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

The 6 Online Research Skills Your Students Need

1. Check Your Sources

The Skill: Evaluating information found in your sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context

The Challenge: While most kids know not to believe everything they read online, the majority also don’t take the time to fully evaluate their sources, according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The same study showed that, on average, kids as young as 11 rate themselves as quite proficient Internet users, which may inflate their confidence.

The Solution: As a class, discuss the benchmarks for evaluating a website: currency (Is the information up to date?), security (Does the site ask for too much personal information or prompt virus warnings?), scope (Is the information in-depth?), and authority (Does the information come from a trusted expert?). Challenge partners to find one site that meets these benchmarks and one site that fails to do so. During research projects, encourage students to check the benchmarks off a list for each of the sources they use.

2. Ask Good Questions

The Skills: Developing and refining search queries to get better research results

The Challenge: Students will enter a search term, say, “Abraham Lincoln,” and comb through pages of results that aren’t related to their research (think Lincoln beards, Lincoln Logs), rather than narrowing their original query (“Lincoln assassination”).

The Solution: Give small groups three search terms each, ranging from the general to the specific (e.g., “national parks,” “Yellowstone,” and “Yellowstone founding date”). Ask the groups to record how many results are returned for each term. Discuss how specificity can narrow their search to the results they need. Next, challenge groups to come up with three alternate search terms for the most specific item on their lists. (For the Yellowstone example, alternate terms might include “When was Yellowstone founded?” “history of Yellowstone” and “Who founded Yellowstone?”) Compare the results and discuss how changing a few words can generate different information.

3. Go Beyond the Surface

The Skill: Displaying persistence by continuing to pursue information to gain
a broad perspective

The Challenge: Studies have shown that when using a search engine, kids often stop at the first search result, which they deem the most trustworthy.

The Solution: Invite students to create fact trees about whatever they are researching. The starting question is the root of the tree — for example, “How many planets are in the Milky Way?” Then, on branches coming out from the tree, students write facts or pieces of information that answer the question (“Scientists don’t know the exact number,” “There could be billions”). The catch is that each fact must come from a separate, documented source. Encourage students to find at least 10 sources of information to complete their fact trees.

4. Be Patient

The Skill: Displaying emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges

The Challenge: Today’s students are used to information on demand. So when they can’t find the answers to their questions after they’ve spent a few minutes poking around online, they may grow frustrated and throw in the towel.

The Solution: Challenge teams to come up with a well-researched answer to a question that isn’t “Google-able.” Opinion questions about popular culture work well for this activity. For example, “Who’s the best actor ever to have played James Bond?” “Which band is better: the Jonas Brothers or Justin Bieber?” Encourage teams to use a wide variety of sources in answering their questions, including what others have said, box office receipts, and awards. Determine a winner based on which team presents the most convincing case.

5. Respect Ownership

The Skill: Respecting intellectual property rights of creators and producers

The Challenge: Increasingly, young people don’t see piracy as stealing. One survey found that 86 percent of teens felt music piracy was “morally acceptable.”

The Solution: Make it personal. Invite students to write about what it would feel like to get a record deal, star in a movie, or have a book published. As a class, discuss the emotions involved. Then introduce the idea of piracy. Ask, “How would you feel if someone downloaded your music, movie, or book without paying for it?” You might also talk about how it would feel to not get paid for other types of work, such as working in an office or a school. How is piracy similar? How is it different?

6. Use Your Networks

The Skill: Using social networks and information tools to gather and share information

The Challenge: Some kids don’t understand the line between sharing information and plagiarizing it. A survey by plagiarism-prevention firm Turnitin found that the most widely used sources for cribbed material are sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, and Ask.com.

The Solution: Talk to kids about when you might use social sites for research. Provide a list of topics and have partners decide whether it would be a good idea to use these tools. Suggested topics: your family’s countries of origin, the life of Alexander the Great, and the events of September 11, 2001. What could members of your network contribute to each of these discussions? How wouldn’t they be helpful? How would you include information that friends and family share in your work?

Also explain that Wikipedia must be evaluated like any other website. In particular, students should focus on the sources cited in a Wikipedia article and ensure these sources are legitimate. You might have small groups analyze all of the sources for one Wikipedia article for currency, authority, scope, and security. Emphasize that it’s usually better to go back to the original source than to quote directly from Wikipedia.

RESEARCH: TECH AND THE TEEN BRAIN

  • Multitasking Takes a Toll
    According to research at the University of Michigan, homework can take between 25 to 400 percent longer when teens are taking breaks to check e-mail and download music. They lose time not only to the interruptions but also because they must reorient themselves when they return to the material.
     
  • Sleep Is Getting Short Shrift
    Earlier this year, the National Sleep Foundation released a survey showing that the average teen sleeps just seven and a half hours a night, two hours less than what’s recommended for healthy brain development. The culprits? Televisions, laptops, and cell phones in students’ bedrooms.
     
  • Inhibition Losing Ground
    Psychologists call the result of online anonymity “the disinhibition effect” because people of all ages share more than they would in real life. While this effect can lead to bullying, the good news is that there is also “benign disinhibition” — such as gay teens finding online support.

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/6-online-research-skills-your-students-need

Categorized in Online Research

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