Virtuosity 11.11

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Archive for the tag “grad survival 101”

Be fearless, or at least fake it ’till you make it

As long as it doesn’t hurt other people, don’t be afraid of being yourself. You were born uniquely you, but that’s a moving target.

Learn to face the fear, and be courageous. If it’s worth doing, than do it.

You can be afraid. Most of us are. However, don’t let that stop you from reaching your goals.nik_wallenda_trains_for_june_23_2013_grand_canyon_walk_at_nathan_benderson_park_sarasota_fla-_june_7_2013

Tomorrow never comes

You have today. Tomorrow is always just a dream. However, we do today to the best of our abilities, with the hope and dream of tomorrow.

Make today a present. Make today present. …Get my meaning?

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Cut it out

Cut the ties to all things not needed anymore.

They only weigh you down.

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The present

todayToday is a gift. What are you doing today that is getting you closer to your goals?

What do you plan on doing tomorrow?

 

Are you chronically stressed?

“Relax?! How do I do that???”

Grad school stress stems from feeling that: (a) your work is not good enough; (b) you are not good enough; (c) you have to do A-Z; and/or (d) you should be reading/researching/writing. Whether you feel one of these stresses or all of them at any given time, it’s  important to give yourself moments to consciously RELAX.

I say this with a small chuckle in my head, because as a high-strung, INTJ-type of person, relaxing for me has become a very difficult thing to do. It is an easy habit to learn how to live with this constant stress in your life. However, if you don’t keep things in check, this stress can become chronic, and can lead to all sorts of other problems (high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, constant muscle pain, etc).

Please, as you are working, put breaks into your day, where you can stop for a moment, and consciously tell your body to breathe deeply, relax, and let things go. Better yet (and essential to your well-being), make time to take care of your body. With the winter months keeping me huddled by the warm heater and my computer, going out for fresh air is difficult. Here’s some ways that I’ve found to help me try to relax, and forget my stresses for a bit:

The Sworkit App – has 5-10 minute workouts (including yoga) that you can do in between your sprints.

The Three-Minute Breathing Space – is a way to consciously assess your mind and body, attuning it with your breath.

Rodney Yee’s AM/PM Yoga – I found these short (10 minutes of meditation and 28 minutes of yoga) sequences of videos to start off the morning, and end off the evening on iTunes. Sitting in your chair for hours on end isn’t good for those cramped muscles. Stretch them a bit, and then, relax.

Other things that you can do: moving meditation as you work out or run, play with a pet, be completely mindful when you clean or cook, make a “no electronics” time before bed so that you can unwind, take a bubble bath, watch a movie marathon, or splurge on a massage, facial, or pedicure.

In other words, build some time to really, really let go and not think about your work for a bit. Pamper your body. Believe me, your work will be there when you get back!449509

 

 

Summarize your articles

book-1091628_640.jpgI use a variety of things to keep track of what I read. Some things are more effective than others. One thing that I found VERY effective, however, was always summarizing my papers in one paragraph. I even have a template that I created (and you can download it blow) for journal article summaries.

The most inefficient use of your time is to read an article in detail, then forget where you put the information, forcing you to read the article yet again (not saying re-reading is a bad thing, but it’s bad when you’ve got to repeat your work). So, make sure when you’re done reading, that you’ve put what you’ve learned into a system that makes it searchable. There’s a variety of ways to do this, but find your flow!

As for the template, here’s a guide to start:

  1. Read the abstract and intro and discussion. Depending on why you are reading the article, this may be all you need.
  2. Skim the rest.
  3. Write a one-paragraph (yep, just one) summary of what the article was about. Be sure to include (along with the page number):
    • The research question
    • What they did, and to whom
    • How they did it
    • What they found
    • What they concluded

If you’re reading a particularly seminal piece of work, summarize each section and highlight important quotes –  don’t forget to list the page numbers you’ve found them! Mendeley has a nifty annotation feature in their program. However, I still use my word template for important studies.

Happy Researching!

Journal Summary Template

My grad student software toolbox

On any given project, I use a LOT of programs! For example:

Research Phase:

  • Word – To summarize papers
  • Mendeley – My reference data base
  • Scrivener – To keep track of memos, and to upload my word summaries
  • Evernote – To make all my PDFs, post-its, whiteboard notes, and handwritten notes searchable
  • Topnote (on the iPad) – For hand-drawn diagramming and brainstorming
  • Inspiration – for digital brainstorming
  • Xmind – for mind and project mapping

 

Planning Phase:

  • Asana – To keep track of all my tasks and to do lists
  • Google Calendar – To track all my meetings and appointments
  • Apple Reminder – For things like, “Water the plants on Wednesday”

 

Analysis Phase:

  • NVivo – for qualitative coding
  • Excel – to track codes
  • Word – to generate the codebook, process memos, and any stray thoughts

 

Writing Phase:

  • Scrivener – for writing papers and keeping track of references
  • Mendeley – again for my references
  • Word – to finally polish up my document and send it out.
  • Google Docs – to collaborate with others

 

Presentation Phase:

I’ve learned how to use these programs smoothly to help with my workflow — similar to tools in a toolbox. Some of these programs overlap functions, but I’ve never been able to find just one program that does it all efficiently. Some programs do things a lot better than others. For example, for collaborations on writing projects, I use Google Docs because it’s the least buggy — even though both Word, Evernote, and Scrivener have these functions, as well).  It makes me wonder, though, whether other grad students also use multiple programs to get the work done, as well.

What are the programs that you use, and what’s your workflow like?

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Organize your references with Mendeley

So you’ve pulled your PDF file from your library and it’s sitting on your browser. Now what?

I’ve talked about reference management software before in previous posts. Today, I’ll show you a quick and dirty way to bring them into Mendeley.

1. If you haven’t done so, download the Mendeley desktop app. It’s free, and what I love about it is that I can access my references through my browser, phone, or my other computers, too!

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2. Next, download the Mendeley Web Importer plugin for your browser, and activate it. For me, it shows up as a tiny little “M” to the right of my browser address bar.

3. Then, through your Google Scholar search, bring up the PDF article that you want to use. Click the Mendeley plugin button (note: Sometimes this works. When it doesn’t, there’s a work around that I’ll mention later below).

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4. If it works, Mendeley will bring up a side window with the article info. However, this isn’t always perfect, and you may need to edit the information from here, OR, you’ll need to right click, download and save your article, then import it through your Mendeley desktop (drag the PDF file and drop it on Mendeley).

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For info on importing your PDFs directly into Mendeley’s desktop, click here.

Happy Researching!

 

 

 

 

 

Tutorial – Tying Scholar to Your Library

Most academic libraries these days are tied to online data bases where you can quickly find the articles you need by using Google Scholar. Here’s how you set Google Scholar to your library settings:

  1. Go to Google Scholar. Hit the Settings button on the menu bar.

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2. Next, click the “Library links” in the left column.

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3. In the bar, type in your university, and hit enter. If your library is linked to Scholar, it will come up beneath the bar. Then click on the boxes with your options (you can add more than one library to Scholar).

4. Then click the “Save” button.

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5. Last, go back to the Google Scholar main page. Type in the article that you are searching for. When your search results come up, you will see a library link to them either on your right (like in the picture below), or it will show underneath the “More” selection beneath the article summary, if there are other options.

(For example, I can pull articles from both Iowa State as well as the University of Rochester. So, ISU links show on the right, and the U of R will be under the “More” link when I click it.)

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Happy Researching!

 

 

 

Search literature efficiently

There is no such thing as, “never been done before.” Humankind as written about every subject, and it is the job of the grad student to find out the extent to what we know, and push just a little further.

You can get so easily lost in the forests of knowledge that within a matter of minutes, you’ve compiled enough reading material to last for weeks. It’s not humanly possible to get though it all. Yet, it feels expected of us.

Today, I offer a breadcrumb trail to lead you to the cottage in the woods (we all know the story, but even though we know, we must follow, anyways, don’t we?). When looking for literature:

  1. If you are having trouble finding articles, look at the key words below the abstracts of papers, and in the titles of works cited in the references. Ask your advisor and fellow grad students for suggestions on a few papers to get you started.
  2. When you find the “magic words,” your search will change from being pithy to incredibly overwhelming. That means you’re on the right track!
  3. Look at number of citations, dates, and abstracts. If you know nothing about your subject:
    • Pick the papers with the most citations to start on first. Usually these will be older, yet key papers in your field. Use the abstracts to help guide you to what’s relevant.
    • Next, go by the recent (in the past year or two) papers. Skim abstracts. Usually they will tell you what’s hot/new/developing in the field.
  4. As quickly as possible, bracket your search. This can be difficult if you’re still learning about the field. However, the faster and more definitely you can define what you are looking for, the easier it will be to look for only papers that pertain to you.
  5. Avoid jumping down rabbit holes. This is coming from someone that spent a year in critical discourse analysis before switching to a year reading about online learning. Still, if I were talking to less experienced me, I’d tell her: STICK TO YOUR BOUNDARIES. It can be hard to do! Save interesting articles to read later, when you have time (HA! We never have enough time!)
  6. Prioritize what you will read first. Start with broad, theoretical papers to get a feel for the field. Then go to the narrow, empirical studies, ordered by most relevant to your topic.

By the way… it is normal to feel completely overwhelmed and lost. It is part of the cycle of being a grad student (think of a roller coaster). Get yourself “unlost” as quickly as you can, but understand that even when they are calling you DOCTOR, you’re going to have moments where you’re going to feel lost. That’s how we grow.

Happy Researching!

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