All 9 entries tagged Salma

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January 15, 2013

End of transcription & start of analysis – I feel alive again!

Despite having planned to transcribe all my research interviews as I was going along, it didn’t quite work out that way. This was mainly due to the limited availability of participants and then the lack of them, which meant I re-located mid-way (very happily I must say) to my parent’s home for over two weeks so that I could conduct interviews one after the other. There’s nothing more I need or would want for motivation and energy than the fresh chappatis and curries my mother churns out every evening! Bless her :)

chappatis and curry

So moving on, having spent the last month trying to complete transcribing over 20 hours of spoken word (imagine - I have typed over 100,000 words – only if that could be included in my thesis!), and having finally completed it today, I feel alive again! Yes, it was such a bore. I’m not saying my research is not interesting, of course it is very very interesting, and I can't wait to start analysing the juicy data, but sitting for 7 to 8 hours per day, just typing away, is not only boring and tedious, but can be frustrating too especially when it feels like it's never going to end. But it will end - if you are in the transcription phase, just hang in there, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Hence, to celebrate the end of the transcription phase (finally over!) and the start of the analysis stage (woohoo, can’t wait to get going!), despite the snow, I am taking my other half out to Pizza Express this evening (check out their 40% off offer – yeah I know that’s cheeky – but hey I am still technically a student).


September 04, 2012

Recording & Transcribing Interviews

This past week I've been busy conducting interviews and transcribing them, so I thought I'd share my experience and ask you to share yours! :)

Recording interviews


I use a digital recorder to record interviews as well as an app on the iPhone called iTalk which was recommended by some fellow PhD students. The iTalk app brings out the best quality of recording for me and it is very convenient as it is linked to my Dropbox and can therefore upload the file on to Dropbox with one click of a button (however doesn't work with very large files). There is a Lite version of the app which you can try for free, and the full version is around £1.50. This is working fine for me and the recording quality is excellent especially in comparison to the digital voice recorder I have (I do record the interviews on both just in case). However, I will probably need a much more sophisticated digital recorder when I decide to record a focus group.

Which device/app do you use to record interviews?

Transcribing Interviews


I am using Express Scribe Pro(FREE!) to re-play my recordings and it is working fantastically for me. You can set the audio speed to a lower speed (mine is set at 59%) and set to 'play the audio with pauses', which automatically pauses the audio every couple of seconds and it means you can transcribe the audio without ever having to click pause (and without the need for a foot pedall). Transcription for a one hour recording takes professional transcribers at least 6 hours to transcribe. Rebecca Houge (who I met through Twitter) mentioned on her blog that she uses Dragon Dictate alongside Express Scribe Pro to transcribe interviews, which cuts the transcription time by half (3 hours of transcription for 1 hour of recording), to quote her:

Second, I use Dragon Dictate(I'm on a Mac, it is Dragon Naturally Speakingon PC) to transcribe the text. If you are buying it, I highly recommend the physical shipment, as you get a good quality headset that is designed to work well with Dragon.

The trick to this is not to input the audio into Dragon, which gets mixed reviews for effectiveness, but rather to re-speak the transcribed text. I listen to the audio file in my headphones, then repeat exactly what is said into the microphone at a pace that is optimal for Dragon Dictate. The pace is slightly slower than normal talking, but not much. The more important part is to pace your words, speak clearly, and speak your punctuation. Dragon then types it out. I proofread as I go along, and correct any errors.

Seems like a great idea in theory. However, Dragon software is not available at the University (yet) and it isn't a cheap software to buy.

So how do transcribe your interviews/focus groups etc? Have you ever outsourced the transcription work?

August 16, 2012

Holidays for PhD students – how does it work? – by Salma

Follow-up to Summer Busy–Ness – by Tomi from PhD Life: a blog about the PhD student experience

phd image

I've been inspired to write this post after Temilola wrote a post below asking about tips to stay focused when everyone else is enjoying their holidays in the sun. My tips are in the comments on that post, but this lead me to wondering how holidays/annual leave for PhD students work? I am currently on what I call annual leave :)

In my first year, I would book holidays around two months in advance, and notify my supervisor. As far as I know she didn't keep count of the amount of days (she trusts me :)), and has always encouraged me to take holidays. I did ask her regarding the number of days we can take off in a year and I think she said (as far as I can recall) around 4 weeks (20 days) plus statuary holidays. This was roughly the same as what my husband can take off from work, so it was easy to keep count as most of our holidays were on the same day.

Before the start of this year though, with my husband in a new job where he had to book all of his annual leave days at the beginning of the year, we both booked our annual leave days a year in advance, and I sent my annual leave (holiday) dates to my supervisors, who approved them. In many ways this is working better for us (even though it limits spontaneity), because it means as we know when we have off in advance, we have something to look forward to and of course can book and plan holidays (overseas or in the UK) months in advance instead of struggling trying to find a decent deal at the last minute ;)

I also think it may be better to refer to the days off as annual leave and not holiday, because even if you feel like you don't need a holiday, or don't deserve a holiday you will still then take your alloacted annual leave days off (like I am currently doing) and I'm sure the break would do you some good (a chance to blog in my case ;-))


Is there an official limit to the number of days PhD students can take off? If there is no official limit to holidays, how do you take holidays? Does your supervisor keep a count of the number of days you take off? Has your supervisor ever told you you can't take a holiday, and if so why? Has your supervisor ever forced you to take a holiday? Do you have to notify your department/supervisor when you take days off?

July 31, 2012

Calling at London Kings Cross Only – PhD–ing on the train … – by Salma

The 10:15 First Capital Connect Service to London Kings Cross. Calling at London Kings Cross Only


I'm writing this post on a train, on my way to London for a work related event. Thankfully it's rather quiet even though the Olympics are on, but maybe that's because I'm on the 10.15am train and I haven't reached London yet! :)

In the past year, I've done countless long journeys on the train. And overtime I've found I work really well on the train. I've done some of my best work on the train and the journey (or scenery?) seems to inspire me :)

Having said that, the journeys really do vary, dependent on the carrier. There have been some journeys where I've been frustrated because:

a. There's no power cable (example first capital connect - the train I'm sitting on today).

b. They've blocked use of 3G due to in house wi-fi 3. Power cables are only in the seats with a table

Now, as I book long journeys where there is an option to choose different routes, I tend to try and find a carrier that have power cables at each seat and allows use of 3G (which I use to connect to the internet). Considering that many people are working/playing on the phones on trains with their heads down, it is rather surprising that trains are not catering for it.

Coming back to the point regarding inspiration and places, I seem to work very well on trains, and I reckon it has something to do with the constant change of scenery and the pressure to finish my piece of work before my battery goes dead or on the lucky occasions when the train arrives at my destination. I do wonder though however, that if I did this very regularly, it would probably bore me out and the novelty would wear off. Train stations remind me of airports and the excitement that comes with airports.

  • Have you got experience of working on the train?
  • Are there any places that you work particularly well in?
  • Does the change of scenery/environment help you?
  • Where have you done the best of your work from?

Sent from my iPhone

May 16, 2012

Ethics Committee Approval – by Salma

For those of you that are familiar with conducting research with human participants, you are probably familiar with the research ethics committees based at the University. Almost everyone I know in the academic sphere seems to have a word or two to say about ethics committees. But I'm not here to rant; I'm here to share my utter relief at gaining an approval after a three week wait, and I think this calls for a mini-online celeberation with a slice of 0-calorie-cake:



As you've probbaly figured by now, no, I'm sorry, it wont pop out of your screen and land on your desk ... ;)

Back to the topic (cakes are distracting), have you had experience of undergoing ethical approval for your study? How was the experience for you?

March 06, 2012

The 'unorthodox tools' of a researcher – by Salma

With the constant distraction around us, whether that is in the form of emails, text messages, alerts, tweets, whatsapp, gchat etc, it is no surprise that many of us are constantly finding little room for reflection. As I found a moment a two last week as the sunshine was pouring into the city, and my wheelie was producing far too much noise pollution (see below), I suddenly had a chance to reflect on the unorthodox tools that help me as a PhD researcher. These are my top three 'unorthodox tools' I can't live without (not in order of importance):

1. My wheelie (pic below) to wheel my laptop, books and notes. I wont deny that my OH almost always insists on carrying the shopping bags whilst I stroll along empty handed alongside him. Hence, when I was faced with carrying a 17inch laptop, plus books and notes around campus, I have to admit I did freak out a little (my arms werea little sore). Then I saw my supervisor with a wheelie, I just had to get one. Since that day, we have never parted! However, I have been found complaining on a few occasions regarding the noise pollution it creates. When I walk into the open plan office at Warwick, I don't need to let anyone know about my presence, it does it for me. Yet, I find myself wondering every other week: Has a silent wheelie been invented? Or should I add that to my even increasing post-PhD to do list? ;)

I have a very similar one to this

2. My food flask (pic below) as it allows me to have homemade left overs such as curry at work. It is the only food flask that doesn't require one to heat it up using boiling water, all it needs is a couple of minutes in the microwave. Voila :)

food flask

3. The practice of daily meditation and reflection. It helps keep my research and life into perspective.


So what are the top three 'unorthodox tools' that help you as a PhD researcher, or ones you can't live without?

January 17, 2012

My experience with Mendeley – by Salma

Writing about web page


Exactly a year ago I gave up on EndNote after attempting to use it for a week. It was dull (the interface made me fall asleep), frustrating and confusing. It was then I decided to look into other Reference Management Software (RMS) and came across Zoteroand Mendeley. Mendeley came highly recommended by A Hariri (a fellow blogger at Warwick). After a conversation with him on his blog, I decided to give a shot and I fell in love with it (and it hasn't let me down as yet). It is pleasant on the eye, easy to navigate and works on portable mobile devices too (such as the iPhone). It also places pdfs into a directory that are easily searchable and editable, allows one to add sticky notes to pdf files, papers are kept in the cloud so you can access papers and download to multiple platforms, allows importing from other reference managers, and facilitates collaboration within research groups too. In a nutshell EndNote is a reference management software, but Mendeley goes far beyond that and has many additional features that EndNote simply doesn't have.


During the past few months I've been asking PhD students and academics at Warwick which RMS they use. When many told me they don't use EndNote, in fact they don't use anything (they manually write up the references by typing them up!), I was shocked to say the very least.

Do you use a Reference Management Software (like EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero etc)? If so, which one and why?

If you are frustrated with EndNote or are looking for a fresh way to organise your journal articles and reference with a click of a button, you are more than welcome to come along to the Mendeley Workshop I am running in the Library on the 16th of Feb. Just register here:

January 06, 2012

Time–out to reflect on the bigger picture – by Salma



By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.- Confucious

As the year of 2011 came to an end, so did the 1st year of my PhD. At my progress review interview in Sep, I was advised to take time out to reflect. Hence, at the end of Oct I was told by my supervisors to take a month off my normal schedule to reflect on the progress of my PhD and where I had reached so far, and what the future entails. Naturally, the idea sounded absurd to me: 'sit and think for a WHOLE month, how can I do that? I will get bored, plus I have X and X and X to do'.

However, this 'time-out' was probably one of the best things I did for my PhD. It allowed me to look at the bigger picture of the PhD (it is easy to become deeply obsorbed in the nitty gritty details), outline what was going well and what wasn't, define very clearly what the future would entail and choices after PhD, and more importantly, learn from past mistakes and experiences.

Have you taken time out to reflect on your PhD progress and direction? If so, was it beneficial?

December 07, 2011

Too many emails in your inbox? Use Outlook Folders to automatically manage them – by Salma Patel

Editor's note: Please welcome Salma Patel to our blogging community! Salma is is a doctoral researcher at the University of Warwick with a primary research interest in digital engagement and participation in healthcare environment design. She has a background in computing, web design, education, librarianship and management. You can follow her on twitter: @salma_patel

How many of you have way too many emails in your inbox?

A couple of months into my PhD I subscribed to Google Scholar Alerts. I inputted various keywords that Google could used to send me alerts if a new paper was published using those keywords. So every 2-3 days I receive around 8 emails from Google alerting me to papers to read. This is of course fantastic. However, in August, I took a two week break which was a complete break from the internet and my iPhone (I'd say this rather bizarre experience probably deserves a post of its own). When I came back, I had 150 emails, from which around 100 where from Google Scholar Alerts, other newsletters I had subscribed too, and basically emails that didn't require urgent attention. The emails I was wanted to see in front of me where the ones from my supervisor and others related directly to my research.

With an inbox that flashed at me that I had 100+ emails that still needed to be read, it was demotivating to say the very least (as I am the organised type of person), even though I knew I had taken care of the 'important' ones. A month later I joined a professional online society, which started sending me around 30 emails per day. As all my emails are setup on push (both on my laptop and on my iPhone), this is when I knew there had to be a way for my inbox to realise that some emails are much more 'important' in the short term than others. So this is how my love story with Outlook Folders began ...

Outlook Folders allows one to direct emails from certain email addresses into folders that sit within the inbox, but are don't appear in the main inbox. So for example, all emails coming from Google Scholar alerts sit in the Google Scholar alerts folder instead of the Inbox, and all emails from PM Group, sit in the PM Group folder:

Outlook Folders setup

This now means:

1. I am not alerted on my laptop or iPhone (by push) when emails from Google Scholar/PM Group arrive (as I don't want to be alerted because they are not in my priority list, but I could of course change those settings)

2. Hence I can concentrate on emails that are important in the short term.

3. It means that my emails are better organised, and easily searchable.

4. I don't feel guilty every time I look at my inbox - I have the honour of having zero-inbox even if it is not technically zero! ;) (Some could argue this is not a good thing ...)

I'm also thinking about how I could use utilise Outlook Folders effectively in other ways too. For example, all emails coming in from finance or careers office etc could go straight into folders, so the only emails left in my main Inbox would be emails related directly to my research. I could use them to clean up my inbox too. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Removes clutter, organises emails automatically and makes me feel good, what more could a girl ask for? Or am I just blinded by love?

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