You reap what you sow – week 37 as a PhD student

The sweet, gentle, torture of having a week off of lab work; where instead, I try and write my literature review.

Writing is still my weakness. I am perfectly adept at filling a page with words that are vaguely related to the subject I am trying to write about. I still feel as if the thing I am trying to say is entirely lost from the piece; also, the section doesn’t flow well. I am confident I can fix the flow of it, but I am not sure I can figure out what I am trying to say.

One of the underlying issues is that with scientific, academic writing you need to have evidence for all the points you make for obvious reasons. However, I struggle with integrating the points I am trying to make into a coherent argument where all the points work together to make a piece. What I have just described is the source of my frustration this week; well, most of it anyway.

The other source of frustration is that it is proving a lot slower to get samples delivered than I thought it would be; I was expecting to make one phone call, and the samples would be on their way as this is what happened the previous time. Alas, this is not the case, this supplier is not so fast as the bureaucratic processes that were in place with the previous supplier are not developed. Therefore, I have to play the waiting game, and this creates some anxiety as I fell as if nothing happens soon my supervisor will be on my case.

Now that the happy stuff is out the way…

It was quite a nice week; on Tuesday we harvested all the rocket plants we planted two-weeks prior. It was backbreaking work again and the rest of the day was a write off once we got home. Although it was a nice change of pace, I will not be too worried if it doesn’t happen again.

For the rest of the week I was sat at home writing, and although I found it frustrating working from home has its charms. It is quiet, and I can manage my time how I want. This was the main draw of a PhD to me: the autonomy. It is nice to make lunch in my kitchen and nip out for a quick run whenever I reach a sticking point. It felt a lot like the earlier months of my PhD, And I hope that I have many more weeks like it. I expect next week will be the same.

Because I had been doing an awful lot of lab work in the previous month my reading has fallen behind, and next week I intend to finish A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking; I started it over a month ago, and it is a relatively short book. I was enjoying it, and as it was my second time of reading I was understanding the concepts a bit better than the first time.

One concept that fascinates me and I still don’t fully understand it time — I even wrote a post about it. For those of you who have never read any physics books you might think time is an easy concept, but in the eyes of relativity and the physical universe, it is very strange.

If anyone has any book recommendation, I would be glad to receive them as I need to get back on my reading train! Preferably non-fiction.

 

Learning to write – Adverbs

Adverbs are to verbs as adjectives are to nouns.

Unlike adjectives, Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

Adverbs are used to make a sentence more interesting and can be used around almost any verb.

Adverbs usually answer questions – how? When? Where?

I walk (how?) quickly

I went to the shop (when?) yesterday

adverbs can be created from adjectives by adding ‘ly’, which is the adjectival form of an adverb

quick becomes quickly

Sometimes you need to change the end of the adjective.

Happy becomes happily.

Unlike much of the rest of the English language, where structure is key, the placement of adverbs does not seem to matter so much.

She answered the door quickly

She quickly answered the door.

As with adjectives groups of words can create an adverbial clause or phrase. As with adjectival clauses, adverbial clauses should contain a subject and a verb. Whereas the adverbial phrase does not have a subject or a verb.

I will have lunch when I have finished writing this post (answers when)

some make money blogging, some do this for fun (answers why)

Intensifiers

supplementary adverbs that are used to add emphasis are called intensifiers – because grammarians like to categorise things.

Very nicely, really like etc.

My personal preference is simple language, so if you don’t need to add an adverb: don’t.

Here is a good website for more information on this.

Learning to write – nouns

Recently I realised that the goal of this blog was to improve my writing and that I had lost sight of that. To rectify this, I have decided to take an in-depth look at all the aspects of writing, starting with nouns.

I have used My grammar and I by Caroline Taggart and Grammarly’s blog post on noun’s as a resource for this post.

This should be a quick one? The essence of a noun is that it is a ‘naming word’.

However, as is the way with the English language, there are many categories and sub-categories within the categories of nouns. So, without further ado, let’s get into nouns. Fun fact: every sentence must have a subject, and the subject will be a noun.

Nouns can also be the verb of a sentence, just to confuse things. An object can either be an indirect or direct object. A direct object is a noun that receives the action from the subject. An indirect is much rarer and is the recipient of a direct object.

Common nouns

Common nouns are nouns used to name a person, animal, place, thing or abstract idea. An abstract idea would be success, failure, delight, boredom etc.

There are two sub-categories of common nouns, concrete and abstract nouns.

Abstract nouns names something that has no physical existence, such as success, delight and failure.

Concrete nouns are used to name something you can sense with your senses – sight, smell, touch, sound, taste – e.g. parsnip, red, umami etc

All I have to say is why?

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are used to name a specific person, animal, place or thing. Christmas, Wednesday, John etc

Compound nouns

A compound noun as you may have guessed is a noun mad up of more than one word; normally it is two nouns but could be an adjective to.

Science-fiction, level cap, word limit, truck driver etc.

Yet another way of categorising nouns is by countable and non-countable nouns; why you would want to do this, I have no idea.

Countable nouns are used to name something that can be counted; I am not going to bother giving examples for this other than words, 238 words…Use fewer when talking about these nouns, again I don’t know why, probably just convention and now we cant be bothered to consolidate.

non-countable nouns: air, food, sand, wisdom, stupidity etc. Use ‘less’ when talking about these nouns

Last one, I promise!

Collective nouns

A collective noun refers to a group or number of individuals, such as staff, team, jury, colony. Basically, there are loads, check this out for all animal related collective nouns.

The key point is that it is one noun that talks about many of the same.

An issue with the collective noun is that one can refer to a group acting together, or all the groups the members of a group acting as individuals.

There is much more to this subject and I am not the man for the job, here is a good resource

I will leave plural and singular nouns for another day.

http://users.tinyonline.co.uk/gswithenbank/collnoun.htm

One month review of WordPress

I thought I would just share my experience of posting on this platform for the past month. Without any effort on my part, other than writing posts, I have gained 6 followers, 43 views and 22 likes. From looking at the accounts that have followed, I have realised that all but one are liking and following in the hope I will do the same to there blog, and therefore, increase their followership. This does not work.

Without doing anything to promote my blog, all the readership comes from WordPress’s Reader. I would like to see how far this blog can grow organically, so I do not intend on spending money to promote this. However, I may soon upgrade to the next level of WordPress package so I can get a better URL, and more importantly, remove ads. I will upgrade once I have a few more followers, maybe 50?

Life is good – Week three as a PhD student

This week was more interesting; the work was the same, but there was more diversity. A society meeting, and two training courses! One of the training courses was health and safety related, so I’m not too enthusiastic about it, but it was a welcome break from searching through the scientific literature. The second course, which was on Thursday, was about data management. One of the key revelations from the course was that my sponsors could ask for my data at any point, which has certainly re-evaluated my approach to note taking and data storage. My usual approach is as basic as possible, i.e. no comments, minimalist headers, optimised to be imported into stats packages. Knowing that it could be requested from me has changed my view drastically.

Socially in my academic life, I have always been a bit of a mutt. I went to University when I was 24, too old to care about going to clubs anymore, too young to consider myself mature and join the mature society. When you’re 24, 18-year-old people seem like they are decades younger in many ways. Visually not so much, and that is why the older students 30+-year-old are also a vast departure. Anyway, why I am telling you this, is I have always felt a bit out of place, and therefore, did not attend any society stuff. This time around, I have decided to say yes to much more. Which is why I attended a mature society lunch. Bear in mind that you’re technically a mature student after the age of 24 in the UK, I was by far the youngest person at lunch, it felt like going to lunch with my parents, they were nice enough, but it was still slightly odd.

As an aside – I have recently bought a kindle; it is better reading on this device than conventional books, controversial I know. But I was annoyed with having most of my shelf space taken up by books; I had gotten over the fact that it looks good to have a large collection of books, to show how well read you’re to everyone that visits. So, I got rid of most of my books and bought a kindle, now my issue is that books are more expensive than the ones I used to buy from Oxfam. The solution… join the library. So I did. If anyone is considering buying a kindle paper-white. Don’t, as you cant get library ebook’s on there. Which means you’re going to have to pay for almost everything, which is highly sub-optimal.

One of the best things about doing a PhD is the amount of training you receive, I have signed up for 5 courses this year. All free and all expensive if you would have to pay. Also the number of emails I get for different schemes to take part in with different scientific bodies. It is very odd that once you get to the stage In higher education where you’re finally getting paid everything becomes free. I have heard millionaires state this to, obviously slightly differently in the sense that if they have some following they get given stuff for promotion e.g. a fancy car. As an undergraduate everything cost more than I could ever afford, hence the £50K plus debt. It is an observation I have just come to in my life that maybe it should be the bottom 90% that benefit from this rather than the top. I fear I am now chatting bollocks and am far from my remit.

In summary, life is good.