Changes and opportunities

There has been a good reason for my silence lately… I have been working away preparing for a couple of amazing opportunities this year.

One of them is a teaching position at another university in Australia (halfway across the country from home, but the things we do for opportunities). I am really excited about this opportunity because, while it is only for twelve weeks, I actually will be teaching the majority of the course. This includes the lecturing and the tutorials. I’m glad that I have some experience teaching now, so I’m not feeling nearly as nervous as I was a year ago, but delivering consistent lectures will be a new experience (even though I’ve given guest lectures before) and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I have to remember to wear comfortable shoes…

The other opportunity is a visiting PhD grant at a university in Denmark. This will be five weeks this year, starting in October. I’m really looking forward to meeting and working with the people in my field there, and I’m really excited to have gotten a grant for it too.

So at the moment, I am on leave from the PhD itself, while I do this teaching semester. I hope to be able to do some work on it here and there, but with 32 hours of structured work a week, there isn’t a whole lot of time for much else.

Stay tuned for more updates on how the teaching goes, and if I manage to do any research/PhD work while I’m here!

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The unexpected…

Sometimes things do not go according to plan…

For the past three days, I have been stuck in rural NSW after my car broke down on my way home. I am hundreds of kilometres from anyone I know, and really don’t have anywhere practical to do much work. However, there is always work to be done.

I had been away for a week doing some research and a writing retreat. The research went really well, and I have lots of things to move forward on and think about. I also managed to get 2300 words written of my Methods chapter.

For the past three days though, stuck in limbo, I have been trying to continue working as best I can. It is hard though when you don’t have any of your resources (including barely internet), you can’t set up an office anywhere, you have to keep moving from place to place in the town, and you are trying to work out when you can get home and can’t focus on work. That said, I have written another 600 words on the chapter and it is now as finished as it can be for a while. It needs some solid referencing, and also needs me to finish my research so I can discuss problems encountered with the rest of it. Then I will have a finished chapter! I need to do a lot of reading too, but this has been a lot harder to achieve. I have some books in my poor little car, but they are hard to access and not worth the trouble.

It was also my birthday yesterday. This was not how I wanted to spend it.

Anyway. Thoughts from limbo: the kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing; sometimes relentless positivity isn’t enough; work can be done almost anywhere; the internet can kill a lot of time; small towns are terrible for trying to get things to.

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Rejections and Resubmissions

Well. That happened quickly.

Two days after I submitted the journal article, it got an editor rejection… meaning that the editor of the journal decided that it didn’t fit with the journal and wouldn’t be sent to reviewers. Now, while I disagree with the reasons that I was given for this, I’m told that about 80% of articles get this kind of rejection. It stung a little, but I was quite proud of myself and didn’t even cry.

The next day, I submitted to a new journal. I haven’t heard anything back from them yet, but it hasn’t been two weeks. I’ll start wondering at about the 6 week mark I think.

A really interesting part of the submission process was the file naming conventions, and the sheer number of different ways that this could be done, as well as the contradictory ways that the journals say. For example, the first one that I submitted to wanted APA formatting in everything, which includes formatting for the submission of tables (at the end of the document). However it doesn’t say how to indicate where the tables go in the text, and then the submission website wants them to be submitted separately. The second one only wanted APA for the references, but then didn’t say what file format they wanted the tables in. It’s little things like this that make the process so hard for… well… everyone.

In any case, I made two journal article submissions in a week (at last!) and I’m quite proud of myself, especially because of the rejection. We’ve all got to start somewhere, and every academic gets rejections.

On other things: I am working on a presentation for this week, and then I go away on fieldwork and a writing retreat for a week.  Life never stops.

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Finishing that journal article

I am so very close to having that journal article ready for submission. I’m not entirely happy with it, but that means that I am more likely to not be too upset when it (inevitably) gets rejected.

This week, I’ve been going through the long and painful process of checking the formatting, references, etc, to see if it fits with the journal’s requirements. All of this is finally done. To me this is a massive achievement because I really, really, really hate editing. Especially my own work. To me it is like watching myself on video – nothing seems quite right, it all feels awkward, and I feel self-conscious.

Anyway. Having pushed through all of that to finally get four rounds of editing done, I am almost ready to submit. I am now up to the strange part of a cover letter… I have no idea what this is supposed to look like in my field.

I found this example of a cover letter at Taylor Francis’ website, which was really helpful. I just followed that to write something ready for submission.

AND THEN I SUBMITTED IT!

Ahem. It may have taken me 15 minutes to actually hit the submit button, and then another 5 when it said “are you sure?”, but I have officially submitted a journal article for publication.

Now. On with the thesis!

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Full Steam Ahead!

Hello 2017!

I can hardly believe that it is already almost the end of January.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working hard at getting everything together for a super productive year. Mostly because this is my 3rd year and I am supposed to submit in Feb 2018… *gulp*.

We will have to see how that goes…

So among my planning for the year, I have been trying to get my research back on track, most of all by getting these focus groups underway. I am now more than 12 months behind on where I had planned to be in my project planner from the beginning… live and learn. But after months of having no response, no participants, and no dates, I finally managed to book the first three focus groups, and ran the first of them last night.

Phew.

So the next few months will be full steam ahead, collating ideas from these focus groups, and creating a first full draft of a module… By the middle of March. So a very short time frame.

A few notes from the focus group last night (in no particular order):

  • My plan held up, and with only one small change, ran right on time. (yay!)
  • The group was too small. It worked, but would be more effective with a larger group.
  • Comprehension was good, but I noticed they didn’t want to stray too far from the provided material – I was hoping they could be more innovative, but perhaps they need more time.
  • The small change was to remove the workshopping activity – I did this becuase they had already given feedback and had said that necessary changes were minimal.
  • As expected, they reacted better to the more specific material than the conceptual values etc, and found it easier to create an activity out of that. Perhaps I need to explain the purpose of that conceptual material more clearly, as they did discuss needing it (but didn’t connect the need to what was there).
  • How do I know if they’re being positive genuinely, or just because I’m there? I want their honest feedback, but feel like I may not necessarily get it, if it’s negative.
  • The first activity worked really well and I’m quite proud of myself for it.

Next workshops are on 6 Feb, and 30 March, although I will try to get some additional ones done in between if I can. Presentation of draft module is on 17 March.

And away we go! 2017, full steam ahead!

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Reflecting on Conferences

Last week I went to the two big linguistics conferences in Australia – the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia, and the Australian Linguistics Society. They took place back to back this year, at Monash University in Melbourne. There were lots of really interesting presentations and I was really glad to be able to go to both the conferences.

However, the conferences made me think a bit about the directionality of research and the ability to research anything and everything. So here is my reflection on conferences and research.

When I’m at a conference, I’m not only looking at the information that is being presented as an interesting snapshot of what other people are doing. While I am watching the presentations, I am also collecting things. Ideas, mostly. Ideas about: research methods, things that I can use in my own research, but also whether that method was best for the stated objectives (this improves my own skills in research design); presentation styles, including powerpoint presentations, vocal styles, stance, outfit, everything (this might seem judgemental, but again, it’s to work out the different responses I have to things so I can improve my own presentations, not to tear others down); ways that I can use the content of a presentation in my own work (e.g. data that would be useful, conclusions that support my work); links to future projects that I might be interested in; publications and references that would be interesting to me; and so on.

Amongst all this thinking about different aspects of each presentation, I was also thinking about the ways in which the presentations connected to each other, and with supported each other or contradicted each other – even when they seemed to have the same goal.

It got me thinking – all of the research we do, we want to be used in the world. But if so much of what we do contradicts itself, not because of aims, but because of approaches, then how can we possibly use everything? Take for example some of the fascinating presentations I went to on classroom education. The problem? Many students aren’t learning well in classrooms. The contradictory solutions are: get rid of the classroom model for something that is more flexible, more student driven and more creative; and work out what skills it takes to be able to study well in classrooms, and teach children these skills from an early age. Both studies were fascinating. Both studies saw improvement in students’ attention spans, and learning outcomes. But we can’t implement the results of both studies…

A second example of this is my own project. My project has a focus on teaching students the skills they need to understand and function in a Standard Australian English speaking area. BUT, why should they have to learn SAE? Why is SAE a prestige dialect in this country? Shouldn’t we be teaching teachers to value other dialects, and educating the community in different ways of speaking and the backgrounds that those dialects have? But how can we do both?

In more general terms, how do we choose research projects, should there be some sort of directionality in the field, and how to we determine whether something is worth pursuing into the real world for maximum effect?

I wish I had an answer to these questions, but really all I get is more questions. Currently I feel like my project is a bandaid on the problem, but that a full system/societal overhaul is what would be needed to actually fix it. So I guess I’ll be sticking with the bandaid for now.

And I’ll definitely be presenting at the next conference.

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Overwhelmed by knowledge

One of the biggest problems that I have as a researcher is academic reading. As a kid, I was a voracious reader of fiction – especially sci-fi and fantasy – I would often read almost a novel a day. For some reason though, I find academic reading so difficult to do.

I find that I am slow, and that the knowledge is hard to absorb. I usually have to read something twice to be able to get anything good out of it, and then a third time to consolidate the ideas into something usable. This is time consuming for me – and considering how fast I’m used to reading (and remembering the contents), it is extremely frustrating.

In general, I avoid it. Which is a terrible thing to say, but is also completely honest. I will do every single other task (and exhaust every social media feed) before I pick up an article to read. When I do pick up something, I find that I start skimming the paragraphs very quickly, not taking anything in, and then have to read each paragraph a few times to even know what it’s talking about. If I do manage to read something well, I get agitated with all the thoughts that I have and all the responses I want to write to points made.

Sometimes, I get distracted by all the things that I don’t know. Someone will drop a quote from someone, and I’ll realise that’s an article that’s incredibly important to my research but I knew nothing about and then I will feel like there’s so much background information I have to read that  I can’t possibly focus on the one I’m reading.

This feeling of having so much to read is another reason that I struggle to start reading anything. Where should I start? There’s 6 big fields that I have to get my head around, and every time I read an “entry” type article or book, it explodes out into another 50 or more things that I need to read. Which is completely overwhelming.

I know that I can’t possibly read everything for my project, but I do need to read enough in each area to have more than a foundational knowledge of each topic. The process of choosing these articles is not meant to be easy. I need to read more than is necessary to be able to decide on which ones are useful. I need to read the foundational materials, the material that is relevant to my project, and the cutting edge of the field.

I think that feeling overwhelmed by the amount of reading I have to do is not a bad thing. It just can’t be something that stops me from actually doing the readings. I don’t really know how to deal with this at the moment. I’m trying to set aside reading times and read a minimum of an article or a chapter a day, but it is still not something that’s easy. For example, this post has been written in the middle of a reading session, because the idea was solidified by something that I read in the article. I need better ways of taking notes – and to actually remember to take them. And I need to find a better way to hold all the knowledge in my head and not forget it all immediately.

Back to my motto I guess. One thing at a time. Just keep going. Do one thing, then the next thing, and so on, and eventually you’ve got more done than you ever planned.

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