All entries for Friday 18 November 2011

November 18, 2011

A3 Academic Writing for Arts and Social Sciences

Tutor: Dr Laura Davies

Date of workshop:17/11/2011

Weirdly feel like the pressure is on for this blog post, I may have to up my writing style game here..! Anyway, right, so a few hours ago I was sat in a seminar aimed at improving writing style in my field; Psychology. (Possibly incorrect semicolon usage - oh dear). We began by discussing the definitions of analysis and evaluation; two key parts of most academic writing that we will participate in. We went on to talk about referencing, the overall structure of essays, and had a go at discussing the strengths and weaknesses of some example essay sections (including having a quick look at our own work, which is much much harder to analyse; I guess we just can't help but take our own criticism personally!).

So, what strengths and weaknesses do I have? Intending to print off the last essay I did, I accidentally printed off a piece of work I wrote on developmental psychology from my first year. However, this actually had a surprise benefit: I could see the change in the quality of my work up to this point, and the advice I received demonstrated just how far I can go from here! Currently, I'm pretty good at presenting an argument (the benefits of doing an English Literature A level!), and writing with a decent structure. One thing I lack however, is not being able to present information in a clear, precise manner. Having been encouraged to use elaborate language in essays at A level, I find it very hard to switch this writing style off, and go into "nobody cares about pointless adjectives" mode. Therefore, first action point: in all pieces of work I'm writing, make a conscious effort to read over the completed piece, and cut out any unnecessary language.

My second action point ties in with not using unnecessary language. Whenever I write an essay and check back over it, I almost always find myself over the word count. At this point, I begin to see that pretty much ALL sentences can be presented in a much more precise manner. This applies not only to adjectives etc. but also to general sentence structure. So, my second action point will be to start out by structure sentences correctly in upcoming essays. If, when writing the essay for the first time, I can make sure sentences are written to convey the main evidence, and nothing more, then when it comes to exams I will be able to write in this way (as there is less time to check through essays in that context).

Finally, my last action point is that I need to read more journals. The more I expose myself to the subject literature, the more I should be able to soak up their writing style, like a metaphorical academic sponge. I figure that if I pick journals that interest me, I'll be able to maintain concentration and may get through on average one more piece of writing every day, which would be a good start!

I will try to update my progress on this side of my skills development at the end of next week, when I've attempted to put these targets into action. Good stuff!

Matt


P8 Leading a Group Project

Tutor: Mary Sage

Date of workshop:16/11/2011

Let's do this. So, the first workshop based on leadership was a few days ago. We began by thinking about what a project is actually defined as, followed by working out what made projects successful. Bingo, straight away hit on my first action point: setting milestones with projects. You see, when I have a project to do with or without others, or any large task for that matter, I generally throw it all into one big category - THE PROJECT. Hence, it always seems daunting, and I often end up avoiding it like the plague. However, when I start it, I really get into it, and end up wearing myself out by working long hours that should have been separated out! So, first action point - aim to split large tasks (not just projects), into smaller ones. I've also noticed this then leading other people; I don't see the overall aim as a series of small goals.

Next, we learned about authoritarian, participative and delegative leadership styles. Authoritarian is the standard "you do this. I'm the boss." style of leadership, participative is more "let's all contribute to decisions and live in harmony", and delegative is "I'm the leader, but you guys decide everything on your own". Thinking about my own style, I definitely have to rule out authoritarian: I'm pretty rubbish att telling people what to do (cue assertiveness skills seminar!). Conversely, I'd say my strengths lie in getting all opinions and making decisions that keep everyone happy; I'm not a big fan of conflict! This leads onto my next action point; delegation and chasing people up. If people aren't pulling their weight in group projects, or anything in life, I'm the last to force them to do things. A polite suggestion is just about as far as I'll go; I find it hard to make people do things they don't want to do. So, since there aren't many oppertunities to make sure people are working in group projects currently, I figure the next best thing is looking outside my academic life. The kitchen in my house (bear with me here) is constantly a complete mess. I'm only really bothered when it's my cutlery etc. that's used and not washed up, but it's getting pretty ridiculous. Anyway, the skill I'm going to try and implement is encouraging people to play their role in putting the work in to keep the room tidy. This skill is obviously transferable to any projects I have to lead in future. I guess you could call it being team leader of "Project Kitchen"! Except maybe not, because that sounds super lame.

Hmm, third action point... considering we have a psychology project coming up, which involves team work, I think it would be wise for me to get the team I'm probably working with together and come up with some ideas about what kind of thing to do a study on. This kind of planning this far ahead isn't normally something I would do, but neither is a seminar on leadership, and both will help me in the long run!

Summary: Break things into smaller tasks, delegate and enforce tasks, and work out an early project action plan to save time later. Sounds do-able, we shall see!

Matt


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