Thursday, December 31, 2009

PhD progress

I have been plodding along with my PhD and I feel like I am starting to build some momentum.  I have had a few weeks off work and been able to work on it full time and I can see the shape beginning to emerge.  I'm not sure if this is how it will look in the end, but it does feel helpful to start to build some structure around my reading and writing.

I had a bit of a panic this week when I realised how much more there is to do.  I have written around 10,000 words, and my final thesis will be around 100,000 words, so there is a long way to go.  Of course, I haven't started data collection yet, and this will form the main part of my thesis. The bit that I am up to is finalise my research proposal and make decisions about all of the details.  Things like which methodology I will use, how do I design the right method, how do I write a literature review that incorporates all of the literature that I have accumulated.  Then I will present to a University panel for Confirmation that I can proceed with the research, and the I need to apply for Ethics approval.   

The literature review is the bit where I felt really stuck - I was surrounded by papers and it was all starting to feel like it's all too hard.   But then I thought, I have been doing this for two years already, and I am not going to throw all of that away.  I need to break it down into smaller chunks, and work on each bit, one at a time.  And later, I will make sure that all the pieces go together properly.

Has anyone else been in this situation before?  Do you have any suggestions that might help me?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

E-portfolio and citations

I have been starting to think about how to develop a portfolio of my academic activities, publications and presentations and I am wondering about the best format to use.   I looked  at developing a CV, which is a bit like a detailed resume and is a written collection of my academic achievements, publications, presentations etc.

I have been exploring the world of e-portfolios and thinking about whether I need  collection of citations.  I sometimes come across a review that a person has written about a presentation that I have done, or their thoughts about an article that I have written and I thought it would be good to gather this information together in one central place.

There are some fantastic examples out there.  Sarah Stewart's e-portfolio is one of the best that I have seen and includes her biography, employment, projects, publications and awards.  

I have also discovered a citation tracker that was developed by Panos Ipeirotis - this is a program that uses Google Scholar to find your publications. I think the term 'citation' in this context relates to what I would call 'journal publication'.    Panos blogged about monitoring citations and after clicking around his blog and profile I discovered that   Panos also has this awesome academic tree where he has tracked his academic genealogy.  It looks like a fun thing to do, and is a powerful representation of  academic history and being able to track this over time.  From Panos' page, I found Gene Golovchinsky and he also writes about the importance of measuring citations.  Gene also suggests that it is a good way to find papers that you might have forgotten about, or new things that need follow up.  Gene and Panos are computer science experts and I am sure they have computer skills that are way out of my league.

I am looking for something simple to use, cheap (preferably free) and easy to update.  Do you have any suggestions or ideas that might help me or lead me in the right direction?  What do you use to keep track of publications, presentations and citations?

Monday, December 21, 2009

My PhD - Wordle Cloud

I am nearing the end of my second year of my PhD studies and I thought it was time to check out where I am up to. I have been studying part time and plodding along, and this year I took 4 months off after my mum died.  I have enjoyed taking a break, but now I am starting to feel impatient to get going again.  I've had a few weeks off work and been able to study full time and this has been really enjoyable.

I thought it was a good time to do another wordle cloud to display and distill my PhD writing.  Wordle is a tool  for generating “word clouds” from text.   I have copied the text from my PhD writing over the past two years - I am up to around 10,000 words.  The  wordle clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.  It is pretty cool and you can make your clouds look different  with funky fonts, layouts, and color schemes. 

It's interesting to see the themes that are emerging from my thinking, reading and writing.  Do you have any feedback or comments about my wordle word cloud?