Wednesday, October 24, 2012

#Acwrimo: Goals

Setting goals for this November's #Acwrimo - the academic's version of the better known #NaNoWriMo is a tricky one for me this year.

The premise of #Acwrimo is to set ambitious writing targets to encourage productivity throughout the month, then to make a plan for success and commit to that plan publicly on twitter.


I hesitate to overschedule myself as I expect to be 'holding the fort' and looking after my three little people for the majority of November since my 'long suffering' husband is rather 'over committed' (how he ended up with a 4500km cycle ride to do just when I'm trying to finish my thesis, well, that's another story altogether).

So, my 'SMART' targets will not seem particularly ambitious.


  • Revise my three thematic analysis chapter for submission to supervisors on 2nd December


  • Realistically I can manage 1 hour per day every day in November from 8pm to 9pm. In addition to that I have childcare 2 days per week so I will aim for 5 hours or 10x20min pomodoros on those days.
  • I have three chapters to work on so I will spend one week on each chapter and then go back to the weakest chapter for the final week. That's up to 17 hours of work on each chapter.

Making it happen:
  • On the 30th/31st of October I will carry out a writing audit to analyse where each chapter currently stands, this will allow me to ask for any imput from my supervisors early in the month.
  • I will clear my desk/inbox etc. during the day each day so I have no distractions.
  • I will make sure to have dinner ready early and to keep the children's bedtime routine nice and tight.
  • If working at home is too distracting on daycare days I will stay on campus.
  • I will turn off the modem if I find the internet to be a distraction between 8pm and 9pm each night.
  • I will not use the time for reading, blogging or anything other than writing and editing my chapters.
  • I will update on twitter with my progress each day for motivation.
  • I will update the spreadsheet with my progress each day.
  • I will update my blog with my progress each week.

One hour of serious editing every day in November will get me to the stage where I have three revised chapters to send to my supervisors at the beginning of December and will put me back on track for submission early next year.

No excuses!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Social Media for PhD Candidates

Just to mix it up a bit, some thoughts on getting into social media for PhD candidates...

The truth is being a PhD candidate can be pretty lonely. You might be lucky enough to be working as part of a great research team, or to have on campus study space that facilitates communication and the development of friendships with others candidates, but at times, and for many of us most of the time, we spend our days working in isolation.

Social media doesn’t replace departmental seminars and morning teas, reading groups and skills sessions, but it is an alternative for those who are unable to access such things and complements them for those who can. Social media is a contested space within academia, but it deserves consideration for the advantages it offers PhD candidates and early career researchers.

I only started delving into social media forums for academic purposes a couple of months ago when I was unable to join in with a real life #shutupandwrite session held by my university due to lack of childcare. I found that a virtual #shutupandwrite with others on twitter provided great motivation for me. Social media includes many forums but blogging, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn seem the most popular amongst academics.
There are some simple rules to follow as you launch yourself into the world of social media (#socmed) in an academic capacity: 
  • ·      What you say online will live forever. Be professional
  • ·      Develop a consistent professional profile for networking
  • ·      Consider separating your ‘work’ and ‘friends & family’ personas online
  • ·      Observe a little until you understand the etiquette of #socmed.
  • ·      #Socmed is a two way street. Give and you will receive.

What might you gain from using #socmed?
  • ·      Make connections and build collaborations, learn about conferences and events
  • ·      Develop important academic skills
  • ·      Publicise your research
  • ·      Recruit research participants
  • ·      Carry out ‘netnographic’ data collection
  • ·      Obtain 24/7 support. When your lab partner has gone home for the night or your spouse is asleep #socmed is always there.

And what are the risks?
  • ·      Your thoughts are now in the public domain, be careful sharing your research
  • ·      Unprofessional conduct can come back to bite you
  • ·      Social media eats time for breakfast, lunch and dinner; before you know it it’s 2am and you want to be up at 6am to catch a live twitter chat on literature reviews
  • ·      Other academics may be wary of social media, its merit is considered unevenly between disciplines and institutions. Be aware that others may be less enthusiastic than you.

Want to start?

1) Check out a couple of blogs. There are hundreds of great blogs out there, some discipline specific, some offering advice on research techniques, writing and academic life, many of which you’ll find via twitter mentions. So as not to overload you I’m just going to suggest starting with the first couple of blogs I came across.

Thesis Whisperer (on twitter as @thesiswhisperer)
Patter (on twitter as @ThomsonPat)
PhD2Published (on twitter as @PhD2Published)

2) Sign up for Twitter. In the search box type in some of the following: #phdchat, #ecrchat, #phdadvice, if someone says something you like the sound of click on their name to check out their profile, follow them if you are interested, they may well follow you back. Search for academics in your field, check out who they follow and follow anyone who seems interesting. Then just listen for a few days until a particular topic takes your fancy and you are ready to weigh in on the conversation.

I know that there are a million resources out there, but it would be crazy to overwhelm you already with a gigantic list, just start small and each connection will lead to another, and before you know it you will be over run with information, inspiration and hopefully motivation to get on with the job.