November 28, 2011

Getting organised

The author for this week's theme is Francesca Scott. Francesca is a doctoral researcher in the department of English and Comparative Literature. Her research focuses on the history of midwifery, female sexuality and female health in the eighteenth century. She will be supporting your progress this week through your blogs. Or you can contact Francesca through her Research Match profile.

The phrase “getting organised” tends to fill us with dread. When we sit down with a new research project in front of us, observe with horror the extent of the task before us, our urge is to start blindly researching in a mad panic. We might start by randomly typing key words into Google, find some interesting sites, but forget to bookmark them, or end of with hundreds of bookmarks without any coherence. Or we might start scribbling down quotes, references and citations on bits of paper, which then end up in a jumble, tucked into books, at the bottom of bags, or—worse still— in that stack of papers we all have somewhere in our homes. Compiling a bibliography or a reading list can then suddenly descend into anarchy. Coping with other people’s organisation (or the lack of it) can be equally stressful. In academia, people live busy lives, and finding a suitable time to sit down as a team, a class, a network or even as a reading group, to discuss the next step, or to outline the scope of the research project, can be a daunting task.

The “Getting Organised” tutorial seeks to address these three particularly troublesome areas of academic life. To help with the problem of organising bookmarks we have Delicious, a social bookmarking web service, which allows us to save, collect and share links of interest. To avoid destroying an entire rainforest, there is Mendeley, a social reference management site which allows us to collate and share research papers and also format our references, without ever having to write on a piece of paper. Finally, we will explore Doodle, a calendar tool that can be used to coordinate meetings, and thus avoid that endless backwards and forwards of emails.


Other than allowing us to feel more in control of our academic and —by extension— personal lives, “Getting Organised” facilitates sharing and collaboration; each “thing” prompts you to connect with people outside of your discipline and even outside of academia, with, for example, relevant and important industries, thus helping you to raise your academic profile, improve your research and/or strengthen the relationship you have with your students.


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