Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Positions in journal author lists- do they matter?

Here, I briefly focus on some of the conventions associated with the order of authors on journal articles, and discuss some of the interpretations and significance of these. Read on to find out how your authorship decisions now may affect your future career...

Friday, 8 February 2013

Seven secrets of successful students - report on training event

This post is a short report on a training event at which postgraduate research students and research supervisors at Teagasc attended a training day provided by Dr Hugh Kearns of Flinders University, Australia.  Hugh is an expert on procrastination (!), an internationally renowned speaker for his motivational seminars, and an accomplished educational researcher.

Here, I want to give an overview of some of the main messages from the day, and also provide further links to some of the resources that Hugh referred to. I aim to have a follow up post with some examples of practical lessons that I took from the event.

Hugh's consultancy provides a number of resources for PhD students and supervisors, and are well worth exploring.

The training focused on 'The Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Students'. A central focus of the day was the supervisory relationship, and the importance for students to write early and often. Whilst students and supervisors are often told this, there was a lot of practical advice on how to better ensure that this aspiration is realised. The table of contents of the accompanying book outlines the seven secrets:

  • Care and maintenance of your supervisor
  • Write and show as you go: This is show and tell not hide and seek
  • Be realistic: It's not a Nobel Prize
  • Say no to distractions: Even the fun ones and the ones you think you must do
  • It's a job: That means working nine to five but you get holidays
  • Get help: You are not an owner-operator single person business
  • You can do it: A PhD is 90% persistence and 10% intelligence

Hugh's presentation is peppered with evidence-based analysis, relevant anecdotes and large doses of practical actions for both students and supervisors.
In the session for supervisors, the following questionnaire generated quite a deal of interest as a means of investigating the underlying beliefs of supervisors and students about the student-supervisor relationship:
Expectations in supervision questionnaire

Selected publications by Hugh Kearns
Gardiner, M. & Kearns, H. (2012). The ABCDE of Writing: Coaching high-quality high-quantity writing. International Coaching Psychology Review, 237-249.

Kearns, H. & Gardiner, M.L. (2011). Waiting for the motivation fairy. Nature, 472, 127.

Gardiner, M. & Kearns, H. (2011). Turbocharge your writing today. Nature, 475, 129.

Kearns, H. & Gardiner, M.L., (2011). The care and maintenance of your adviser. Nature, 469(7331), 570-570.

PhD Skill: learn how to improve your quantity and quality of writing and eliminate procrastination.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Training comes in many guises

Training helps to realise your potential.

The award of a PhD degree recognises your successful training to be an independent researcher. 
Therefore, it's not surprising that PhD research involves a lot of training and learning! Some of the usual training needs include project management, time management, statistics, research methods, reference management software, oral presentations, poster presentations, career development and many others. 

So when was the last time you had some training?

Unfortunately, some PhD students do not receive as many training courses as they expect. However, we often have more opportunities for training than we think. Training is not just something that happens when someone from somewhere else turns up and gives a course. 

A lot of training happens without courses. A few examples should make it clear how training and learning occur in many different forms: 
- attendance at departmental seminars
- discussions with your supervisor about research methods, ethics, publication practices etc.
- reading books about a specific topic
- learning by doing (even if it means making mistakes at first)
- receiving instruction on equipment or methods from a technician
- reading online material about a specific topic (this is how I first learned to create a blog)
- discussions with other researchers about your work or related research
- journal clubs
- receiving advice from other students about software packages
- presenting your work as a poster or seminar, and receiving feedback.

This variety of forms of training doesn't mean that courses are not important. But if you can't get to as many courses as you would like, there's still plenty of training that's available. 

PhD Skill: identify your training needs, some of which may require courses. Be aware of the training that you are receiving, in all its forms, and how it contributes to your professional development.  

photo credit: kevinpoh via photopin cc