November 07, 2011

Thing 8: Register for Twitter and find researchers to follow

Twitter is a powerful networking tool because of the fast, informal and non-hierarchical communication it facilitates - if you find someone’s work interesting and want to communicate with them then you can instantly get in touch. The fact that responses on Twitter are so quick to compose, as well as the generally friendly and sharing ethos on the service, means that people tend to be very responsive and approachable.

Perhaps more so than most digital tools, it can be hard to ‘get’ Twitter until you practice using it - it’s so different from other forms of communication that trying to describe it in the abstract can make it sound much more confusing than it actually is. However there’s a large academic community using it and more are joining every day.

Twitter by eldh, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by eldh

For some examples of the ways in which Twitter can be used by researchers, take a look at this guide produced by a doctoral researcher at Warwick Manufacturing Group.

For thing 8 we're asking you to sign up to Twitter and find some researchers to follow. Use the step by step instructions to get started. Remember to blog about your experience.

Additional Resources:

Networking online for researchers

The author of the blog posts for this week’s theme is Mark Carrigan. Mark is a postgraduate researcher in the Sociology department. He is a prolific blogger and can be found on a number of social networking sites online. As a 23 Things course tutor tutor, Mark can support registered participants through your blogs, so be sure to write about your experience of all the Things!

For many people ‘networking’ isn’t an attractive term. It conjures up images of forced, superficial and self-interested interaction. But it doesn’t have to be like that. At heart networking for researchers simply means expanding the range of people you’re in contact with.

Who are you going to want to be in contact with? Most likely your priority would be people who work in your area and share your research interests. We all already have networks, even if we don’t think of them as such. By expanding the range of the researchers you’re in contact with, i.e. your network, it’s possible to raise your profile, be aware of opportunities and find potential collaborators. This expansion could happen at a number of levels:

  1. Within your department
  2. Within your discipline
  3. Within your institution
  4. Outside your institution
  5. Outside your discipline
  6. Outside academia

Many of the digital tools we’ve looked at in 23 Things are great for networking online. We’ll look at two tools in particular this week: Twitter and Lanyrd. The former is a social networking and micro-blogging service based around sending and receiving messages of 140 characters or less. Lanyrd is a relatively new service which uses Twitter to digitally connect people who attend conferences.

Additional Resources

October 31, 2011

Thing 7: Create or update your own ePortfolio

As a University of Warwick PhD student, your ePortfolio is an online showcase for your academic life. It is a collection of web pages summarizing your academic projects, achievements and commitments which you can edit quickly and easily.

ePortfolio uses the University’s SiteBuilder system, an easy to use tool which lets you publish online without any technical skills (there’s additional training online for SiteBuilder on the IT Services website). As a starting point, take a few minutes to look at the different uses to which an ePortfolio can be put in this list of examples.

Phd students can apply for an ePortfolio on the Student Careers and Skills website. It can take up to 10 working days to setup an ePortfolio so, if you don’t have one, there’s a possibility you might not be able to start working on yours before the end of this week’s theme. If this happens to be the case, we suggest that you come back to this Thing once you get e-mail confirmation that your ePortfolio is online, or at least just read more about them and look at others' ePortfolios for inspiration!

Here are some pages that you could add to your ePortfolio, inspired by the ‘getting started’ page, produced by the ePortfolio team:

1. Intellectual biography and personal profile
2. Details about your research
3. Your C.V.
4. The skills you possess & training courses you’ve attended
5. Conferences you’ve attended
6. Things you’ve published and/or presentations you’ve given
7. Key texts you use in your research
8. A glossary of some of the terminology in your research area
9. Your experience of teaching
10. Other projects you’re involved in

It’s very easy for people to find your ePortfolio once it’s online because search engines rank the University’s domain name very highly. It’s also possible to apply for an short URL at the university’s Go.Warwick service, so that your ePortfolio can be

To get a short URL, select ‘create new redirect’ at the top of the Go.warwick page, type your name into the first box, a description of your ePortfolio into the second box, the original URL of your ePortfolio into the third box and press ‘request new redirect’. This then gives you an extremely professional web address (e.g. mine is which you can, for instance, place in the signature line on your e-mails or put on business cards.

When viewing your ePortfolio, if you select ‘edit’ and ‘view page statistics’ on the menu bar at the top of the screen, it’s possible to see how many people view your ePortfolio and how they find it. Now all you have to do is keep your ePortfolio regularly updated and you’ll rapidly start to reap the benefits of much increased visibility as a researcher.

But what does the process of ‘updating’ your ePortfolio involve? This may seem like an obvious question but it’s worth pondering. As well as simply reflecting the facts about your research, updating your ePortfolio also involves engaging with a range of important questions:

  • How do you think about your work?
  • Do you have ‘side projects’ as well as your PhD?
  • How do these fit together?
  • What are the central features of each?

The process of summarizing your work, deciding what to include/exclude and how to structure its presentation on your ePortfolio can have a radical effect on your understanding of your academic life. As one user describes their experience of creating an ePortfolio: "It has made me think about my work from the point of view of an outsider. Sometimes its quite hard to distance yourself from your work and I feel that it has made me really have to think about how other people see it."

Explore some more:

Support for creating your ePortfolio content

Getting started with your ePortfolio

Online training course for SiteBuilder

Example ePortfolios

Applying for your ePortfolio

Video about using an ePortfolio

Thing 6: Joining

“What’s” is a question that, until fairly recently, I was regularly asked at conferences if I brought it up in conversation. Fortunately it’s not a difficult question to answer: is like Facebook for academics. It’s designed in the same way, has a similar interface and you can even link it your Facebook account so you can immediately connect with any Facebook friends who use the service.

The advantages it has over Facebook are two fold. Firstly it allows you to keep your professional online identity separate from your personal online identity: it allows you to keep in touch with people through social networking that you wouldn’t necessarily want to add as friends on Facebook. Secondly all the applications are specifically designed for academics: you can post papers, your CV, research interests, ask questions, post presentations and much more. All of the content you post on it can be tagged i.e. given a key word which helps others find it.

See how can look:

screen shot of

The only disadvantage to is that, until recently, the question “what is it?” was a fairly common one. People simply didn’t know it existed. In my experience this seems to be changing quite rapidly, though there’s still some way to go. It is important for a social networking site like this one to have a large enough population for it to take off, for participants to really get the best value from it.

Download the step by step instructions on how to set up an account on

Explore online profiles further

Thing 7 is all about ePortfolios at Warwick, so have a look at those too!

Read about using Facebook as a researcher, on the ResearchExchange website.

LinkedIn is a very popular professional networking site, although it is not designed for academic researchers. Read about LinkedIn on the ResearchExchange website.

There are plenty of other profile hosting websites that you can investigate for yourself, although not all of them will have the same functions as Below is a list of some other sites that you may want to explore for yourself: you could use more than one of these to link to your favourite profile site, and boost the Google ranking of your favourite online profile.

Online Identity

The author of the blog posts for this week’s theme is Mark Carrigan. Mark is a postgraduate researcher in the Sociology department. He is a prolific blogger and can be found on a number of social networking sites online. As a 23 Things course tutor tutor, Mark can support registered participants through your blogs, so be sure to write about your experience of all the Things!

Although it can feel like the internet has been around for a long time, it really hasn’t. E-mail and mailing lists may have been part of academic life for many years but social media is only now starting to have much of an impact on academia. Established norms have built up around academic identity over many decades. In fact some are so established that they just seem to be ‘common sense’ and we tend not to think about them. However because the digital tools covered by 23 Things are so new, particularly within academia, they pose all sorts of new questions about how you present yourself and your work when using them.

In one way, questions of online identity for researchers are much simpler than those relating to ‘offline’ identity, in so far as that it’s much easier to exercise reflective control over your internet presence than it is over other aspects of your identity as a researcher. In another way though it’s more complex: the novelty of the tools, as well as the expansion of communication facilitated by them, means that online identity is relatively uncharted territory for researchers. To a certain extent these are personal matters, determined by an individual’s own sense of comfort with different approaches to online identity. However there are some key questions and suggestions which you might like to consider. Watch the video clip and read below to consider some of these.

1. What do you want to achieve through your online activity?

For instance, do you want to keep in contact with people you meet at conferences, connect to other researchers in your field, find opportunities to collaborate, promote your work or participate in debates about academic life? There are many reasons why researchers might want to cultivate an online identity but unless you’re clear about what your reasons are, your activity in this area is unlikely to be particularly rewarding or successful.

2. Given what you want to achieve, what would be the best platforms and tools for you to use?

Not all social media platforms are the same and this is reflected in who uses them and how they’re used. If you want to keep informed about new developments and participate in debates then twitter is for you. In contrast if your main concern is to connect with people in your area then you’d probably be more suited to Beware of the possibilities for procrastination which too many social media accounts can create - be strategic!

(Keep up with this 23 Things course to explore the platforms and tools.)

3. How should you behave online? How much of yourself do you want to express in your activity?

Do you want to keep a ‘professional’ identity which is clearly separate from your ‘personal’ identity? This depends on your personality, comfort in using online spaces and your academic aims. Some people make no attempt to separate personal & professional while others clearly demarcate where one ends and the other begins. These are two extremes with most people falling somewhere between them on the spectrum. However you choose to answer these questions don’t forget that all mediums are public to at least some degree!

Meet others interested in this theme: Tuesday 1 November, 12-1pm

This week's peer support event in the Research Exchange will be on "Improving your online presence & impact". Anna Sloan will be very glad to meet and talk to you and introduce you to some of these sites in the sofa area of the Wolfson Research Exchange on Tuesday 1 November, 12-1pm.

October 26, 2011

Thing 5: Podcasts, videocasts and iTunes U: subscribing to multi–media content.

Lots of people have listened to or watched a podcast recording, but subscribing to a regular output is a different “thing”! So, Thing 5 asks you to subscribe to a podcast: there are plenty of scholarly podcast sources available. You can do this using your podcast “catching” or aggregating tool of choice, but instructions are provided for you to use iTunes.

itunes podcast logo

What is a podcast?
Put simply, a podcast is a regular digital media publication which folks can subscribe to using podcast subscription tools on their computers or other mobile devices. However, there are more technical definitions of what is and is not a podcast, and you can read more about this on Wikipedia if you are interested.

Read more about Podcasts on iTunes.

And a videocast?
Podcasts were originally mostly audio content, although many podcasts are videos these days, and ‘videocast’ is just another word used to describe a video podcast: a variety of terminology exists! The word ‘podcast’ is a term which is also sometimes used to describe ordinary online audio or video content which does not have a subscription element, although this is not a strictly correct use of the term.

How do I do this “Thing”?
iTunes is software that needs to be downloaded, to both manage and play podcast material, and I have chosen it for this course because of the wealth of high quality material available on iTunes U which cannot all be discovered or played on the open web. Follow the step by step instructions, or read below about some alternatives.

Places to find podcasts:
As an alternative to iTunes U, AcademicEarth also has a lot of University video materials available for download and subscription. There are plenty of other podcast sources available, including:

Tools to manage podcast subscriptions:
If you’re not using iTunes to manage your podcast subscriptions, you can use Google Reader for, eg Nature’s podcasts: on the Nature site there is a podcast icon which looks like the classic RSS feed icon, and clicking on this will take your through similar menus to the RSS feed subscription described in Thing 3.

Another alternative way for you to subscribe to podcasts is through a smart phone, and the Google Listen app is one which you might like to explore, as a way of managing your podcast subscriptions on your phone.

I wanna get involved: I have lots to say!
This course doesn’t cover podcast creation but if you are keen on podcasts and want to start to create your own, then I recommend starting with the Apple instructions at:

Explore a little further: Digital media in Arts and Humanities research

Arts and Humanities scholars using or planning to use digital media in their research might be interested in the advice of Stephen Gray, University of Bristol who appears in this video on Cambridge University’s website:

Thing 4: Journal, search and citation alert subscriptions

For this Thing, you can just subscribe to one journal’s table of contents, or you can choose another kind of alert, or indeed many alerts to subscribe to. Don't forget to write about the process on your blog, so that our tutors can offer you support and tips.

One journal’s table of contents
This can be a pretty quick thing to do… You can subscribe to journal table of content alerts in a number of different ways. The simplest way might be to visit the home page of your favourite journal, and look for options to get e-mail or RSS notifications from there. For example, read about Wiley-Blackwell journal alerts here:

a journal home page

Many journals’ tables of contents
If you want to manage journals' table of contents alerts in your e-mail inbox then ZETOC is likely to be the best place for you to set up alerts: In this way, you can watch numerous journals and searches, and then manage the e-mails as they arrive in your inbox since all alerts will come from the same source and you will only need to set up one filtering rule to manage them all. ZETOC do also offer RSS feeds:

Search alerts
Other than subscribing to tables of contents for journals, you might want to subscribe to a particular search on your favourite journals database, so that you get notifications of when new articles are added to the database which match your search criteria. It is probably best that you investigate your own database(s) of choice for your discipline, but as an example, Web of Knowledge’s instructions are available at:

To visit Web of Knowledge, start at the Library’s databases listing at W:
Note that you will need to “sign in” twice on most databases: once to authenticate yourself as a member of the University of Warwick and once to identify yourself to your own account on the database. One process might be called a login and the other a sign in.

Citation alerts
Web of Science within Web of Knowledge is a citations database. (You can read about the collections and their disciplinary coverage which is much broader than just science at: So when you are viewing an article on Web of Science, you can click on a small button “Create Citation alert” to get notifications of when new articles are added to the database which cite the one you are interested in.
Read more about these at:

October 24, 2011

Thing 3: Subscribe to the RSS feed of the 23 Things blog

A subscription to this blog will help make it easier for you to follow all the Things and instructions on how to do them. By subscribing, you will get to see when the latest 23 Things instructions are published. Once you have subscribed to this feed remember to write about the process on your blog.

The basics
Look for the orange RSS button on the left of this blog page. If you just click on it, you may find that you are taken through the steps to subscribe to it via an RSS feed reader which is related to the internet browser software that you are using. Or you might see a basic looking web page. Or a page full of code! What you see will depend on your Internet browser.

You will know if a webpage or blog has an RSS feed as you will see a button (usually orange) similar to this: RSS button 

You need to choose an RSS feed reader for yourself. There are a variety of RSS feed readers available to you, but the ones I have used are:

  • iGoogle – not strictly an RSS feed reader but it can work a bit like one.
  • Google Reader
  • Bloglines Reader

…and I can recommend any of them to you as useful and powerful tools. The simplest one, which I recommend that you do for the purposes of this “Thing”, is to use iGoogle. Even if you already have an RSS feed reader, iGoogle can be handy to use alongside one.

You can read more on RSS feed basics on the whatisrss website. And about using RSS feeds in a research context on the Research Exchange website.

What is iGoogle?

Using iGoogle you can create a start page (or pages!) for yourself, incorporating information from a number of other websites and handy tools onto one page (or set of pages). A start page can save you time because you won’t need to visit so many separate websites so often.

For ideas on how to use iGoogle, this iGoogle tutorial is very good.

Although iGoogle looks a tiny bit different these days, the tutorial shows you the things that you can do with it.
To subscribe to the 23 Things blog using iGoogle follow these Step by Step instructions.

What about an RSS feed reader?
It can make your iGoogle start page a bit cluttered if you put every news feed onto it as a gadget. You could opt to create a Google Reader account instead – or as well as an iGoogle page. Google Reader can put a gadget onto your iGoogle start page, too!

This is a useful video on the basics of Google Reader. And there are detailed instructions on the Google website.

Note that you can manage your subscriptions on Google Reader. This will help you to delete unwanted subscriptions, and to group those you read most often or those on a particular theme together. Also note the “Mark all as read” button for each feed, which you can select even when you have chosen not to read stuff. Then next time you will be notified of content that is new since you marked it as read.

The Warwick option
Warwick University has its own start page, start.warwick. If you sign in with your Warwick username and password, you will find it already populated with some different tabs of boxes that you might find handy. The first tab has videos of useful stuff you can explore. If you use Files.warwick or the EAT card, you may find this start page a useful place to visit, or even use as your home page.

Another option
MyYahoo! works in a similar way to iGoogle.

Further information
To see technical stuff, have a look at the "good old" Wikipedia article on RSS
To browse RSS feeds and explore further, you might find the RSS Compendium helpful.

Current awareness

The author of the blog posts this week is Jenny Delasalle. Jenny is an academic librarian with a particular remit to support researchers at the University of Warwick. Jenny's blog can be found on the Library’s Support for Research page.

As a PhD student, you need to know the published literature relating to your own research. How do you keep your knowledge up to date? There are a multitude of sources available to you and you could go back to search them every now and again… but that takes time to do and you might forget when you have those teaching commitments to meet. Or you might run out of time to update your knowledge just before that important conference where you want to impress!

You might want to keep up with higher education or other news too, and to get alerts about job advertisements or training opportunities and all sorts of other interests. As a digital professional you have plenty of current awareness sources to choose from, and the trick is to find ways to manage all the sources that are most appropriate and convenient for you.

This week we will be exploring ways of subscribing to content, so that it is delivered to you. We’ll be starting in thing 3 with instructions on subscribing to this blog!

Forthcoming events on this theme

  • Peer support : What is going on out there? - Tuesday 25 October, 12-1, REx sofas
  • RSSP literature searching for journal articles - Thursday 3 November, 2pm in Library Training Room

October 17, 2011

Thing 2: publishing a presentation or document on SlideShare

Over the course of your PhD you’ll almost certainly give presentations at academic events. These experiences can be immensely valuable, as you present your work in a public forum and get feedback from others. In many disciplines there are events specifically focused on postgraduate researchers, intended to offer a supportive and friendly environment in which to gain experience of presenting your work to an audience. As well as being invaluable confidence-boosters which sharpen your professional skills, these events are also great for networking: connecting with others who share your interests and work in similar areas.

However only limited numbers attend and, given many such events run parallel sessions, not everyone who wants to see your presentation may be able to be there. That’s why tools like SlideShare are so useful. It becomes possible to make your work available to people who couldn’t attend in person. Likewise they can be used to follow up with attendees who expressed an interest in your presentation because it’s easy to share it online via social media or e-mail.

To complete thing 2 download and follow the step-by-step instructions for creating a Slideshare account, then write about the process on your blog.

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