Mapping your ideas for planning, writing and more

When you are faced with a blank page, consider creating a mind map.

Mind map showing some of the benefits/uses of mind maps
Photo credit: Fernandosca

A mind map is a visual way to capture thoughts and ideas as they occur to you, and to indicate relationships between those ideas.  Because they do not need to be created sequentially, they are ideal when you are just getting started and your brain is full of stuff.  Examples of when you might find a mind map particularly useful include: writing a new chapter/article; project planning an activity for your research; and creating your to-do list.  There are many more examples of PhD researchers using mind maps on Twitter. Continue reading “Mapping your ideas for planning, writing and more”

Happy and productive 2020!

Happy New Year and welcome back.  Or just welcome, if you’re starting your research programme this month.

2020 balloons

It’s traditional at this time of year to make (and perhaps break!) a few resolutions.  The media is full of articles about diet and exercise, but what about resolving to make lasting improvements in your research processes?  It’s easy to say “I will do more” or “I will do better” but what exactly does that look like in practice and how can you make it stick? Continue reading “Happy and productive 2020!”

Fast away the old year passes…

…and suddenly campus is quiet.  The undergraduates have gone home for the Christmas break and the short days and grey weather discourage lingering in the Green Heart. There’s a feeling of winding down as staff and researchers breathe more easily now that the freneticism of the Autumn Term is over. What will you be doing over the Christmas break?

 

Continue reading “Fast away the old year passes…”

Helen writes: reading to write

In the third of an occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams talks about how reading previous theses can contribute to your writing practice.

If you saw last month’s posts about perseverance and The Conversation, you’ll have picked up on the fact that November was #AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) – an annual, month-long, communal attempt by academics at all career stages to focus on their writing. In thinking about what can be most helpful in both facilitating and improving writing however, I keep coming back to how important reading is as part of this process.

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." Stephen King

Continue reading “Helen writes: reading to write”

Spotlight on the RDF: “Perseverance”

In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF, in this case one which will be particularly useful 21 days into #AcWriMo!

In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).  Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren: “Nevertheless, she persisted”

Perseverance is a valuable quality for a research programme, so much so that one of its synonyms is specifically mentioned in the Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Research Students:  “a PhD is 10% intelligence and 90% persistence”.   Perseverance requires self-discipline and motivation in general, but also specifically refers to your response when things go wrong.   Continue reading “Spotlight on the RDF: “Perseverance””

Is research a risky business?

Topics around project management come up fairly regularly on this blog, because I think that getting to grips with these kinds of techniques is really helpful in terms of managing your time.  But good time management isn’t the only thing that’s going to keep your research on track.  There’s another strand of project management which is equally useful – risk management.  This is about acting now to increase the chances of things going well.

Graphic showing risk management cycle: identify, evaluate, mitigate, monitorWe all engage in risk management on a daily basis: when we look both ways before crossing the road, for example.  We assess the risks and make changes accordingly: if we judge a road to be particularly fast/busy, we might walk a bit further to the pedestrian crossing.  But risk management in research goes a lot further than health and safety.  Continue reading “Is research a risky business?”