The last couple of months may have been quiet on this blog, but elsewhere in my life the activity has been mind boggling. The first six months of the PhD at the University of Canberra requires candidates to complete a Graduate Certificate of Research Methods. My graduate certificate can be likened to the university securely attaching a jet pack onto my back pack and pressing the big green ‘GO’ button– propelling me into academic space. The tricky bit is navigating it safely in the direction your course convenors and your supervisor need it to go. Which brings me to the reason for today’s post, today is my research portfolio mid-semester review. Today I have to demonstrate to my supervisor that I have been achieving the Research portfolio learning outcomes and have identified generic and specific skills that I will need as I move deeper into the PhD.
So, here it goes–what have I been doing this semester? Let’s talk about software first. I have started using Evernote to be my storage of all things PhD and everything else as well. After I started to incorporate the ‘Getting Things Done’ system with Evernote I really started to fly with it. To learn the GTD program and its principles I have Dave Allen’s book on Audible and have listened to it whenever I could. A big salute to the Evernote team and Dave Allen.
A major part of the PhD is the ability to search for articles and store them safely in a reference management system. On the recommendation of a wonderful friend who has since passed away (vale Geoff), I downloaded Mendeley and started to learn how to use it as effectively as possible. I encouraged the University of Canberra to start a users group and will soon be running a Mendeley training seminar. Mendeley is not only a reference manager; it stores PDF’s which you can annotate and attach notes to. It makes collaboration a breeze and enables the effortless sharing of papers between colleagues–it also has search features that are getting stronger every day. Mendeley is synchronised to the web so you will never lose your articles–even if you smash your computer on the concrete. Yes, that has happened to me too! Mendeley was recently purchased by Elsevier, so it now has great support.
The next brilliant software discovery was Scrivener, which was shown to me during morning tea of a writing seminar at the university. Scrivener is the most amazing tool for writing; it has wonderful tools for formatting and helps organise your notes coherently. I have been learning Scrivener from the tutorials produced by the ‘Scrivener Coach’. I am also a member of a closed Facebook group called “Scrivener ninjas”–how could you not want to be a part of that? To get my words as quickly as possible onto paper, I have used a free touch typing coach and have taught myself how to type. That was suggested to be a useful skill by my supervisor, and it has already proved its value.
The last software tool I have now is SPSS. The statistics program by IBM that needs no further introduction. The last word though could be my downloading ‘R’ and starting to learn how to use that. Phew, I think that is the software covered.
Wait a minute, I haven’t mentioned anything about social media–this is one area that shows how university study has changed since I completed my engineering degree. A PhD can be quite isolating and social media is one way of communicating information about the research, connecting with peers, the public, friends who wonder what you are up to. One of the important factors of a PhD is the ability to communicate with both your peers and with the general public. I have a twitter handle, a Facebook page dedicated to the PhD called ‘kneejointphd’ and have just started up on pinterest. I will talk about that interesting new development in a later blog. Despite a lot of nonsense, there are lots of good pages on Facebook (including my own). The pages I have liked include ‘British Journal of Joint Surgery’, ‘Science Illustration’, Grammerly, ‘Keep calm and love science’, Scrivener and Mendeley. They regularly post interesting information that in many cases is immediately useful–the latest post on Grammerly describing how to identify a passive sentence using zombies comes to mind. I think Spotify is also worth mentioning here. If you love all kinds of music as much as I do, this is almost essential. I am currently compiling a new playlist for ‘PhD study’ that will be released shortly….
I will wrap it up there as this has turned into a post of epic proportions. Until next time treasure your opportunities,