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26 Oct 18:08

Writers' Lab: Seven Short Research Ideas to Discuss in a Conference Paper

by eva lantsoght
Whenever I hear a fellow PhD student tell me that he/she has nothing to write a conference paper about, I get a little antsy.

While the main chunk of your research might not be ready yet, that doesn't mean you have nothing to show to the international research community in your field. Likewise, when your experiment is not finished yet, that doesn't mean you haven't learned something that isn't worth talking about.

When the purpose of your trip to a conference is to spark discussion, there are quite a number of topics that you can touch upon and use to your benefit to get early input from fellow researchers.

If you have travel budget, by all means, get your ass on a plane and go to as many conferences as you can. I truly think that my crazy conference schedule has been one of the key factors to my successful PhD.

Here are some examples of topics that you can write about early on and present at a conference:

1. Case study

Take an example from practice, and use the deeper knowledge that you obtained while making your literature review to delve into this case under consideration.

2. Review paper

A classic - but often overlooked type of paper. If you've spend the right energy in your literature review, you should be able to write great, critical review paper that other researchers in remotely connected fields would love to look at to learn more about your discipline.

3. Mix & Match paper

Why not compare the test results from research X with the theory from researcher Y? Play around with existing data, and see if you can learn something new from this. Doing so will only deepen your understanding of your topic.

4. Parameter study

Parameter studies can teach you a lot, and give you some good food to write about. Even simple Excel-style exercises to study how a certain parameter is represented in different theories and how this is observed in experiments will be a valuable starting point.

5. Bounds and Assumptions

If you've done your literature review correctly, you'll have identified the limitations and boundaries to the major existing theories in your field. You can use that insight and expand on it: what are the limiting assumptions and bounds of some of the most commonly used theories? What should we do as a research community to verify these bounds or to make sure the theory can include more exceptions?

6. Comparison of design methods

Maybe a typical idea for a structural engineering paper, but it's always interesting to compare different codes and design methods. Start with a simple case, and see what is the resulting design if you follow different codes. Make sure you discuss the boundaries and assumptions of the codes you considered.

7. Computer modeling

For reinforced concrete, computer modeling sure is a topic in itself that is worth a lot of advanced PhD research. However, you can always start modeling an experiment from the literature, and discuss your observations with respect to the different parameters that you need to assume. This technique will also give you the tools to model your own experiments more easily later on.

Do you feel inspired to go and tinker in the sideline and see what you can learn from these examples?
26 Oct 17:02

stabilizedinsanity: facethedawn: This is a very important...



This is a very important message for young people everywhere

The Hobbits approve

26 Oct 16:49

mollyiswrappedupinbooks: I’ve shared individual ones before,...


I’ve shared individual ones before, but I’m not sure which ones. So here’s a collection of the first 10 Like—>Try—>Why reader’s advisory graphics I’ve made for the library. 

13 Jun 11:46


12 May 19:55

A Beautiful Mess Photo App

by elsiecake

PhotoAfter more than 9 months of concepting, designing, and developing, we're so excited to announce we'll be releasing the A Beautiful Mess photo app, coming soon to iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad! We announced it on Instagram earlier this week and got some great questions we want to address here:Photo 3 copyWhat does the app do?
A few things! We designed it with blogging, scrapbooking and Instagram in mind. So it has a handful of filters modeled after our photography styling here on the blog. It also comes packed with a variety of cute photo borders. You can also use this app to add text in a variety of fonts to your photos. And it has fun, pre-drawn doodles (like arrows and speech bubbles). Lastly, it has a whole bunch of pre-written phrases in my handwriting! Here, take a look:Photo 1 copyPhoto 1 copyWhen will the app be released?
Funny story. :) Had you asked us on Monday, we would've told you it would be released tomorrow. But we've run into some small, technical issues with iTunes store. The app's totally ready to go, but there are some backend issues with the store receiving the app that we're told should be worked out any time now. That said, we're hoping it's only going to set back the release a few days (thinking Monday or Tuesday of next week). But as soon as the issue is resolved and the app is available, we'll announce it immediately!Photo 2What will it cost?
The app will only cost $0.99, which will get you the fully loaded app with all the features described above. Then, if you want even more options for customizing your photos, we'll have extra packs available for in-app purchase.Photo 3Why isn't it available for Android? Will you be developing that soon?
The short answer is we definitely hope to make an Android version in the near future! As you may or may not know, developing an app is really, really expensive. Even if you're creating a lot of the elements yourself like we did, it can get very pricey. That said, we were faced with a difficult decision when the estimate for developing the app came in, because creating an Android version literally doubled the cost of the project. So hang tight, Android users. We didn't forget about you!! :)Photo 4 copyWhat inspired your app's icon design?
The app icon is directly inspired by the Polaroid 1000 Land Camera from the 80s. I've always loved the look of this camera—so much so I got a tattoo of it several years back. ;) The hot pink makes us smile too!Photo 4Will it be availabe on iTunes Internationally?
Yes! It was very important to us to make available internationally. Fun fact: Over 40% of the ABM readership lives in a country other than the United States. We love our international readers and are so happy to be able to make the app available to you! Photo 1So happy we finally get to announce this app. We've put so much work into it. We hope you love it as much as we do! We'll be doing another Q&A about the design and development process in a couple weeks after you all have had a chance to play with the app. xo. Elsie + Emma

23 Apr 16:16

Writers' Lab: How you should start writing from Day 1

by eva lantsoght
In the academic blogosphere, there are fans and haters of starting with writing at the very beginning of your PhD.

I started writing very early, and even though not much of that material has made it into my dissertation, I did find it very helpful.

Starting to write early on helped me to get used to academic writing (in English), but those early little reports and discussion documents also turned out very useful in meetings with my supervisor.

On day 1, you won't open a document and start writing the first chapter of your dissertation, but there are a few types of smaller reports that you can start working on. All these writings will help you become familiar with writing, and will help you produce something that your supervisors can look at before a meeting.

1. Summaries of papers

Whenever you read a paper that turns out to be valuable, write a small summary. This summary can be really short (half a page), or you can use the document to already write out some equations that you might need earlier on.
Among the only material in my thesis that survives from my first year are equations I neatly wrote and formatted in MathType at the very beginning.

2. Discussions of a set of papers

If you've read a few papers on a similar topic, you can pull that material together and write a small report of it (5 to 10 pages). Important here is to discover which points are still open in the discussion, where different authors contradict each other, what the limits, boundaries and assumptions are. If you can apply these ideas to a set of data from the literature and play around a bit - even better!

3. Exploratory calculations

Once I knew that I was going to be doing experiments, I made a whole set of exploratory calculations to see what, according to the current design codes and methods, my slabs were supposed to carry. In a preparatory report, I set out all the equations, and added a series of results of calculations and parameter studies.
Working on this material helped me get a good idea of what I could expect from my experiments (although that turned out to be different) and from the codes. Moreover, it helped me set up a few MathCad sheets and some Excel spreadsheets, that I've used for different purposes later in my research.
Don't fall in the trap of waiting until you have data to start working on calculations!

4. Plan of Action

Another important document to write at the very beginning is your Plan of Action (for me it was "Educational and Supervision Plan", for others it might be the Research Plan). Brainstorm the different methods that you would like to apply, and assess the amount of time you will need. Outline your research question, and identify a set of sub-questions.

You might deviate from your research question later on, but start with a defined question - it will help you get on track to start looking for answers.

5. Motivation of Research

Why does your research matter? Motivating your research is not about getting ready to write your introduction chapter, but it is about getting the larger picture. Write that larger picture down in a document, and revisit it frequently.

If your research has practical applications, keep a tie to practice. If your research has broader impacts on society, place things into perspective every now and then.

What types of documents did you start working on at the beginning of your PhD?