The Importance of Feedback

Feedback is a significant and productive contribution in the creation of a good quality thesis. Researchers need to seek feedback and use it in their research. Ph.D. is away from regular lectures, tutorials or classroom sessions. Most of the work that is done is the initiative, and the effort of the researcher himself. It is independent decision making only with some broader guidance from the end of the supervisor. Not all the initiatives lead to success followed by regular and timely feedback. It is important to understand whether the effort and energy are getting used in the right direction.  As a scholar, you need to take an initiative to meet up with your supervisor and ensure that his feedback is getting used towards improvising the quality of your work.

Remember that just casual interaction is not good enough. You need regular, focused, and timely supervision so that it is actually fruitful for the improvisation of your content. Let us discuss here the different areas of your dissertation, where you need to get feedback from your guide:

In the formative stage:  At this stage, you may want to discuss ideas so that you can know that they are feasible, practical, and result oriented. The experience and expertise of your supervisor would be needed here to ensure that the foundation of your thesis is strong and result oriented.

The middle years: By this stage, the results would have started to produce, and you get to know what is the best methodology and approach to analyse your results. Some things which are not working, or are the hurdles and obstacles in your journey, you need to identify them at this stage and remove them from the further effort of your research. You must specifically, and directly seek from your supervisor the input regarding whether or not your results are going in the right direction.

At the later stage: This is very crucial. At this stage, your supervisor can judge the quality of your work, and suggest how you can present it better or embellish it with add on to make it ready for approvals and clearance.  The suggestion given by him may not occur to you because you have not faced it before, and he has the experience and expertise which you don’t have at this stage. The quality of work can be enriched, and improved by the right feedback at this stage.

Things about writing that no one else would tell you about….

Most of the people who are doing their PhD, are intending to be in academics, where what they talk in the classroom will be more important than what they write. Ironically, still, to be able to qualify to be become an academician, you should have done your PhD.

Only when you start your PhD degree do you realise that writing, which is integral to research, is no way similar to passing an exam. Though, for all your previous academic endeavours, it has been the requisite for a successful journey.

You would find a great deal of advice online and offline, about how and what to write, but first thumb rule to adopt for life is, that one never really becomes an expert writer. You keep practicing and you keep improving. That is the journey of a writer.

If you are a parent, then I can tell you that writing has some similarities to parenting. Like, only after becoming a parent, do you realise what it means to be one, only after starting to write, can you know what it means to become a writer.

Still there are a few things about being a writer, which no one would ever tell you about. Here are they:

  • The medium that you start using to write becomes your addictive medium and it is very difficult to switch over mediums. Like, if you are a pen and paper writer, you may find it very difficult to move to a computer to write and vice versa.
  • Once the writer bug in you is awakened, and you are involved in it in body, mind and spirit then it shows everywhere. From body aches to arm twitched arms, your brain starts to stay unaligned with your body clock. You may get the best of ideas at the wackiest of hours.
  • If you are a professional writer, you also got to be a professional digital trouble shooter. With so many software and bugs that are present in the virtual world, and to add to that being able to handle formatting, editing and other concerns on the machine, you got to be not just good at the creative part. Have your technical antennas also ticking.
  • Writing is exhaustive, physically yes but mentally too, equally. So much of creative exploration of your mind tires it and you need to give time to both, to rejuvenate and come back in their productive best state.

It is important that researchers are socially savvy!!

Academic effort is in abundance in the life of researchers and it’s no use if all the effort remains hidden and doesn’t come in public eye. The more is the visibility of the work of a researcher greater is the enrichment of his work. A lot of universities have identified this and therefore are far more focussed than before in establishing their public presence. But some amount of endeavour is expected from the end of the researcher as well on regular basis and it surely has a lot of positive impact on their lives. This positive impact is not restricted to their professional life only but has a positive impact on their personal lives as well.

Internet gives innumerable opportunities to people to interact with others. There are community groups, industries, focussed groups and they have their own special and focused interest area. If a researcher involves himself here, a positive relation can help him to have a lot of   opportunities, ideas and also enhance their professional network in many ways.  If you are socially savvy on different platforms, digitally and otherwise, you would expand your audience and at the same time a leave an impression about yourself and your work potential. Always remember that networking is very important for researchers and each and every contact could be the gateway to newer and better opportunities.

In addition to giving you multiple and diverse platforms, being socially active and savvy is a great motivation booster as well. Feeling demotivated is a phase that comes in the life of the most expert of researchers and often isolation is the cause of this.  But if you simultaneously work around establishing your presence on a public platform, there is no way that your morale would go down and you would be able to always find one or the other source to draw your inspiration. You also get a vent to share your frustrations and joy, thus subtracts your sorrows and multiplies your joys.

Being socially active as a topic remains incomplete if we don’t talk of social media and the kind of role it plays in people’s social engagements.  Various social networking sites such a twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook are great platforms for discussing experiences and achievements. Each of these option has its own benefits and one should not miss onto it.

Researchers must always remember that research, academia and public presence go hand in hand. You cannot move ahead unless you use all of them to your advantage. So what are you waiting for?

How to make the best slides for your research presentation?

A researcher has varied roles to play.  They must know how to work at all places, labs, library and the fields as well. They should be versatile in their skills to be not just good readers and writers but also good presenters. When you have results in your research, you go to show them to others.  When you have to transfer your research results on a PPT, you need to know a few things in advance:

Reduce the text quantity: When you are presenting, your audience has to listen to you. The thumb rule for a presentation is to keep the text as less as possible.  This is because, if the slide has too much of content, then invariable the audience starts to read the text on their own and does not concentrate on what you are saying. Try to keep the text as less as possible on the PPT. That is important.

Incorporate pictorials:  think of images that you can include in your PPT. this is because looking at the picture, the audience is able to focus more on what   you are saying. As long as the picture is able to establish connect between the topic and what you want to say then it is a great way to bring down the clutter of the presentation.

Do not over load new information:  when the reader has to read on his own, he is able to control the pace on his own. However, when he is listening to your presentation then the control of the pace is with you. It is not a good idea to show all your text at one else the reader would mentally move ahead from where you are. Graduate slowly in a step by step approach rather than in a way that the information starts to bounce up on the reader.

Take note of the formatting requirements:   there are a lot of formatting considerations to take care of while you are preparing a presentation. The text should be in such a font and size that it should be easy for the audience to read. There should not be any spelling or typo errors. There should be enough space between the lines, make use of bullet points wherever necessary. Keep a light toned background and place your content in such a way that audience sitting at a good distance can also find it visible in a good enough way.

How and where to create a research centric online profile?

An online profile is accessible to the whole world without any constraints of geographical or social boundaries and researchers always want to have a profile that revolves around their academic performance and achievements. In particular the publication record of a researcher becomes a mirror of his academic growth and should reflect in the CV or profile. Find few sites here that in particular focus on your research and if you are successfully able to create your profile and update it and maintain it well, it will become a good showcase platform for others to know of your productivity and at the same time help you to know the amount of impact your research and contribution is creating in the academic environment.

  1. ImpactStory: this site helps you to create an impressive research linked CV which is a platform to highlight all your research products. It isn’t just confined to publication record. In addition it has a great feedback mechanism that helps you to know the frequency of your work getting cited, mentioned and discussed over the virtual wold. It is used extensively by researchers around the world and is a very useful medium to demonstrate your holistic research skills.
  2. Kudos: Kudos helps you to enhance the readership for your content, it may not be a site that is specific to research related profiles but it surely helps you to create a framework for your publications and increasing your popularity online.
  3. ORCID: ORCID helps you to identify your work in the huge sea of online work that is available. This medium is one way to ensure that all credit for your work is given to you, wherever on the internet it is published. It does that by created distinct identification ids for each researchers who signs in and it helps to ensure 100 per cent representation for your work.
  4. Figshare: figshare is as research repository, which means that you will not just find it useful for your own work but also to get free access to the work of other researchers. On this platform you deposit any research work for public access and exhibit your expertise in your specific area of research to the academia on internet.

In addition, social networking is another great medium but if you further explore you may find options that may not be very popular but have a special focus/target towards investigators and researchers. They are surely to be tapped if getting popular online as a researcher is your target!!

Why and how should researchers have an impressive online presence?

Most of the activities around the world take place online. Research work has all become easier and simpler with the virtual presence. Researchers are able to store data online, communicate through the mail and find all relevant data online. Other than finding data online, there is more to being online. Like most of the other jobs, it is most important to control and have an impressive presence online. When somebody would type your name on Google, what   do you want them to find?

It isn’t difficult to improve your online visibility by just adapting to some basic tips and suggestions. Here they go:

  1. LinkedIn: It is the most rapidly growing professional networking site. It is not just important to have a LinkedIn profile but having an impactful profile is important. Remember that your LinkedIn profile in the top most item in the list of options when your name is searched on Google so it has to be not just  complete but impressive and engaging at the same time. You could do the same by taking care of some of these small little intricacies. Add a professional looking photograph of yourself as mostly profiles that are without photograph do not seek the attention of the reader. Have a clear and formal photo.  Just one more step to customise the URL of your profile to have your name would surely increase the traffic when your name is searched by people online. Your public profile URL with your name should be right below your picture on the profile page. Whatever percentage of your LinkedIn profile you make public, as a researcher your list of publications, presentations, conferences and editorial contributions should be visible to all.
  2. Twitter: among the stream of science, twitter is becoming increasingly popular. It is the medium to share opinions and publications and gets you response, opinion and feedback from colleagues, peer, friend, critics from around the world in a jiffy. You must try your hand at having as twitter handle  and have access to a sea of colleagues, journals , publishers and sometimes even universities or institutes. Some basic and useful tips for a twitter handle are having a short and suitable user name that signifies your profile. Try and make your tweets short, succinct and comprehensive as usually you have a word limit of 140 words. The key is to be recognizable here while being brief. Another very important tip is to look for hashtags and short make use of URL shortners so that you are able to save space when you send links.

In the next blog we will discuss the profiles focusing on your research products. Happy being virtual till then!!!