Following on from the previous article on skills required when working as a lecturer, this article will examine five of the most important skills you need to become an excellent academic researcher. Obviously each field, arts, science or social science, has its own specialist skills that you must acquire, but here are five generic research skills that will help you achieve your goals.

1. Project Management

Every research project requires some degree of project management; this is a term you often hear being used, but what does it mean?

Project management essentially means good planning. You will have to define your research in terms of achievable aims, the time and resources needed to do this. You will have to provide a step by step plan of how you intend to carry this out. This stage of your research must be completed in order to get external funding, so without this skill your research project will not even get off the ground. If you are currently working on someone else's project as an assistant, try to learn as much as possible from them about the details of planning and running a project. Set achievable aims and realistic estimates of time, manpower and money needed.

2. Handling Budgets

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Another important skill is learning how to manage a budget effectively. Without this skill you will never be able to lead your own research project. It's something that you may not have done in any great depth for your PhD.

As an academic you might have administrative support to help you hold the purse strings, but the final decision-making and responsibility will come down to you. As with your own domestic budget, keeping a regular check on monies in and out is vital: do not bury your head in the sand if things appear to be going wrong. Make sure you match your research goals to the money you have been awarded. Do not over-commit yourself in the hiring of other staff, or running collaborative workshops, both of which can cost a lot of money. But equally remember that the money is there to be spent, do not hoard it! And finally, make sure you keep good records of your income and spending: your university, funding body or the ‘tax man' may want to see your records at any time.

3. Team leading/managing

Being good at working with others is a difficult skill to achieve especially in the academic world when we are used to working with a large degree of autonomy. However a research project often requires the assistance of others: colleagues at your institution and elsewhere, administrative staff and possibly people in the private sector as well.

If you are managing the project you need to know two main things: how to get the best out of each of your workers, and how to make their working experience a positive one. Without both of those factors, your team may fall apart. Being a good communicator is important. Asking each person to play their part is vital, but so is listening to them, asking for their feedback on decisions or asking what is wrong if they are not happy. Being able to assess each colleague's needs and vulnerabilities is essential if you are going to be able to lead them as a team.

4. Handling Data

Depending on your field the sorts of results you get from your project will vary widely. It could be results from experiments within a laboratory, statistical evidence gathered from work in the field or qualitative material gleaned from interviews or from research in an archive or library. Whatever sort of results you get, you need to be able to handle large amounts of data efficiently and effectively. Without this skill you will never get to the exciting stage of actually analysing your results.

So how do you handle data successfully? By being well organised and planning ahead. While you may not be exactly sure of what you will produce, you will know what sort of data storage you need, both electronically and on paper, so organise this immediately. You must not lose any work because of incompetence or disorganisation. So design and set up your database now; organise storage for hard copies of raw materials and catalogue them clearly. Make sure you keep records of who is collecting what as you go along, so that when it comes to writing up your research later, you have all the answers you need at your fingertips.

5. IT skills

Closely linked with point 4 is the necessity of developing IT skills. It is unlikely you will be running your own research project without being fairly IT literate, but there are always new methods or packages to learn about, so don't stop!

For example, are there any data collection or storage packages that would help your research that you are unfamiliar with? What about analytical tools for working with large amounts of data? Perhaps you need something bespoke and experimental for your project that you could help to design. It could be that a bibliographical tool might help you write up your research. Also think about ways that you can develop your IT skills to present your work in ever more exciting ways. Can you build your own website for example?

IT is a very important area for researchers. Like our own fields of interest, IT never stands still, there is always a way to improve your skills even further.

Source: jobs.ac.uk

Categorized in Online Research

Tip 1: Create a support group


Why not make your daily coffee break with your colleagues into a support group moment by not only discussing your plans for the weekend, but by also sharing your thoughts on your research.
Jennifer: “Regular contact with your voluntary support group allows you to further your research. Discussing the progress you are making means that you prioritize your research more, which, in turn, increases productivity.”


Tip 2: How to eat a chocolate elephant?


Exactly; one bite at a time.
Jennifer: “The same applies to writing. Writing is a process of one step at a time, but also of starting over and over again – the famous shitty first draft or draft zero. Dividing long pieces into small doable components is an enormous help. Consistently write for twenty-five minutes a day, and you will see that by the end of the month you will have eaten a large portion of your elephant! Another advantage of this way of working is that it is very effective. Because you keep on top of things, you need less warm-up time.”

Tip 3: Increase your clarity of thoughts

One of the pitfalls of working from home is that you easily get distracted by your surroundings. Jennifer: “This is certainly the case when you are completing a difficult and mentally demanding task. Suddenly it seems vital that you tidy your room, clean your bathroom or answer your emails. Yet, don’t do it! What you should do, is write these thoughts down on a notepad, every time you get distracted. You will find that you will have made good progress by the end of the day, and that what you have written down on your notepad no longer seems important.”

Tip 4: Increase your clarity of thoughts, part two

To optimize your concentration levels, it is important that you create an atmosphere that suits you. Jennifer: “Make use of everything that helps you to get into the writing mood; coffee, ginseng, special music – personally, I benefit from listening to Simeon ten Holt – or aromatherapy, it doesn’t matter. You could, for example, create your own CD with background music to work to. There’s one condition, however; don’t use it as a way to postpone sitting down to work.”

Tip 5: The pomodoro technique

Work with a timer at hand. Jennifer: “I’m a competitive person and I especially like competing with myself. Therefore, when I sit down to write, I set myself a time limit. In twenty-five minutes I must write as many words as I can. After a five minute break, I write for another twenty-five minutes, in which I aim to write even more words than before. This technique, which is called the pomodoro technique (handy apps are available!), is all about dividing your workload in manageable time slots, with five minute breaks in between.”

Tip 6: Enhance your relationship


Your relationship with your colleagues, that is. Once you have established a bond with your colleagues, you can read each other’s work and exchange feedback. Jennifer: “I have learned a lot from reading the work of others. And every day, to practice writing, you can write about what you have read. Even if these are only short pieces, you will find that you will get better at it.”

Tip 7: You can do better!


You can indeed do better, and the good thing is, it all comes from within yourself! Jennifer: “Before becoming a PhD-student, I worked in Sweden for a company called Telia, writing my Master’s thesis. At one point, I had the opportunity to vie for a trip abroad, all expenses covered, to attend an interesting talk. In order to win, I had to write an article. My first draft was rejected by my supervisor, as were my second and my third drafts. With each draft I handed in, my supervisor commented: “You can do better.” Finally, my fourth draft was accepted! Apparently, prompted by my supervisor’s comments that I could do better, I had found an inner strength to improve myself, which was a huge boost for my
self-confidence.”

Tip 8: Prioritize your research


Write it down in your diary, and stick to it! Jennifer: “Approach your research as if it were a teaching position; you can’t skip giving a lecture because there are students waiting for you, counting on you to be there. So no matter how busy you are, you will of course give that lecture. Apply the same rule to your research. Just do it.”

Tip 9: Adopt a realistic view on time


Jennifer: “Many people don’t have a clue how long it will take them to complete a certain task. Yet, working on schedule and planning ahead only succeeds if you are aware of exactly that, and of how you can use your time effectively. So be realistic about time!”

Jennifer recommends


Belcher, Wendy.
Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success
'This is currently my favorite book on the article writing process! Highly recommended.'

Sylvia, Paul J.
How to Write a Lot
'Short and sweet! Very good motivational manual, advice about writing, productivity, etcetera.'

Source : http://www.rug.nl/news/2012/04/jennifer-spenader-successful-researcher 

Categorized in Online Research

Conducting research on the Internet can prove to be either a gold mine, rich with nuggets of knowledge and information, or a mine field littered with stretched truths and dead ends. Which of these two you experience depends on how you go about your research, where and how you look for information, and how you organise it when you find it.

Here are five top tips to make your research easier, more accurate and more effective.

1. Know your sources.

It’s easy to find pretty much any information you want on the World Wide Web. The problem is that it’s not always entirely accurate. For this reason it’s good to try and find the same information from multiple sources and, if possible, the original source. You should always ask yourself if the site you are using is the most reliable source of information. Does it cite additional sources? Do the authors write objectively or subjectively? Is it a creditable organisation?

Citation of the source information is very important when you are looking for information on wiki-style encyclopaedias like Wikipedia. Anybody can edit the information presented on a wiki. While this allows for vast sums of knowledge to be collected more easily, it also leaves a wide margin for error and, in some cases, exploitation. Good Wikipedia articles will always cite sources of information. If there are no citations or the sources seem flaky at best, you should try to verify the data elsewhere.

Government (.gov.uk) and University (.ac.uk) sites are often good sources of information. There are also many private intelligence and information databases, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw; these subscription-based sites are indispensable sources for legal research. The CIA runs a great website called World Fact Book, and it is an excellent source of geographical information. WolframAlpha is another huge database of knowledge which may be useful for legal research. Always seek out the best-quality sources, and keep in mind that often even newspapers or other big news websites may spin a story in their own political direction. For these reasons it’s good to read multiple news articles about the same story in order to extract all the facts.

2. Use your web browser properly.

Web browsers have evolved over time from being able to handle only one page at a time to multi-headed dragons capable of keeping open and managing several pages at the same time in one window. Not only is this a more convenient way of browsing and managing open pages, but it is also easier on your PC. On any modern browser, pressing Ctrl-T will open a new empty tab. If you want to follow a link but keep the original link open, you can right-click and choose “Open link in new tab”. This makes skipping back and forth between pages to compare information a breeze.

Modern browsers like Firefox have the ability to install extensions. These are browser add-ons that extend the capabilities of your web browser. These extensions do anything from word counting to finding citations. There are several add-ons which search LexisNexis, Westlaw, Wikipedia and Google Scholar for citations and legal data.

3. Organise your bookmarks.

It may sound obvious, but many people don’t take the time to manage their bookmarks. If you are trawling through a lot of data, life becomes a lot easier if you make good use of bookmarks. The simplest method is using your browser’s built-in bookmark manager. Create folders for specific things you are looking for, and store related URLs in them. You can go as far as creating sub-folders. If you really want to organise your bookmarked sites, you should try installing a bookmark add-on in Firefox. Bookmarking services such as delicious.com provide official Firefox add-ons which let you go as far as managing your bookmarks with tags. Tagging makes finding data easy because you only need to type in the tag “criminal justice bill” to find anything you have tagged with those words. Some bookmark providers will even show results from other users who have tagged the same information. However you go about it, having a well-organised bookmarking system is a must for effective research.

4. Learn to use advanced search techniques.

Effective Internet research depends a lot on how you search. What keywords are you using? Are your search phrases worded as well as they could be? Are you using advanced search operators? If you haven’t already, you should read my tutorial on advanced web searching with Google. It’s a great start if you want to learn advanced web-searching techniques, and it can help you find the right information much more quickly and accurately.

5. Follow the web.

The oldest methods can sometimes still be the best. Follow the web, surf the wave of information and follow your intuition. Every link you click and page you read will take you closer to your goal. Like a gold prospector of old, sometimes the best discoveries are made using the ingredients of chance, luck and finding the right page at the right time. Sometimes you may stumble onto a page that contains a bit more information than a previous one. Try searching for the names and places you find; stringing information together like this can often result in much better finds. The more you use the web for research, the better you will become at it. In time you will find yourself locating the right data with the least effort. It just takes practice.

Do you have anything to share with fellow members? Research tricks that others may find helpful? If so, feel free to discuss them in the comments section. Happy researching.

Source : http://www.legalsecretaryjournal.com/?q=five_tips_to_improve_your_internet_research_skills

Categorized in Online Research

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