Notes to self… Rotating Header Image

Note to self – never buy a tea pot as a house-warming gift…

Why? I’ll tell you why. They are incredibly difficult to wrap, and impossible to wrap with any degree of finesse whatsoever. Go for a bottle of wine or a nice (square) box of chocolates – it’ll look far sleeker.

How do I know this? I know this for the same reason that I’ve been off line for months. I packed my tea pot to move house.

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The It’s-Not-Rocket-Science approach to study

Here are a few simple tips I’ve picked up during my first term as a research student, mostly by making mistake and learning from them. The blindingly obvious is sometimes very easy to miss. I’m sure you can apply these to any subject at any level, including rocket science research if that’s your thing.
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Using post-it notes to plan your writing

I read this post by Lizzie about using post-it notes as a motivational device on Zen College Life – a brilliant idea I’d never thought of before – and it made me think about my favourite uses for post-its. Sure they’re useful for urgent reminders and as I high school student I papered half the house in notes of formulae I had to remember and learn to use, but I think they’re great for planning longer pieces of writing. I used sticky notes to plan my Masters dissertation.
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Five quick tips to improve your academic writing

Academic writing is a specific skill. It’s not like writing a business report or a high school paper. Or a blog post for that matter. But any writing is about communicating ideas well, and so all writing can be good practice. It’s something you can always improve on. Here are five guidelines I try to follow when writing and editing my own work:
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Five things I learned during my MA (that weren’t on the syllabus)

According to research by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, ‘about half of the PhD candidates in our sample had completed a research preparation Master’s degree before their doctorate. Almost everyone who had done so found the Master’s course of value’*. I certainly learned a lot from my Master’s degree, but there were a few key points I wished I had believed from the start: Continue reading →

Scotland, the USA and the Lockerbie Bomber: An example of forwards and backwards perspective on punishment

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was originally convicted in 2001, when the court recommended he serve at least 20 years for the Lockerbie Bombing. He was released by Scottish authorities on 22nd August 2009 on compassionate grounds, as he has untreatable cancer and only months to live. I know little of the specific details of the case and don’t discuss here whether this decision is either morally or legally right or wrong. But this case demonstrates a difference between perceptions of punishment in Scotland and the USA, and illustrates the difference between forwards-looking and backwards-looking perspectives on what punishment is supposed to achieve. This might go some way to explaining why there is disagreement over whether it was right to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. Continue reading →

Getting to grips with how you study

There’s plenty of good advice online about improving various aspects of your study technique. But to apply these ideas, you need to understand where you are starting from. Understanding how you study allows you to consider whether you could do it better and adapt your methods to changes. When I returned to university after a break from full-time study, I found working out how I worked was suddenly critical: whereas previously I’d just ‘got on and done’, I discovered I couldn’t remember how. Believe me – it pays to be aware of and think about your approach to studying. Here’s five points to think about to start you off:
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Hello world!

So here I am. A dazed, grazed and exhausted wreck, but here none the less. Somehow, by some combination I will never quite know of brute luck and library hours, I have gotten myself a place on a PhD programme, which I officially start in 2 months. I have negotiated the minefield of having an idea and writing a research proposal. I have found my way through university admissions processes, made calls, checked details and sought references, all whilst holding down a full time job and studying part time. In some ways it feels like a victory in itself, but I know I have a long hard slog ahead. I hope it will be as rewarding as it will undoubtedly at times be infuriating. I expect to begin out of my depth, learning to swim as I go along. Quite clearly, I must be slightly out of my mind. But as far as I can glean from my preliminary research, being ever-so-slightly-unhinged enough as to want to spend several years studying one topic is a non-negotiable part of the admissions criteria for any PhD programme.