All entries for Tuesday 13 December 2011

December 13, 2011

The academic use of Wikipedia

I've not just been told once that Wikipedia has no use in academia - especially as a reference in your doctoral thesis.

To some extent I think that this is true; Wikipedia is un-regulated. Anyone can be the 'expert' so you shouldn't take as gospel what is published here just as you wouldn't reference your taxi driver no matter how knowledgeable he seems to be.

But there is a large amount of information on Wikipedia and as long as you can substantiate the claims made with another source, then I think the content can build your background knowledge in your research area and give you other avenues to explore that you may not have come across otherwise.

If more academics and real 'experts' add to the Wikipedia content then there will be more sound information available - especially if links and citations are made to corroborating evidence.

Don't reference it in your thesis though - you'll just look daft.


This 'Thing' is another good one that until now I have been completely unaware of.

How many times have I ended up with different versions of the same document after sending out for review, wondering which one was correct? - Too many!

And all along there has been a solution to this dilemma hiding from me with the ability to track changes in a document from many sources.

I will definitely be making use of this in the future, especially as I have two academic supervisors and an industrial supervisor to make comments on my work; each of whom will no doubt have differing opinions.

Doodle meeting invite

Moving swiftly onto Thing 17 and creating a meeting invite using Doodle.

I am indoctrinated into using MS Outlook for my email, calendar and meeting organisation and I must say that I don't see any reason to change - especially since it can send invitations to external 'attendees' via email and track attendance and reserve meeting facilities.

I'm not one for dismissing something without trying first though - so I signed up for Doodle and sent an invite to my personal email inviting myself for some 'me time'. Unfortunately I am too busy so I had to decline my kind offer.

Even giving it a go I don't think I'll change but I can see its use for those without an alternative.

Downloading software – why won't you work!!!!

I'm not having much luck today with Things 15 and 16.

Delicious seemed so simple

- download tool bar
- press buttons
- add bookmark to page
- lovely list of web references created

Not so simple

- download wouldn't work
- drag buttons to tool bar - only worked for 'create stack' button
- created 'save on delicious' button following iPhone instructions - amazed it worked!
- press buttons and ...

"The server is currently experiencing a high load."

Moving on to Mendeley.
I had such high hopes - i was really looking forward to finally getting the giant virtual 'stack' of pdfs of journal papers organised and properly referenced.

Again Mendeley seemed so simple

- add documents
- organised to folders if required
- let Mendeley do all of the fiddly referencing (filling in any gaps)
- bask in the glory of organisation

Not so simple

- time spent trying to add documents to webpage using 'Add Document'
- didn't realise it didn't work online and had to download Mendeley Desktop - not a problem just download it
- download didn't work
- utter failure - I need to speak to IT

The research data challenge

Now this is a question that hadn't even crossed my mind. At the end of my project I will have produced a portfolio of work but I will also have quite a bit of data, reports and notes that didn't make it as a submission.

So where does all of this work go?

My background is mechanical design in the defence industry; I'm used to generating a lot of data in the form of concept designs, visit reports/surveys, trade studies, reports/procedures and lots of mechanical/environmental testing. I always knew where to find all of this data - not just the reports and drawings that were published but everything from any project was archived in a project folder - nothing was ever thrown away or considered insignificant. So I am used to storing data in a systematic and logical way.

You can archive your data with the university but who has access to it?

The problem does exist that the data is not truly 'yours' - the university, the sponsor company and any other third party that contributes has a stake in your research and may 'own' your data as Intellectual Property or Proprietary Data that only certain parties have been given permission to view/use.

So how do you then share your data with other researchers?

Not all of your data will be so tied up in political red tape. You just need to be aware of what is sensitive and to discuss dissemination of your research with the relevant stakeholders of your project.

The University/WMG promotes dissemination of research through journal papers, conferences and dedicated dissemination events associated with a particular project. Industry are also keen to show their capabilities to their competitors and collaborators especially if future business can be generated through the exchange of knowlege.

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