Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Project preparation and how to read a paper

Followers will know I think reading and writing are rather important.

Project students at all levels, postgrads and interns all need to work on this, not to mention post docs and academics.

Here are some pointers to materials which can be used as foundational tools for those wishing to update their skills, or just think and reflect.

Practically the FutureLearn MOOC on Developing Your Research Project is helpful. Although, I do take exception to the supporting material which talks about learning styles, but that is the theme for another post.


A team of academics developed an online course on research methods which is well worth a skim read with some drilling down to explore issues (just like you might use a text book).


Moving on to the practicalities of reading academic papers, I can point to two useful resources,

  1. A short practical piece by Michael Mitzenmacher of Harvard



2. A paper presented at a CS conference titled "How to read a paper" by Srinivasan Kerchav from Waterloo in Canada.



Gendered narratives: reading between the lines

Recently I have been tasked to take a lead on enhancing the participation, recognition and support of women in STEM: particularly electronics and computer science. I may not be making much impact on the approaches and attitudes if my colleagues, but my own radar has been notched up to fine tuned!

My observations:

  • I hear stories of everyday realities in education, learning, teaching and subject disciplines frequently presented as heroic narratives with male heroes.
  • I attend seminars when slides are illustrated by images of male authors, occasional female authors referred to by initials with no images - thus becoming invisible.
  • In presentations, references to female students encountering difficulties.
  • Female academic 'actors' referred to in passing, male 'actors' portrayed as the ground breakers and pathfinders.
  • Faculty discussions to ameliorate the position of female academics and postgrads are characterised by a model of deficits, the women are broken, help them mend themselves.
  • Discussions focussed on increasing the percentage of female participants focuses on undergraduates and outreach rather than implementing structural changes across the board.

The result?

I find myself
  • increasingly frustrated recognising the 'broken record' effect of this portrayal and discussion.
  • wondering about how to make change happen. This stuff is too important to be left to a few (mostly female) evangelists.
  • Seeking to identify and champion structural methods af making change happen
  • Seeking patronage for change
  • Being willing to hand over the kudos for making change happen to anyone else ;-)