Tuesday, 17 July 2018

10 tips for the overwhelmed researcher (Autumn O'Connor)

Photo by Kevin Ku | unsplash.com
Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem - we all have 24-hour days
   - Zig Ziglar

Feeling overwhelmed? Too many deadlines and too little time? Supervisor on your back to submit something? 

While it won’t solve all your woes, perhaps what you need is a little help with time management.

Here are 10 tips to help you manage your time better - use a few strategies, or use 'em all!

I highly recommend you take a breath and reflect on these. They might just help!

1. Focus on what needs to be done

Prioritise! I know it seems like a super-fun idea to check your Facebook, or watch that cat video, but writing your thesis should probably be the first port of call.

‘OMG, my thesis is what’s making me feel overwhelmed!’ I hear you cry. Yes, I understand that.

What I'd suggest is, instead of looking at the thesis as a giant insurmountable task, change your concept of it to be a set of smaller, manageable tasks. How? By, assessing what NEEDS to be done first. Things that don't need to be done? Don't do them!

For example, if you don't need to learn SPSS right now, don't. This doesn’t mean you’ll never learn it, but that you are prioritising. Is the motivations section of Chapter 1 most important right now? If not, don’t do it. Yes, you will get to these in time but, right now, to manage those feelings of being overwhelmed, focus on what absolutely needs to be done.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Putting your event on La Trobe researchers’ radar! (Lise Leitner)

Photo by Hello I'm Nik | unsplash.com
If you are a graduate researcher, organising a university event for the first time can seem intimidating.

Organising something within and for your local research community, however, is a great way to gain leadership experience. You get to meet new and different people in your research discipline, and share knowledge.

That’s what initiatives like the Intellectual Climate Fund are for, so you can create these projects AND get some help and funding along the way!

So, once you’ve got the key event elements locked down, how do you make sure people will actually show up? Where do you go to promote your event?

I get asked these kinds of questions all the time as a communications professional working at La Trobe. Luckily, I can provide you with some tips and answers!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Did you know about the post-submission blues? (Laena D'Alton)

Photo by Kelly Sikkema | unsplash.com
I used to think that the high point of my PhD journey would be submitting my thesis.

I would dream of celebrations (involving cake), and a massive high that I could ride into the next stage in life.

I’d never considered that anything other than sheer joy and satisfaction would follow completing what feels like a mammoth task.

Now, I know to prepare with a more realistic perspective. While this dream may be a reality for some students, I have learned that this is not everyone’s experience. Sometimes, students can be overwhelmed by ‘post submission blues’, including pessimism, worry, anxiety, sadness and depression.

I’m still pre-submission so I can’t talk from personal experience but I'm grateful to my peers who candidly shared with me their post-submission challenges and joys. I feel I can much better prepare for life post-submission.

I hope this post prompts other students to engage in such conversations, too.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Help the editor, help yourself (Andy Hill)

This is the third of the RED Alert’s ‘What do editors want?’ series! 

For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.

In this third entry, Professor Andy Hill shares his extensive experience in academic publishing. Andy’s had key roles with several scholarly publications, and shares with us his Top 5 tips for making your publishing life a lot more efficient. 

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I am an academic and associate editor for a number of journals including PLoS One, the International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and Journal of Extracellular Vesicles.

This generally involves handling manuscripts assigned to me by the Editor in Chief of the journal, finding reviewers of the manuscripts, and making decisions on the basis of the reviewers’ comments.

It is a task that is done outside of my normal working day and needs to be handled with some urgency. Nobody likes to wait more than necessary for their papers to be reviewed – me, included!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Career planning as a research project (Jason Brown)

Photo by Stefan Stefancik | unsplash.com
I have a confession to make.

I am a career development manager and a doctoral researcher, and I don’t know what I’ll be doing when people start calling me Dr Brown.

I do hope to find the ideal job where I can continue my research, do some teaching, present at international conferences, and perhaps in a faraway place people might start calling me Professor Brown. But I’m realistic enough to recognise that this may not ever happen.

Hey, right now, I’m making a big assumption that I’ll be able to sustain a full-time managerial job, family life and part-time study for another 4 or 5 years!

Given my dream of being a professor of career development, the traditional or deductive way for me to develop a career plan would be to identify all the steps I need to take from where I currently am to get to a professor.

But we know that life doesn’t play out in an orderly, linear path. Stuff happens along the way.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

What does it take to found and edit a journal? (Sue Grieshaber)

This is the second of the RED Alert’s ‘What do editors want?’ series! 

For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.

In this second entry, Professor Sue Grieshaber gives us some great insight into the life and priorities of a journal co-editor, as well as top tips for researchers and future paper authors. Sue is the founder and co-editor of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood (CIEC). CIEC is a peer-reviewed international research journal focused on research addressing new and alternative perspectives on working with young children and their families. 

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Founding a new journal 


One of my mentors inspired me to be the founding co-editor of the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.

She made the suggestion and we had lots of discussion about it before writing a proposal that we could pitch to publishers.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

When we go conference-ing (Tseen Khoo)

RED team manager, Jeanette Fyffe, leading the forum for 'Reframing the PhD'
project. Photo by Nigel Palmer.
The one conference that those working in Graduate Research Schools tend to think of as an essential one is the Quality in Postgraduate Research (QPR) event.

It's held in Adelaide every two years, and it's THE conference for those working with graduate researchers and higher degree candidates more broadly.

Why?

The whole program - all two and half days of it - is devoted to presentations, roundtables, and forums about graduate research experiences, processes, environments, and supervisors. The talks range from major research project findings that aim to influence policy around graduate research, to sharing local processes and pilot programs from particular contexts.

Our keynote speakers came from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and locally. The opening keynote was given by Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, and reflected on the qualities
of the twenty-first century scientist, and the opportunities of a new generation.

And we were there at QPR! Very there, actually!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tips from a grumpy editor (Lisa Amir)

This is the first of the RED Alert’s ‘What do editors want?’ series! 

For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.

In this first entry, Associate Professor Lisa Amir gives us her ‘Top 5’ editorial tips. She founded and is Editor-in-Chief of the online, Open Access journal, International Breastfeeding Journal (published by BioMed Central [Springer]), which began publishing in 2006. 

Lisa has presented on her journal’s Open Access philosophy, and is dedicated to ensuring that quality research about lactation and breastfeeding reaches as broad an audience as possible. 

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Journal editors are busy people.

They do all the things that other academics do, THEN also have to pop their ‘editor’ hat on!

So, sometimes we get grumpy.

Here are five tips from a grumpy editor that will hopefully prevent editors from becoming grumpier!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Life after a PhD (Anoo Bhopti)

Anoo's faithful PhD companion, Keanu. | Photo by Anoo Bhopti
For this post, I was invited to reflect on my very new life post-submission.

Yes! It has been a month since I submitted my PhD thesis and it's still a very new phase of my life.

My PhD spanned over six and half years (6 years and 7 months to be precise), but it has felt like a whole lifetime!

The immersed body and soul of a PhD student is only known to the one who lives it. The non-PhD world needs to know that what they are getting is only a superficial self. The deep-rooted PhD self within the body just wants everyone to disappear, to be left alone with their work.

We don’t want to be asked questions about when we are going to finish or where we are up to, or any of these questions - they, and the answers to them, can feel absolutely meaningless. You may judge me, but I didn't really care about how that might seem. I truly only wanted to be alone or in the company of other struggling PhD students (not the overachievers, though!), who made me feel a tiny bit better about myself!

Then one day, it happened. Things started to come together and, suddenly, I felt like this was it! It was almost submission time and there was nothing more that I could do. I never thought that I'd get to this stage when I was stuck in those middle years of the candidature! But it happened.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Speak up! (Katherine Firth)

(Content note: includes material on bullying, harassment, violence and sexual assault).

We all agree that research should be done with 'integrity'. But what does that mean?

Does it mean abiding by the policies and procedures required for Ethics Approvals? Does it mean not breaking the Code of Conduct? Does it mean using software to help avoid plagiarism like EndNote and iThenticate?

Or does integrity also include wider concerns? Might it include every aspect of your relationship to your data, communicating your research, your research relationships with subjects, supervisors, and research team?

La Trobe’s Research values are "Honesty, objectivity, duty of care, fairness, accuracy, reliability and responsibility". They are relevant as much to your decisions about what to publish (are your results really significant?), how you relate to the communities you study (are you giving them data and analysis that helps them as well as your career?), and how you decide who gets authorship on collaborative papers (does authorship reflect contribution?).

There will probably also be a personal aspect to your own code of research integrity.