, which  features interviews with students and staff about graduate school in the United Kingdom. In this podcast, I will interview my former anthropology professor Stefan Ecks about the MSc. in Anthropology of Health and Illness, admissions, applications, and life after graduation.

secksStefan Ecks is the Director of the MSc. Programme in Anthropology of Health and Illness and a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 2003. During his doctorate, Dr. Ecks conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Calcutta, India on notions of body, health, and healing.

From 2001 to 2004, he taught at the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg where he established a medical anthropology programme.

At present, Dr. Ecks’ research interests encompass the theory and history of anthropology, medical anthropology, mental health in South Asia, the anthropology of pharmaceuticals, science studies, and popular Hinduism.

acknowledgments

This podcast was recorded using a Zoom H2 and edited in Reaper. Thanks to Andrew Spitz at { sound + design } for the editing assistance and warg at Soundsnap for the beginning and ending loop “warg elizabethtown.”

And of course, big thank you to Stefan Ecks for letting me pick his brain.

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working solo: tips for avoiding procrastination

June 13, 2009

"Students Studying"

Now that classes have come to an end, I spend most of my time alone reading and writing for my dissertation. In the UK, education is fairly hands-off, especially at the graduate level. Your supervisor will provide you with guidance, but for the most part, you are left to your own devices.

It is easy to get distracted or overwhelmed if you don’t have strategies for staying focused. I’ve come up with a list of things that have helped me stay on task. A lot of it is common sense, but I’d though I’d share it anyway.

  • Create a time line with your supervisor. Set deadlines for outlines, drafts, and meetings. This will make the 15,000 words seem less daunting and more manageable.
  • Use detailed labels for your articles, photos, documents, and folders. Your computer will search for files more efficiently if you use “_” instead of spaces (e.g. “Lury_Branding).
  • Continuously back up your files through an external hard drive or online. Also, save incrementally and under different names.
  • Maintain an up-to-date bibliography. The last thing you want is being unable to use a quote due to a missing source.
  • Establish a specific time and place for studying. I prefer working on the kitchen table in the afternoons, but many of my friends get too distracted at home, so they study in the library or their departmental computer lab in the mornings and afternoons.
  • Enjoy your evenings and weekends. As attempting as it is to just continue working through the night, give your mind a break — time to just relax, watch youtube videos, or hang out with friends. I like going to the gym or for a bike ride after a day of intense critical theory.
  • Reward yourself with a treat every time you finish a goal. My friends and I usually go for drinks at the pub after big submissions.

Photo by Flickr user Canadian Veggie

research tips: stalking theorists and mashing keywords

May 10, 2009

If you’re in need of more sources for your thesis or dissertation, check the university staff pages of the seminal theorists and thinkers in your field to see what journals they have published in.

I just checked out communications scholar Theo Van Leeuwen’s staff page at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Having published in close to 30 different journals, Van Leeuwen’s list of publications is quite helpful and very impressive!

Also, when you’re searching for articles, be creative with keywords.

Think of all the different ways your research topic could be categorized. For example, for my research on the branding of English in South Korea, I have used a wide range of search words, including: commodification, Korean, brand, multimodality, communication, education, and globalization.

Be imaginative and resourceful, and most importantly, have fun!

links of the week: financial aid, twitter tools, and ludicrous ideas

May 7, 2009

Listen to the Idealist.org podcast on financial aid myths and how to score cash for grad school!

Share your notes with other students. [via Mashable]

Use Twitter to conduct research and do your homework.

Search for value in ludicrous ideas. [via Tomorrow Museum]

learning how not to be too ambitious?

April 25, 2009

7971252_7e070ade7bOne of the biggest challenges of writing a master’s dissertation — or conducting any large-scale research project for that matter — is learning how to focus and choose a specific research object.

If you’re too ambitious, you may get overwhelmed and lost in an overabundance of ideas and end up writing something very general.

Even if you’re researching a field that obviously hasn’t been really researched, it may be too much for you to take on for a masters. If that’s the case, consider continuing on for a PhD. or a research fellowship.

The trick is finding a research gap in your field of study, but a gap that’s not too big.

Photo by Flickr user gapsi *your guide

scholarship tip: acknowledgments

March 14, 2009

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One way to search for scholarships and grants is to check the acknowledgments section of the books you’re using for your research. Scholars almost always thank their funders in the acknowledgments. I found over ten potential funding bodies by just going through the six books in the photo above.