Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Upskilling: learning to code in R (Erika Duan)

Image by Erika Duan
I learnt to code in R out of necessity.

First, part of my research involved the exploration and visualisation of extremely large datasets.

Second, it never hurts to learn a new job skill.

R is a programming language used mostly by statisticians, bioinformaticians and data scientists (due to its vast library of statistical, data exploration and visualisation tools). Code is written via a program called R studio. As a beginner, I found the R studio environment very friendly, as it allows you to write code, test it in small segments (or ‘chunks’) and quickly visualise your results.

When I first started learning R, I had no experience with coding and was utterly clueless. My first coding session happened at an introductory workshop held by Research Bazaar (ResBaz) in 2016. ResBaz is an annual research fair, held early in the year at the University of Melbourne, which promotes computer literacy and digital research. Although I emerged from the workshop only slightly more knowledgeable than before, the biggest impact of attending ResBaz was its introduction to online research communities via Twitter. This allowed me to connect with different data science communities and researchers, and their posts have led me to useful resources for learning how to code.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Writing together (Kylie Mirmohamadi)

Sue Martin (L) and Kylie Mirmohamadi | Photo courtesy of Kylie
Kylie Mirmohamadi (HuSS) participated in the panel convened by James Burford about 'writing together' during #LTUacwrimo in 2018. 

The presentations from all participants were thought-provoking and reflected the diverse ways that researchers collaborate (or not!) when writing. 

Kylie generously wrote this post for us, based on her panel notes. 

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What follows is a reflection on the practice of collaborative academic writing, and the way that I have experienced it in my work with Professor Sue Martin (College of ASSC's APVC-Research).

For this post, I’m going to leave aside the much larger issue of how collaborative writing is perceived and received within the politics of academic publishing.

I’ll begin with a few observations from other people that illustrate the often-unacknowledged personal dimension of writing together, and also its gendered aspects.

For me, and I’m sure also for Sue and for Katie Holmes (with whom we have also collaborated), writing together academically is a gendered and a feminist activity. Although this is not always the case with collaborations, ours have been productive of, and pursued within, patterns and modes of female friendship. Those friendships that Kayleen Schaefer sees as captured in women’s late-night request to each other to ‘text me when you get home’, which she shows is not only about safety, but also about solidarity, affection, connection, and holding an ongoing conversation with each other (Text me when you get home, 2018).

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The pleasure of values (Interview with James Burford)

In this week's RED Alert, we interview James (Jamie) Burford, who started with the RED team in July 2018. Jamie talks candidly about his research background and offers some great advice to graduate researchers.

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Jamie and his co-blogger Emily |
Photo courtesy of Jamie
How did you end up researching in the field you're in?

My primary research field is higher education, with ongoing dabbles in gender and sexuality studies. And it is fair to say that I sometimes feel surprised to find that I have arrived in this space.

One way to answer this question is to say that my arrival was unplanned. I followed my curiosity and it led me here. There are also some other answers. My BA was in political science, my Masters was in Development Studies and I came to my PhD via youthwork, community development and diversity education. These histories continue to shape the way that I think about research.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Pet positive (Giselle Roberts)

This interview with Professor Pauleen Bennett by Giselle Roberts first appeared in the SHE Review (October 2018) and is republished here with kind permission. 

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Pauleen Bennett and Errol | Photo courtesy of Giselle Roberts
My guess is that Dr Pauleen Bennett is rarely without a dog in tow. On the morning I met her, Errol, one of Bennett’s Lagotto Romagnolo dogs, sat happily in a sunshine-filled corner of the office, gnawing on a chew toy.

Bennett is an anthrozoologist and behavioural psychologist who has devoted her career to understanding the relationship between humans and animals. She heads Australia’s first dedicated human-dog interaction laboratory, and together with Dr Tiffani Howell, has embarked on a ground-breaking program to train assistance dogs for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I sat down with Dr Bennett to chat about how animals enrich our lives.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Done with PhD…and still miles away from Paradise (Fazeela Ibrahim)

Photo collage provided by Fazeela Ibrahim

Could it be three and a half years already?

It still seems like yesterday that I left ‘Paradise’ to embark on my doctoral journey back in 2015. If you're curious to know more about my leaving Paradise, my story begins here.

Approximately three years, two months and a week later, I submitted my thesis for examination in early June 2018 (i.e. just before the three year, three-month minimum submission mark). It was a two hundred and seventeen-page document. To put it simply, for me, it was a proud moment and significant achievement but also a reflection of hard work, exhaustion, self-doubt and tenacity.

It was a shocking moment when my thesis amendments were approved by my supervisors.

My initial reaction was, “I am not ready! There is still a lot more improvement to be made.” But mostly it was because I really wasn’t ready to let go of my prized possession yet, for several reasons (most of which were not directly related to my thesis). What I felt at that time was a quiet moment of joy followed by the dread of what was coming next.

Monday, 10 December 2018

More than words: Reflections from La Trobe’s Academic writing month 2018 (James Burford)

The beginning of the 'Creative ways into academic writing' workshop | Photo by James Burford
In this post RED (Research Education and Development) team lecturer James Burford reflects on the activities of the La Trobe Academic Writing Month, which took place in November.

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This probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, but I’m not super good with numbers.

The slide-sweep-click movement that my thumb does on my phone to find my calculator is a familiar one, and you’ll sometimes see me counting out big numbers on my fingers.

Despite my rather humble abilities in the maths department I know that (taken collectively) the La Trobe researchers participating in #LTUAcWriMo this year will have written more than tens of thousands of words. Indeed, some individual writers clocked up word counts in the tens of thousands. Perhaps the total number of words written by #LTUAcWriMo participants numbers in the hundreds of thousands, or maybe even more?

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Emails are academic writing! (Jamie Burford and Brittany Amell)


via GIPHY

Emails. Every academic’s worst nightmare — or are they?

Spending time on emails is sometimes positioned as the enemy of real academic writing, such as writing theses, articles or book manuscripts.

It doesn’t take long to come across descriptions of email from academics that sound like a review of a thriller movie.

For instance, we've seen words like "dread", "anxiety" and "out of control" used to describe academic inboxes. The Thesis Whisperer even wrote a post on how to avoid Death by Email (hint: limit your email time, use a timer, turn off notifications, and come up with a strategy to manage your inbox). We know that emails build up. They often need to be thought about, replied to, actioned or deleted. And in our increasingly internationalised universities, emails not only now arrive by day, but also by night. Ooof. It’s enough to give anyone an elevated heart rate. Depending on the day, our inboxes might even give us a good jump-scare!

While we know these feelings well, and negotiate them regularly, in this blog post we want to re-position emails as an important form of academic writing in and of themselves. To do this, we lift the veil on our own email correspondence to explore how and why emails might matter for academic writers.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Best writing advice ever?

Photo by Jonathan Percy | unsplash.com
We're into the third week of La Trobe's Academic Writing Month!

It's also the week of the Bundoora 3-day writing retreat and - right now - there are about 50 scholars in the John Scott Meeting House attacking their writing goals on Day 1!

For this post, I canvassed some of our stalwart Thursday morning 'Shut up and write' participants for the best pieces of writing advice that they'd received. I think I actually asked for "writing advice that changed your life, or at least influenced your writing significantly". The biggies, y'know?

These lovely, giving folk responded with the treasures below!

Now, we know that there is no magic formula to writing, and these are offered in the spirit of sharing helpful aspects of the writing process and what resonated with others. Some have whole books as their source, others remembered bits of encouragement or blogpost analogies.

But, enough prevarication. Let's let our researchers speak for themselves!

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Writing all of Saturday? Yes, please! (Julia Dehm)

Image from Wikipedia Commons
URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
File:RMIT_Swanston_Academic_Building_Entrance1_2017.jpg
It’s the end of another long week and the promise of a lazy Saturday pottering in the garden beckons.

Instead, I pack my laptop and books and head towards the CBD to #MelbWriteUp for an intensive writing day.

I’m not alone.

There’s always a packed room of academic writers of various levels: PhD students with submission deadlines looming, early career researchers struggling to find time to write amidst teaching commitments, and more established academics (as well as aspiring creative writers) plugging away on novels and books.

Every Saturday between 10am – 5pm, #MelbWriteUp provides a space for researchers of all levels of experience to come together and focus on their research in a collegial and distraction-free environment.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Three concentration hacks to help you write! (Lise Leitner)


Photo by Dmitry Sovyak | unsplash.com
It’s November, and AcWriMo and NaNoWriMo have officially begun!

If you’re like me and love getting a lot of writing done, but also love all things shiny and distracting, getting long sprints of writing done can feel very difficult some days.

While everyone’s writing routine is different, there are lots of ways to improve your working environment and focus.

The good news is that lots of them are easily accessible and free!

To help you prep like a pro ahead of AcWriMo and/or NanoWriMo, here are three concentration hacks that have greatly helped me focus (and write!) better in the past: