Training season

2016.06.19.training-seasonSpring and early summer are busy training months for me. Not as in marathon training (though it should be that, too) but rather academic training. And that means that I seem to spend quite a bit of time out of the office learning new things.

The first of this year’s trainings was the Information Science Pathway training at my university’s Sighthill campus in mid-April. The two-day event came at a time when I was still recovering from being rather ill, so I don’t think I got as much out of it as I could have. However, I did manage to pick up a few useful ideas for my methods and literature review chapters. And, importantly, I had the opportunity to network with my fellow information science PhD students from around Scotland. (Read more about the event on Professor Hazel Hall’s blog.)

In May, I travelled to Glasgow for a two-day training event run by the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science. The event, Avoiding Precarity – Strategies for the Modern Academic, included a variety of topics aimed at helping late-stage PhD students plan for their post-PhD futures. Some of the topics were a bit elementary for me, in part because of my professional background and current research interests, but I was pleased to have taken a few nuggets of wisdom from other, more relevant topics.

The big training event of the season, the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School, happened earlier this June. I attended sessions all three days, and can honestly say that I gained a few extremely useful insights into my own needs as a PhD student… especially one in her (hopefully) final stretch. As with the Avoiding Precarity event, a couple of the courses were a bit too basic for me, however, I have to realise that some of that is just because of my life experiences. But a wee spark was ignited in one of the sessions that helped me to understand what I need to do to get my own productivity back on track. (I’ll share that story later… once I catch up a bit!)

My next (and final) training of the year is iDocQ later next week. It’s a one-day training event that will also provide me with the opportunity to present my research in the form of a 20×20 presentation. Part of me wishes I didn’t have to go because I don’t want to spend another day out of the office, but part of me knows that it will be good for me on several levels—and that I will find at least one (hopefully more!) useful nugget of knowledge to keep me motivated. (I’ll share more about this later, along with my 20×20 presentation.)

So yes, it’s training season and I feel bad for feeling apathetic about it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in my third year now and I’ve burnt out on training, if I am just too snowed under with a list of other tasks I want/need to complete, or if I am legitimately uninterested because some of it seems like review (maybe because I am in my final year, it is review?). But much like running, you have to keep training even when you don’t want to… or you risk not being able to finish the race.

Provisional wins: Abstracts, bursaries, and conferences

2015.03.17.yayI received an email today that gave me a bit of a confidence boost, so I thought it was time I (finally!) share a couple of happy PhD accomplishments. I should have shared some of this earlier, but I was feeling very unsure of myself and I was worried about sharing good news too soon. But I’m ready now. (Even though I’m still bracing for the bad news.)

So, here goes!

John Campbell Trust Bursary
The first bit of news is that I applied for a grant to the John Campbell Trust in November 2014 to allow me to travel to the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) in St Louis, MO, in November 2015. I received notification of my acceptance just before Christmas, but I wasn’t confident enough to share the news. After all, attendance at the conference also hinges on the acceptance of my abstract.

Over the next few weeks, I will be giving thought to my abstract for the conference. It will be based on a poster that will discuss early findings from my empirical work (possibly my pilot study). That means that I need to start making some solid headway into the design of my study!

If my abstract is accepted, I will plan to attend the conference in the autumn. After the conference, I hope to travel to Washington State to meet with a couple researchers from the University of Washington’s iSchool.

Assuming all of this happens, my parents are thinking that they will “meet me in St Louis” and we’ll all drive back to the great Pacific Northwest together. (And once the academic stuff is out of the way, I’ll stick around for Thanksgiving with my family.)

Information: Interactions and impact (i3) Conference
The second bit of news is that I submitted my first-ever paper abstract in January for the Information: Interactions and impact (i3) conference at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen*. The abstract was based on a literature review looking at the role of online information in the determination and management of personal reputations. I admit that it was a bit of a challenge to write because I needed to find a balance between summarising the literature review and selling the idea, but I managed. Mostly.

And that brings me to the third bit of news, which is that my abstract has been provisionally accepted for presentation at the conference!

When the email came in this morning, I was afraid to open it because I was sure it would be a straight knock-back. But instead, I was asked to make some revisions to the abstract. After that, my acceptance will be re-evaluated.

I know that doesn’t mean I’m a shoo-in, but I really was pleased to learn that I wasn’t rejected flat-out. Plus, even if I don’t end up getting accepted, I am being given an additional chance to improve my academic communications skills.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before I’m telling you that my re-submitted i3 abstract is accepted. So stay tuned for that. (And feel free to send positive thoughts and such my way, too!)

It’s a little frustrating because these wins are all still provisional, but they’re positive things so it’s worth shouting about them a bit. After all, I’ve not been told I’m rubbish, so that might mean that I’m actually not too bad. (Yeah, I must work on this low self-esteem a bit more.)

* That’s Aberdeen, Scotland, not the Aberdeen in my home state of Washington. Just in case anyone thought I’d be home for a visit this summer. Sorry; I won’t be. (But I hope to be there for Thanksgiving!)

Presenting 20 in 20

2014.05.14.fecci-presentationYesterday was my first full-on presentation as a PhD student. It was a 20/20 presentation*, meaning I had to present 20 slides for 20 seconds each and was given to the Faculty of Engineering, Computing, and Creative Industries (FECCI).

If you know me, you know I’m not actually good at “keeping it short”—especially when it’s a topic I’m excited about. So the idea of a 20/20 presentation freaked me out! Twenty slides, with only 20 seconds of chatting each? Impossible!

Six minutes and 40 seconds of chatting using as many (or as few) slides as I needed to convey my message would have been so much better, and wouldn’t have left me feeling rushed.

Still, the rule was 20/20, so that’s what I did.

The takeaways were worth it though. Here’s what they were:

  1. Presenting my research in this manner did wonders for my confidence (after the freaking out before and during, of course). It also forced me to think more concisely about my message when explaining my research to others—especially those who are not social media researchers.
  2. I learned some great lessons for my next presentation. I learned that it would be best to prepare a 6-minute 40-second talk and then create the slides to fit in every 20 seconds. That way, it’s a cohesive talk rather than 20 short bursts of information.
  3. The next time I have a presentation of any length (and slide limit), I have a bank of slides ready to plug in when and where they’re needed.

Here’s a copy of my presentation if you want to see what my slides looked like. I know it doesn’t let you know what I said, but you can always get in touch if you want to know more about the presentation—or my research!

 

* This style is sometimes called PechaKucha, but as it’s a trademarked programme, 20/20 is the oft-used generic term.

[Photo credits: Copyright Hazel Hall 2014; used with permission]

Prezi or PowerPoint: Can I have both?

2014.01.17.preziI spent a chunk of my day in a very useful Prezi workshop as part of my on-going Vitae Researcher Development Framework training. I wasn’t sure what I would get out of the day, but I’m really looking forward to trying out the new presentation software.

I’ve been an enthusiastic (but not too enthusiastic!) user of PowerPoint for many years and whilst I really enjoy the platform, I am often excited about the latest-and-greatest technologies. After all, moving forward can be a lot more exciting than standing still.

I viewed Prezi as an opportunity to present slideshows with a bit more “wow factor” than PowerPoint allows. And after tooling around for a bit today, I have to say that I was right—there are some amazingly “wow” things you can do with Prezi. (Here’s a good comparison of the two.)

The problem, however, is that I can’t do everything with it.

I admit that my limited use isn’t enough to give a full-on critique of the software, but I’ll go ahead and share my initial thoughts anyhow. If you have anything to add (for or against!) please feel free to comment away.

So, here are my initial thoughts:

Pros:

  • It’s free! (And with an educational license, you get more goodies for free!)
  • You can get artistic with the fully zoomed-out view, giving your presentation a nice “designed” feel
  • It’s online and presentations can easily be shared with links or by embedding them

Cons:

  • It’s all online (unless you pay the big bucks!) meaning you need an Internet connection
  • Despite being able to download your presentation, you need an Internet connection to best show your presentation—especially if you have embedded videos
  • Motion-sickness can be a problem for some audience members

Ideally, I’d like to combine Prezi and PowerPoint features to create the perfect tool for me—and maybe one day some smart software developer will do just that. In the mean time, I must admit that I will be sticking with PowerPoint for any in-person presentation I have to give (not that I have anything on the horizon!). But I think I’ll give Prezi a try for online purposes in an effort to learn the tools a bit better—and in case they ever make some of their online features available offline!

Oh! Here’s the presentation I created today. It’s not much, but it’s a good place to start! (And here’s a link to my Prezi profile!)

(But seriously—if you have any thoughts on the matter I’d love to hear them.)