Sunday, September 05, 2004

Wroom... shifting into high gear - Part 6


Every beginner researcher will feel as if a huge burden is placed on their shoulder when forced to make a commitment in allocating some time into their daily schedule to concentrate on their study. It will be a significant lifestyle transformation, from being a creative person into becoming a serious researcher, while at the same time may also have to function as a career person. Also, for the first time in the student's education journey where they are expected to be responsible for their own study direction and to set their own study pace. Students now cannot pass the blame solely on their supervisor because the supervisor’s task is only just to guide and not meant to be chasing after them like that of their undergraduate days. At postgraduate study, the students are actually the one who is doing the research, not their supervisor. Postgraduate students are expected to show their readiness and ability to work independently. The longer they procrastinate, the more anxiety they will have to bear when the dateline comes closer. The supervisor has nothing to loose, but the students will have a lot to regret

Loving to do your research do not come at the flick of an eye, it has to be nurtured, be given a conducive environment and showing caring support (if you also have a family) for it to bloom. You just have to be determined enough to put aside only two hours a day without fail out of 24 hours a day, (a mere 8.3% in a day) to do your reading and writing and that will not be too much to ask for. The hardship will only be felt during the first month, but with perseverance an strong determination, subsequently you will begin to accept it as part of everyday lifestyle which you will gladly look forward to, and something that other members of the family and friends will gladly learn to live with.

Granted that besides attending to our family, we (especially in this country) are also obliged to spend some time to socializing with neighbors and friends. But if we can allocate just a mere two hours a day, say from 11.00pm to 1.00am everyday without fail, that will already be good enough. For me, this is the most serene and ideal time for the study purpose. The first half hour is to get into the mood and recall what has been done yesterday, the next one hour of solid concentration to your reading, writing and project work, and the remaining time to plan what to continue for tomorrow. You won't even feel the pressure or stress anymore after a month. If repeated everyday without fail, God willing by the end of the month you should easily be able to write a full chapter of your thesis. Believe me; you'd loose momentum and thought continuity if you repeatedly continue missing that routine.

When you read a book at the library, before you even start copying down any useful quotation, make it a habit to begin with recording the author, year, article title, publisher and page number of your reference first. I can guarantee you that a week later you will never ever be able to locate it again because someone else may have borrowed it. Immediately at the end of that quotation, written in bold and within parenthesis, write down your immediate impression or comments that strongly appears in your mind about associations and the importance of that quotation to your thesis at that point in time. Or else, you will definitely end up with piles of useless quotations many many months latter because you forgot what it is for in the first place.

There is a standard citation procedure when quoting from any sources into your thesis, be it from a book, journals, and conference papers or even from the Internet. The detail can be downloaded from the DrKamy Shared Folder in the site for those registered members.

When embarking on your writing, even if you could put on paper a small manageable chunk of the key phrase at a time, say half a page a day, in a month you'll end up with 15 pages of content, and that's a mighty big achievement already. During my postgraduate days, before I forget my points, I tend to extensively use mindmapping charts to pen down any useful instant thoughts that arises as I write, and expand on it later as I get deeper and deeper into my writing. Good software today for this purpose is called Mindmanager by Mindjet Inc. and I highly recommend it to all students. I'd expect all the students under my direct supervision to e-mail and share with me at least a half page file every week for me to correct. If you don't write I cannot help you. As your supervisor, I am not a mind reader, and because I cannot read what you have done I wouldn’t be able to offer any advice or guidance. Most new researcher has that wrong notion that the chapter must be perfect before handing it over to their supervisor. WRONG! Experience has proven time and time again that I might have to wait for one semester for that perfect chapter to reach me, which by then my advice will already be too late for you to take action on.

Always write from a third person perspective, replacing the "I believed that the ........” to "The researcher believed that the ......". This is because during the whole research exercise of data compilation and data analysis you are functioning as an independent, unbiased observer and when you document it, you should be reporting again as an unbiased writer about that particular researcher's (technically you!) observations and findings.

Bear in mind that your final completed thesis will someday be referred to by future researchers from the Thesis Reference Section of the University Library. It may be read by a reader who is still a novice in that particular field of study. The advice is, do not write according to your current high level of understanding of the subject, because by now you should be the most well read person on that issue. Bring yourself down back to the level of a novice reader so that when he reads your thesis he would be able to make the connections. Your thesis will have to explain to him clearly right from the beginning about the scene setting, problem issue, problem statement of what you are about to accomplish, until the state-of-the-art information status. You also document about the preliminary hypothesis that you have adopted in this research, what you have designed to resolve the identified problem, the method adopted to determine how you can evaluate it success and finally you original findings and recommendations from this research.

Now that you are already shifting to high gear into writing your thesis, do not loose the momentum. As a further technique to assist in your research, write the key pointers on an index card and stick it in the wall of your study room. Use multi-coloured thread to connect the index cards whose content have linkages to each other so that you can everyday see the connections. Be prepared to swap position of the index cards and the thread links as you as you progress with your research. Only you can make that logical connections, redeployment and see the patterns emerging.

I again wish you the best in your thesis writing. Hope you have a happy and fruitful journey down the lonely and multi-faceted path of knowledge quest. Catch me up again in my next coming article.


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