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Showing posts with label PhD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PhD. Show all posts

15 March 2017

Your literature review - getting it done

Do you feel as if your literature review has a life of its own and you don't always know what it's up to? Anne Melles, a Subject Librarian and PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, shares some of the insights she has gained (and is still gaining) from her experience of writing a literature review.



Writing a literature review is a bit like working with multiple pots on a stove that all need attention at the same time. Now, I know that there are too many analogies about the literature review out there, but I’m sharing this one as I found the concept useful when writing the literature review for my confirmation document, which I’ve just submitted. So, keep reading - you also might find it useful!

The idea of pots on a stovetop refers to the way that a literature review develops over time. This means that:
  • you don’t sit down and start writing the review at the beginning and work until you get to the end 
  • the review is a work in progress on multiple fronts (or a war on multiple fronts if you’re having a bad day!) 
  • the different sections of the review all speak to each other and so sometimes where your thinking ends up in one section means that things have to be rewritten in another section. 
Some sources that I had thought were significant at the beginning of my writing later turned out to be less important. I also found that I wrote about some sources with a completely different emphasis. This can sometimes be stressful and it may feel as if you’re trying to get your head around too many things at one time.

However, getting your literature review organised is a slow process. It helps to acknowledge and embrace the messiness of the whole business. Don’t try taming one section and then moving on to the next. Try to encourage conversations between the different parts of the literature review, and also between them and your research questions.

There are different ways of doing this. Sometimes when I found myself in a dead end in one section, I left it and looked at another section. I also found that drawing mind maps helped me get outside the writing and see a bigger picture. Looking back on previous mind maps also gave me an idea of the ways in which my thinking had changed. It also showed me how sometimes I’d just gone on a long wander in the literature wilderness only to end back at an idea I’d had months ago. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as I often found that I was then able to develop this more extensively and with more conviction.

So when it feels as if your pots are going to boil over or burn their contents, take a break: turn the elements on the stovetop off and try a different approach!


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28 February 2017

Planning your PhD journey

What does it take to go through the journey to a PhD successfully?  Learning Skills Adviser Anita Dewi offers answers to key questions asked by new candidates.


Are you commencing a PhD journey at Monash? A PhD is a great avenue to build your career in academia and other areas as well - the penultimate qualification! Through a PhD you have opportunities to share ideas and knowledge in your relevant field. But what does it take to go through the journey successfully?

One of the keywords in your PhD journey is planning. Your plan needs to cover  all aspects relevant to your PhD journey. Below are some key questions that you should ask yourself and find the answers when planning your PhD:

1. How do I manage my supervision?

Your PhD is YOUR journey! This means that you need to take the responsibility for these aspects in managing your supervision:
  • Maintain good communication with your supervisors.
  • Negotiate how frequently you will need to meet with your supervisor (this will vary over time).
  • Take responsibility for scheduling supervisor meetings.
  • Take notes from these meetings and send your supervisor(s) emails that confirm mutual understanding of what is or is not expected after each discussion.
  • Think of a few alternative solutions to issues arising, and then discuss them with your supervisor.
  • DON’T rely on your supervisor(s) to solve your problems for you.
Keep reminding yourself that you’re in charge of your own journey.

2. How do I manage my 3-4 year candidature?

Managing time is not always easy. A PhD journey is a “marathon” rather than a “sprint”. A key tip is to prioritise your tasks. One of the best ways to prioritise your tasks is by implementing, and possibly modifying, the Eisenhower method to suit your needs. To give you an idea of how this method can be implemented in real life situation, have a look at this link.

3. Where can I find relevant resources and advice?

The Library has a great range of resources that you can use to facilitate your PhD journey. Below are some examples that the Library provides:
Also keep in mind that the Library provides you with one-on-one consultations with a learning skills adviser or a subject librarian dedicated to your discipline. Highly motivating writing groups are also available at different campuses. The list of these contact people are here.

4. What will I do after completing my PhD?

Don’t forget to consider what kind of career you will seek upon completing your PhD. Understanding what responsibilities and skills needed to function in this dream role or job will help you in incorporating relevant skills development into your PhD journey plan.

5. What skills do I need to develop for my PhD to be a successful journey?

Here is a researcher skills questionnaire that you will find useful. Feel free to download, fill out, and hang on to it for the duration of your PhD journey. Get back to it and reflect on it from time to time, as a reminder of the skills you need to maintain and perhaps develop to enable you to succeed in your PhD.

6. What do I need to do and when should I do them?

It is best to have a map of your PhD timeline, along with the relevant milestones, e.g. confirmation seminar, progress review, pre-submission seminar, and the thesis submission at the end of the journey.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact learning skills advisers and subject librarians at the Library for advice. All the best with your PhD journey!


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