Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing in Plain English -

Let's be honest. As you spend more time in the academic world, whether as a student or as an instructor, you slowly lose touch with how people outside of the academic world communicate via written or spoken word. I heard this told to me so many times as a graduate student, and swore I'd never become one of those types that can't convey an idea in a simple sentence to my non-academic friends and colleagues. Yet I suddenly find myself struggling with how to revise a simple research information sheet down from a 12.5 grade reading level! I happened upon a website about this very issue, and bookmarked it for when the time came that I would need it, and that time is upon me now. So of course this is the perfect opportunity to share with you, my reader(s)!

This website is called Plain English Campaign, and is hosted out of the UK. It's one of many resources of the like, but it's the one that I am using today. Their free guide, called "How to write in plain English" offers some easy to implement tips. The guide also has some easy to digest information on how to write in active vs. passive voice, and other general writing tips, so it seems like it could also be useful for an educator to share with students.

Well, that's enough of a preview, since I need to get working on the project that I'm using this website for! (See the "How to" guide for reasons why it's okay to end a sentence in a proposition) :)

Monday, June 30, 2014 - It's free, no catches or gimmicks

As a doc student who is doing her dissertation research from a distance, I often need to have meetings with folks, but don't think it's worthwhile to drive 3.5 hours each way for one meeting. Some of the people I need to talk with may not have access to a video chat service like Google Hangouts, so I needed a conference call line. But of course being a broke graduate student, I needed one for free. Enter:!

It's really free!
This is a pretty neat service that is offered for free to anyone, anywhere, anytime. When you register (it's really easy, just enter your e-mail and agree to the Terms of Service), you are assigned a unique meeting code and the phone number to dial in so that you actually could start a conference call in about 5 seconds from registration to dial-tone! I read through the Terms of Service, and it says that you retain the rights to the content in your call. That was one thing I thought might be important as a researcher who is gathering potentially sensitive data.

There are other features, too. You can record the call, you can set up a Q&A line (if you were hosting a larger call and had people on mute while listening to a single speaker), you can do lots of things!

Lots of cool things you can do as a host.
So, with this being said, I'm going to go and host my first conference call!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

iProcrastinate Podcasts - Because you know you do!

One thing I've enjoyed during my long trips between home and Richmond is podcasts. I usually listen to "Wait Wait - Don't Tell Me" or "Car Talk," but since December I've really been struggling with procrastination. So a Google search on the topic brought me to iProcrastinate Podcasts, which are produced by a psychology professor in Canada named Dr. Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University. His website is

Dr. Pychyl's podcasts often have easy to implement strategies for overcoming procrastination.
As a graduate student, I really appreciated how much Dr. Pychyl integrated his own research into his podcast discussions. I think he captures the essence of procrastination really well in his explanation of it as a way to emotionally regulate when we are faced with an averse task. Whether true or imagined, we come up with ways of thinking about tasks that put us into an emotional state that makes us want to feel better - and fast. So instead of sticking with the task, we "give in to feel good" and do something else that will make us feel better in the short term. That's just the beginning of how he explains procrastination, so check out his website for more!

He wrote this fantastic little book called "Solving the Procrastination Puzzle" (renamed from it's former title, The Procrastinator's Digest) in which he provides a short but concise summary of how to understand procrastination, and how to learn strategies to deal with it.

Dr. Pychyl's book on understanding and overcoming procrastination.
If you think, "well, if I get off task by listening to or reading this stuff about procrastination, isn't that just reinforcing my problem?" I, too, had that same thought. But I promise, a little time invested here will pay off in the long run. I read the book in early 2014, and reinforce the ideas with a podcast every time I'm in the car traveling for more than an hour. I can't quantify for you how much this information has translated into hours of productivity, but it's done a lot for my emotional health, and self confidence - when I'm starting to get down on myself for being my own worst enemy, I just turn to these strategies and before I know it I'm confidently moving on from my procrastination temptations.

Graduate students aren't the only ones dealing with procrastination... and Dr. Pychyl's ideas are translatable beyond the student life. Professors, business people, even if you're just looking to stop procrastinating from your health & exercise goals, I think this could be of help for you.

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Connections: Everything you wanted to know about publishing your article but were afraid to ask

This incredibly practical and insightful free webinar was offered by New Connections on March 13, 2014, and they graciously posted a link to view the webinar after the fact, along with links to their handouts and slides.

This free webinar offered many practical and insightful tips,
applicable to the new or seasoned scholar!

I found this webinar to be very useful for a number of reasons.

  • First, they DID answer some of my questions about publishing that I was afraid to ask! 
  • Second, they gave insights on the small details that you may otherwise not hear about, such as what to include in a submission letter when you are submitting your  manuscript to a journal. 
  • Third, they discussed great strategies about how to decide on and manage your own publication plan, such as the benefits to choosing a smaller journal to submit to first versus a larger journal with a larger impact factor.
  • Fourth, they gave some great handouts with practical applications that extend beyond just publications, to even the beginning of your research project.
So be sure to take some time to listen to this webinar. I did while doing dishing and cleaning up, and I'll be sure to archive it for later reference as well! 

As a surprising side note, my browser's spell-check doesn't have webinar in it, and the red squiggly line keeps throwing me off my game. Really, Google Chrome?!?

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Professor Is In: How to write your academic CV

As many of you may already know, writing and formatting your Curriculum Vita is very different than your professional resume. I know I've gotten caught up in figuring out exactly what I should/shouldn't include, but I found a resource that spells it all out clearly and concisely! Of course this resource isn't the final word on the matter, but certainly gives a great place to orient yourself when writing your CV. It gives standard conventions and expectations to help you create a highly professional looking academic CV, from what headings to include, to how much detail to add under individual items, and also a useful list of what NOT to include.

Dr. Karen has a great website, full of useful information!

While you're visiting the link, check out the many other useful blog posts and resources on Dr. Karen's (the author) site! Find it at:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Split up your PDF files into separate pages - for free!

I just found something that's pretty life changing (that is, if you consider a simple tech life-hack life changing). So of course I'm going to share it with you, my good readers!

Have you ever found yourself wanting to make a separate PDF file of a larger file, but with only a few of the original pages? I found myself in that situation today with a scholarship form. In order to electronically send the reference letter forms to my references, I wanted to separate out the form from the rest of the application. I researched how to go about doing this by starting with a Google search, and found a brilliant solution: use Google Chrome! Here are the steps:

  1. Download the Google Chrome web browser if you haven't already. It's free.
  2. Open a new tab in Google Chrome. 
  3. From a Windows Explorer window (or your desktop), drag & drop your original PDF file into the Google Chrome window. (You have to do this twice for some reason. The first time you drag & drop it, nothing will happen. Do it again, and it'll open up the PDF file in Chrome.)
  4. Do this twice. The first time you do it, nothing will happen. That doesn't mean it didn't work. Just do it again.
    1. If for some reason this doesn't work on the second try, check your settings to be sure Chrome's PDF viewer is enabled. To do this, type “chrome://plugins” in the address bar without the quotes. Ensure that it's enabled, clicking “enable” if not.
  5. Now, you have the PDF file open in your Google Chrome browser. 
  6. Next, you'll go to Print the file. But don't actually print it. Just open the Print dialogue box.
  7. Now, in the Print dialogue box, click on the "Change" button to change your printer type. Select "Save as PDF". 
  8. Then, in the "Pages" section of the Print dialogue, only select the pages you wish to include in your new file.
  9. Finally, click "Print" and a box will pop up asking you to save your new PDF file. Type the new name, save it, and you're finished!
Thanks to WikiHow for the tip!

Sunday, February 2, 2014 - so you can finally get a meeting scheduled!

So you have this really busy group of people who you imagine can't all coordinate their schedules for that one meeting, or even a series of meetings, that you MUST get scheduled. Like a dissertation committee. Enter:! It's the easiest meeting scheduler I've seen, and it works across platforms and in any web browser (for that one person who doesn't know how to sync her calendar and e-mail). You can use it for free, and if you want to pay to upgrade you can sync it with your Google account. It's super easy to set up a meeting request. Plus if you have multiple possible days but want to use the same time slots in each day, there is a simple copy and paste feature. Another feature I love is the option to let people choose not just yes/no to each proposed time slot, but also "IfNeedBe" for those slots that people could be flexible around if it was absolutely necessary.

Whether you're a busy doc student like me, or just someone who is tired of the seeming endless e-mail chain required to get a group of people together, try out!