Random Whimsy – Treating Writers Block

15 Jul

Sometimes we all suffer from a bit of writers block – and starting at a blank piece of paper gets intimidating after a while. Lots of people have written about ways to help combat writers block. The success of the different approaches differ from person to person – but I came across two absolute must read articles on writer’s block in the last couple of weeks.

The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”.

A Multisite Cross-Cultural Replication of Upper’s (1974) Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of Writer’s Block

Go ahead and read them now, I promise they won’t take long!


Random Whimsy – NCBI ROFL

8 Jul

Are you getting tired of reading heady intellectual journal articles but don’t want to be caught procrastinating? Do you want to have fun while also reading proper academic papers?

If you answered yes (and even if you didn’t), I bring you NCBI ROFL

The writers at NCBI have scoured the PubMed database to find published scientific articles that will keep you entertained for hours.

They post real scientific articles with funny subjects from the PubMed database

Some of their favourite posts include

Accidental condom inhalation.

Does garlic protect against vampires? An experimental study.

Finding the frequency of Fido’s farts.

Harry Potter and the curse of headache.

A woman’s history of vaginal orgasm is discernible from her walk.

Foolproof Research Proposal Template (via Project Graduate School)

6 Jul

I’ve been working on writing a grant application this week (between that and wandering around London looking for perfect shoes!)

It’s not a big grant, and I’m only a small part of it, but while trying to work out how to sell the research to reviewers I came across this wonderful post in Project Graduate School.

Karen's Foolproof Research Proposal Template Unveiled here:  Karen’s Famous and Foolproof Research Proposal Template. This Research Proposal Template has won hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money for multiple graduate students and scholars in the social sciences and humanities over the past 15 year … Read More

via Project Graduate School

Have fun kids 🙂

Random Whimsy – Open Letter to my Dissertation

1 Jul

This week’s Random Whimsy is from McSweeney’s (by way of The Thesis Whisperer and Explorations of Style).

An open letter to my dissertation on the correlation between history and identity formation in colonial Massachusetts and Pennsylvania‘ from the series ‘Open letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond’.

I’ve always been a big fan of McSweeney’s, so if you’re looking for a way to unwind over the weekend there is a nice place to start.

Working From Home

27 Jun

One of the great things about working on a PhD (as opposed to a regular 9-5 job) is that as long as you don’t have meetings or teaching you can work from anywhere. In fact I know a girl who managed to go overseas for a month without her supervisor ever knowing – she emailed her supervisor files as she was working on them, and managed to avoid scheduling any meetings.

But, even with the best file management (see my post on Dropbox), there are some things that you can’t do from home. For me the major thing is data-analysis. I don’t have a copy of SPSS on my home computer (and don’t want one!), but every so often I’ll be working on a paper from home and realise that I don’t have the results of an analysis that I need. It used to be that I’d just have to grin and bear it, and most often meant that I gave up actually ‘working from home’ for the day and spent time ‘watching television from home’.


And then Adrian introduced me to TeamViewer.

“TeamViewer connects to any PC or server around the world within a few seconds. You can remote control your partner’s PC as if you were sitting right in front of it.”

I can use TeamViewer to connect to my work PC from my home (or from my iPhone), and run any of the programs on my computer. Because I try to keep the files I am working on synced using Dropbox I mainly use TeamViewer for things like SPSS, that I can’t do on my home computer. But I also use it from time to time when I’ve forgotten to put a file in my dropbox, or when I need something I wasn’t expecting to need.

I worked from home on Thursday last week and logged onto my work computer about 10 times – at least once just to freak out my office mate by making my computer look like a ghost controlled it.

Handy hints

Download TeamViewer from here

Set up unattended access so that you can login to your computer without needing to be anywhere near it (and without needing to get a kind office mate to help you). This uses a username and password that doesn’t change.

You can also generate a one time use password if you’re using TeamViewer from a public computer or want to give a friend access to your computer

There is a small version of TeamViewer that is great for tech-support for Luddite family members

TeamViewer is free for personal and non-commercial use

There is a great iPhone app for TeamViewer so you can access your computer from your phone, this is especially helpful because the list of things you can’t do on your phone is probably longer than the list of things you can’t do on your home PC

A paper that changed my week

24 Jun

Sometimes there is a paper that just changes your week. This week it was something that I had read before – by two researchers who influence me immensely – but that I re-read at just the right point in my week. Suddenly I went from having a kind of strange, shadowy, understanding of how to think about my results to having this incredibly clear understanding of my research, and my field, and everything that I see wrong with research in my area.

Michie, S. & Abraham, C. (2004). Interventions to change health behaviours: evidence-based or evidence-inspired?. Psychology & Health19(1), 29-49. doi:10.1080/0887044031000141199

This critical review assesses whether evaluation studies can answer three key questions about behaviour change interventions: ‘Do they work? How well do they work? How do they work?’ Reviews of intervention evaluations are examined, particularly those addressing decreasing unprotected sexual intercourse and smoking. Selection of outcome measures and calculation of effect sizes are discussed. The article also considers the extent to which evaluation reports specify (i) discrete intervention techniques and (ii) psychological mechanisms that account for observed behavioural change. It is concluded that intervention descriptions are often not specific about the techniques employed and that there is no clear correspondence between theoretical inspiration and adoption of particular change techniques. The review calls for experimental testing of specific theory-based techniques, separately and in combination.

Even though I’d read this paper before it hadn’t sunk into me the same way last time I came across it – I think it speaks to the importance of not just reading a something, but reading something at the right time.

That doesn’t mean that we should put-off reading something because we don’t think it’s time has come, but it does mean that you can’t just approach the literature like a checklist – where once you’ve read something you never have to think about it again. I am trying to get better at knowing when I’ve read something too soon and marking things for re-reading later on in the research process but it is something against my natural inclinations.

Regenerating the Academic Workforce

24 Jun

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has just released a report on “the careers, intentions and motivations of higher degree research students in Australia”.

The report takes data from the 2010 National Research Student Survey (NRSS). The survey included 25% of all research students in Australia (11,710 of us!). This is (not suprisingly) the largest survey of research students ever undertaken in Australia.

The report primarily explores the career intentions and motivations of these students. It provides particular emphasis on the interests of Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students in following an academic career on completion of their degree and the support they have received in terms of preparation for university teaching during their candidature.

You can read the full report here, but if you’re interested in working in academia I’d recommend at least having a look at the executive summary. It gives a nice overview of what your competition is doing!

Random Whimsy – Veggie Ipsum

24 Jun

It’s Friday! Another week done and dusted. I hope your week was as productive and inspiring as mine (yay for significant results!).

Either way it is time for some random whimsy – something to ease the transition from “data-analysis land” into the weekend.

This week I give you http://veggieipsum.com/ – a vegetable text generator. Useful if you need some random text to fill a design/layout you’re working on, or soothing if you find reading lists of vegetables relaxing.

veggie Ipsum

For those of you not doing research on healthy eating, Bacon Ipsum is a crispy alternative.



Cool research finding of the week

23 Jun

In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts

Individuals offered in-shell pistachios consumed 41% fewer calories than those eating shelled nuts – despite feeling just as satisfied and just as full.

Shameless self-promotion

22 Jun

It is shameless self-promotion time! One of the first papers I ever submitted – and my first systematic review – has finally made its way into press.

Emily J. Kothe, Barbara Mullan, (2011) “Increasing the frequency of breakfast consumption”, British Food Journal, Vol. 113 Iss: 6, pp.784 – 796

Purpose – A number of interventions aimed at increasing breakfast consumption have been designed and implemented in recent years. This paper seeks to review the current research in this area with the aim of identifying common features of successful interventions and strengths and weaknesses in the current research methodology.

Design/methodology/approach – A systematic review of interventions aimed at increasing breakfast-eating frequency in a non-clinical sample was conducted.

Findings – A total of 11 interventions were identified and reviewed; of these, only three resulted in an increase in breakfast consumption at follow-up. The three studies that were successful in changing breakfast consumption all included a psychosocial component that was successful in increasing positive attitudes towards nutrition in the intervention protocol. Many of the breakfast-eating interventions included in this review have methodological weaknesses, including difficulties in implementing interventions, small sample sizes, and selection biases, which future researchers should consider when designing and evaluating their own interventions.

Research limitations/implications – These findings highlight the importance of including psychosocial components in interventions designed to increase breakfast consumption, while also signalling issues that should be addressed when designing and reporting future interventions.

Originality/value – This review was the first to investigate the efficacy of interventions aimed at increasing breakfast consumption. The identification of weaknesses in the current body of research, and of successful and unsuccessful intervention practices is an important step in developing successful interventions in the future.

It is strange to see it go into print now because I can see how much my research has moved on since I did this – but hopefully now it is officially published it will start doing some good in the world 🙂