April 3, 2013

Wormhole literature

I have a friend, let’s call her Jenny.

Jenny is about six months into her degree and just beginning to discover the true extent of the literature which might be relevant to her topic. By which I mean – she’s completely and utterly freaking out.

At the start of her journey Jenny read a few things her supervisor suggested and then went off exploring. She did all the right things. Her journey started with a meeting with the subject librarian who taught her how the databases in her area worked and how to use Google Scholar properly (not everything is in there, just so you know). She learned how keywords work and, most importantly in my view, how to do citation searches. Jenny trawled through the databases and discovered a vast amount of stuff which, although it was interesting, seemed only peripherally related to her topic.

She read the literature she found, discussed ideas with her supervisors and some of her peers, wrote a bit, then read some more. Her ideas about her thesis changed; becoming more sophisticated and thoughtful. As she read on she started to recognise the same names started appearing in the bibliographies. She started to see how people were linked together in skeins of thought. Being a social type of person she did a bit of academic networking and started to know, socially, some of the people who wrote those papers. This made her feel more confident. Comfortable even. Part of the community.

Until she downloaded THAT paper.

August 9, 2012

4 things you should know about choosing examiners for your thesis

Yesterday on Twitter ‏@kikidotca asked me “was wondering if you have some advice about making a list of possible examiners for a PhD?”. I contemplated answering in 140 characters or less, but I wanted to avoid writing a journal article, so I volunteered a blog post instead.

July 26, 2012

Theory anxiety

Where I attempt to answer a difficult question: what is theory and how can you include ‘more’ in your thesis?

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