Thesis Reflection Attempt no 3: The beginning of a thesis’ checklist….

I am a masters student in Performance Studies, with a particular interest in dramaturgy and dance. I am also fascinated by philosophy and science and I am interested in exploring how these different fields of study can interact, challenge existing modes of knowledge, and offer alternative ways of understanding concepts such as cognition, embodiment and experience.

Ok, now I feel like I am starting to actually get somewhere…

Yesterday, I had this sudden burst of thoughts while I was on the train, so I noted them down on my phone, and I think they might be a good way to start my thinking process…

I think after you reach some critical points during the thesis process it is important to identify the issues that were creating issues and mental blockages… And then, I remembered a book that I read recently written by a Atul Gawande a doctor trying to figure out ways to deal with complex situations…The title of the book was The Checklist Manifesto, and however odd or funny it might sound he uses some really interesting examples on how a good checklist can prevent to a large extend a wide variety of even deadly incidents…I am not going to elaborate further on that, but it might suffice to say that it has been mastered by aviation professionals, civil engineers and construction workers and their success depends heavily on checklists…In the book, he even presented very compelling examples and evidence in order to encourage more and more doctors to use checklists…

All in all, the point that I want to make is that it might prove also useful to try and employ this strategy for my thesis….these critical points that you might encounter during your thesis are moments when you learn something, whether this had a positive or a negative effect, and by trying to condense and codify them, you might prevent the same issues from coming up again, even in a different form…I don’t know about the rest of the people, but I think that some of the problems that I encounter might manifest in different ways, but actually originate from the same source, maybe that is a thought, a specific insecurity, an attitude that I have acquired over the years and I continue to enact, without me really realizing, and most of the time without realizing how detrimental it might be for my mood, and the way that I decide to approach things….. Soooooo what should my checklist include???

These are the first points that I came up with while on the train:

  • Accepting that you might need to let go of an idea – Veery important!!! I tend to get stuck on a specific way of doing things that has proven many times in my life and for very different things to be very counterproductive….
  • Learning to identify when advice and help is needed – I have this also very annoying attitude towards things most of the time, where I want things to be perfect and I think that I should be able to do everything on my own…But then, you end up getting stuck in your own mind bubble…also very counterproductive as well as frustrating
  • Start writing, formulating thoughts, even when you feel you don’t have any – Sometimes ideas don’t just appear, and inspiration can’t just pop out of nowhere. Yes, it is true that some days you have a, let’s say a more “productive” mindset, but unless you maintain and oil your machine regularly, it will eventually get stuck and then you would need twice the effort to make it run again… So, it’s good to start writing…whatever that writing might be, just to open the tap and let the water running. I think this is why I am also doing this blogpost…writing in such an informal context, without being worried how “correct” I am, whether my thoughts construct a convincing argument, they are “well- researched and backed up by other authors, helps me get into the mood and into the flow if writing…In my mind, I am now considering this an essential part of writing my thesis…and I am actually very, very surprised at how many words I was able to generate in the last three days, with literally no struggle, no effort.
  • Let the text speak for itself – Another important element, don’t try to impose your own desires and wishes on a text. On a superficial level you might think that two authors are saying similar things, but when that time comes when you need to bring them together it suddenly doesn’t work….and then you get stuck….If you see that something does not flow and cannot be explained and connected in a simple and precise manner, then it might be wiser to distance yourself from the text(s) and rethink your approach…
  • By trying to articulate your ideas in an informal setting you are testing the extent in which you have truly comprehended the material – Really useful exercise and also connected with the previous points about accepting help or advice, or even just be excited about what you are doing and try to share your ideas with people who are interested in listening, I think I have underestimated the power of communication until now during this process…
  • If you are not able to construct a consistent narrative then you might need to re-evaluate how your ideas are linked – Also connected with the point on making the text speak for itself…it is very important to be open to the flow that research generates. There are certain things that you can control and other that you can’t… and in the end this is the point of doing research you want to find out more about something…if you already knew everything you wouldn’t enter into this process… but then exactly because you don’t know everything, you don’t know exactly where the text that you are reading will guide you …you start with some assumptions but maybe your initial assumptions might be wrong… of course you start working on a topic that you are more or less familiar with you already have an intuition and some explicit or less explicit reasons why you choose that, but it is again extremely counterproductive to try to impose your ideas on your research sometimes you might need to…just go with the flow…

Well, if I might say, I am quite satisfied with the first draft of my checklist…it will definitely need to go through many trial and error checks and I think I will have something more concrete only after my thesis has finished…maybe even several months later…But I think it will be fun to see where this thing goes…

To see more of Liza’s writing click the link below.

Learning to write – pronouns

I thought this was going to be an easy one, and it would just be an extension of nouns. However, it seems pronouns are just as complicated.

Pronouns are essentially words that take the place of nouns. And from my understanding, their only purpose is to make the text more interesting.

Instead of writing ‘Sam wants to be a lawyer, therefore, Sam needs to go to law school’.

Sam wants to be a lawyer, therefore, he needs to go to law school’.

There are many different categories of pronoun, there are: personal, relative, subject and object, demonstrative, indefinite, reflexive, intensive, possessive, reciprocal and lastly interrogative.

So… let us start with the personal pronouns.

The personal pronouns are: I, me, you, he, she, her, him, it, we, us, they and them.

Despite the term ‘personal’ they do not have to refer to a person – what is it?

They are essentially the pronouns that are associated with ‘person’ in writing i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd.

Relative pronouns

These are used to connect relative clauses – which can be restrictive (provides essential information about the noun) and non-restrictive (can be left out without affecting the meaning of the clause) – to independent clauses. Relative clauses are used to identify the noun that came before them.

The relative pronouns are: which, that, whom, whose, who, when, what.

My writing, which is relatively poor, is improving.

Subject and object pronouns

Who and whom. When referring to a subject use the ‘who’ pronoun, and when referring to an object use whom. I will look at subject and object in another post. But in short, the object is acted upon by the subject.

To whom, should I send this letter?

Who will receive the letter?

Demonstrative pronouns

A demonstrative shows distance as I spoke about in this post.

The demonstrative pronouns are: that, this, these, those.

This is used for singular items that are nearby, whereas, these not those (over there) is used for many items that are close.

Indefinite pronouns

Are used when you need to refer to something unspecific, one, none, other, some, anybody, everybody and no one.

Reflexive and intensive pronouns

reflexive pronouns are used when both the subject and object of a verb refer to the same person or thing. They have self or selves on the end. Himself, themselves etc

The writer set himself the task of writing about pronouns.

Intensive pronouns are more unnecessary as a category in my opinion; they are similar to reflexive pronouns but they do a different thing, they add emphasis.

I wrote the blog post myself. The ‘myself’ is unnecessary but it adds emphasis.

Antecedents

Not technically a pronoun but it is important. The antecedent is the noun that the pronoun refers to.

My girlfriend (antecedent) bakes me cakes, I love her (pronoun) for that.

Possessive pronouns

its, his, her, our, their, My, your and whose

Seems obvious, and it is. Basically, they show possession

Absolute pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs) can be substituted for the thing that belongs to the antecedent.

BloggerX is working on his blog post.

They are absolute because they stand alone and do not modify nouns.

Reciprocal pronouns

Reciprocal pronouns are each other and one another

each other refers to two things, one another refers to multiple things.

These are used when two or more things are acting in the same way towards the other.

The blogger and commenters are talking to one another.

Interrogative pronouns

These, as the name suggest are used in questioning: whose, who, what, which

who wants to leave a like and follow?

Learning to write – Articles

This week I am going to be focusing on Articles of speech.

What is an Article? Or a Article?

Well, all the following are articles: the, a, an.

Articles are words that define nouns. What does it mean to define a noun?

Take the following sentences:

At the park, I kicked the football

At a park, I kicked a football.

The use of the and a here give specificity to the situation. ‘The park’ is a specific park whereas

a park’ is any park.

There are technical terms for the differences in the two types of article. Definite and Indefinite.

The is the definite article as it makes the noun specific, and yep, you guessed it, a and an are indefinite articles.

Which indefinite article do I use? I hear you ask’.

Well, there is a general rule for this, and yes there are exceptions. The rule is a comes before a noun where the noun begins with a consonant, and ‘an’ comes before a noun that begins with a vowel.

For example:

I want an Ice cream – started with an ‘I’ (vowel) and therefore, is an.

I want a new car – adjective started with ‘n’ (consonant) and therefore, is a

There is such a thing as a zero article.

A zero article usually applies to plurals or mass nouns

For example:

People are not good with wasps (including me). As ‘wasps’ is plural, no article is required.

It is also worth noting that pronouns and proper nouns do not require articles.

for more articles like this click here

Easily influenced – Week nine as a PhD student

This was written well over three months ago, and I remember the next morning after writing this and thinking, that I would never publish this as it is quite weird. I think it is essential to show the process of improvement so it will be posted.

Week 9. I mentioned last week that I had a lab meeting this week, surprisingly, It went very well. To explain why I have to take you back to my first year at university. During the 1st summer holiday, I spent my time working as a paid intern at an olive factory. It was closer to my parents home than it was to my home, so during the week I would stay with my parents, and travel home on the weekend. I got bored almost instantly and the fact that I had stopped learning was grinding on me; I decided I should learn a language (One of my friend’s brother learnt mandarin and now is earning a wedge in China). I’m sure, that most people reading this are native English speakers. My thinking was to choose a language by-the-numbers, so Spanish or Chinese. However, I didn’t really want to learn either. Another one of my friends was studying computer science; I ended up choosing to learn a programming language instead. I must skip forward to the present day, as the nostalgia is leading me to become a tourist in my own youth (Sickboy). I am leaving the realms of beginner python programmer and am now touching the bottom of the boot of an intermediate programmer. I have previously mentioned that I have been working with ImageJ to analyse the colour of decaying plant tissue. I showed the group what I had been doing and got a fantastic reception. Now I am mid-development on my own program; it will do what I was doing in ImageJ but in an automated fashion. When I have finished writing this program, I will have something I can use throughout the rest of my PhD which should make things easier in the long-run.

In other news, I finally finished ‘Look Homeward, Angel’ by Tom Wolfe. I did not enjoy reading the book therefore, I will be switching back to non-fiction. With Christmas approaching I am feeling a strong bout of niggardliness coming on (if you have read the book you won’t be surprised by that word) I sensed this would be an issue now that I am more fiscally aware. I will just have to try and re-program my brain, a seasonal patch back to Self 0.5 when consumption was the well-placed hit that kept me on the ride. This week has been one of the better ones, but if you forced me I could not pin down exactly why that is, my guess would be a sense of progress. I earned £5 this week for being a participant in a psychology experiment; the true meaning of the study has eluded me, but the task was related to finding smiling faces among other facial expressions and then hitting the appropriate button upon seeing a smiling face. Half an hour of being a lab rat; £5 tacked on to my net-worth, I’ll take that over a real job all day long.

Next week presents us with a plethora of Christmas parties, my first exposure to partying with academics, into the fray we go! I am also going back to the lab to correct some of the work that was brought up in the lab meeting; the meeting was very productive. Another reason for getting back into the lab is that I am tired of staring at my computer screen. I’m running out of steam for this week’s post and am trying to wrap up. Choose a blog. Choose an error. Choose to work 9-5 as anonymous desk flesh because you’re too scared to do anything else. Choose to be like everyone else. Choose a mortgage. Choose a cat or dog, or both. Choose consumerism and a life filled with debt. Choose to read something else, by someone who can actually write. Don’t choose anything; rise with the tide and have your life be dictated by circumstance, there are no right answers.

P.S. I wasn’t high while writing this: I watched Transpotting2 last night.

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

Progress and Procrastination – week eight as a PhD student

In contrast to last week, I have managed to start writing this on Friday, Will I finish it? No courses this week, the only time I left the house was to attend the school’s weekly Wednesday seminar. The weekly seminar series is compulsory; students and academics have to give talks at least once a year. First years like me normally have until the summer before they have to do a turn. However, it still gives me fear, knowing I am going to get an email telling me when I have to perform. Anyway, that was the only time I actually went to the place where I work, which is one of the perks of doing a PhD. This week I have felt much less productive, I have been busy but it didn’t feel like I was getting much done. One of those weeks I guess. Also, our washing machine broke and we had our bathroom window break so that it was stuck open, not ideal. I am very distracted whilst writing this, as I am watching DrDisRespect at the same time.

I did not finish this on Friday night… It is now Saturday morning, today I have to un-plumb the washing machine so the new one can be installed, go to the gym, record the data from my experiment and re-evaluate what my short-term goals are for my experiments. I have a lab meeting coming up next week, where I will at the very least have to explain what I am up to. This isn’t really something you can wing and you generally get challenged each time on certain aspects of your thinking. But this Is one way in which one learns. I have a love-hate relationship with It, on one hand, I can’t live without challenge, on the other hand, I don’t enjoy being questioned in front of the group, who does? So I will still be working today but not at as much as I would on a weekday; I do try and keep a 9-5 schedule. I am very cautious of burning out, a phenomenon I encountered every exam period as, I am sure, every student has at some point. To be fair I fully understand the confusing literature on lettuce discolouration from the results of my experiments this week, so that is a big personal win. At least there Is a sign of progress. Although pink and brown are the obvious colours the eye is drawn to, they are not the most significant change. That most changed award goes to yellow, which increases subtly over shelf-life but no-one seems to care about it!

This week I got a personal best solve on the Rubix cube, one minute and twenty seconds. I am getting close to the sub one minute zone, pro’s only. We are going to start watching season two of stranger things this evening which is exciting, we binged-watched the first season last weekend. I think I will leave it here for this week; I am going to try and make this the best piece of writing I have done, in a grammatical sense, so far.

According to Grammarly, there are 19 advanced issues. Can you spot them?

Stumbling towards productivity – Week six as PhD student.

This week, I feel that I am finding my feet a little bit. I am still unsure what I am doing, but I have been doing something, which is progress in some sense. I have one training course this week that was about creative thinking and problem solving, as expected I felt about average in the group with my problem-solving skills. The creativity part was easily the most fun, as we just played games essentially. I noticed that the main effect of the creative activities was the awakening of my competitive side. For anyone else out there that has a highly competitive personality, you will know that is the best and worst of you at times. I feel that creativity is more fun in many ways, but often feels devoid of meaning, so I will not be donning my kimono and silk trousers anytime soon (I don’t know).

I Learnt how to use a new program (ImageJ) which made me feel productive for the first time in a while. However, I also tried to learn how to use scikit-image, the python module for image analysis and had a nightmare installing the module. If anyone has tried to switch to Linux from the ‘other two’ you will be well aware of the time-sink that can occur trying to get stuff to work, that you know would take minutes on the ‘other two’. I installed Linux as I wanted to learn a bit more about the technology I had been ignorantly using for the majority of my life. The massive positive is that my patience has drastically increased. There are so many problems you have to solve using Linux, such as getting the spellchecker to work in Libre Office, which was a good half-day. There have been many instances similar to that, however, i have not yet come across a problem that I could not solve eventually. I would recommend switching only from a hobbyist point of view or in professional circumstances, you would certainly be more productive in the ‘other two’ operating systems. But, having said that, most of the best things in life are due to their difficulty; there are also privacy and ethical issues to consider, but I will not get into that. Wow, that was very rambly, I do apologize.

In summary, it is coming along slowly, I still feel lost. The consolation is that everyone I speak to is feeling the same, and thankfully misery loves company.