Archive for category: Teaching

More pre-PhD advice: give yourself homework

July 27th, 2008 by james

Jose posted an article last week about one person’s PhD experience, highlighting many of the common difficulties encountered when doing what’s largely a self-directed research project. There are about how to finish a PhD that expand on these questions – of supervisors, organizing your time and so on – but I’ve found that their advice can be frustratingly abstract. When I started my PhD I couldn’t help but wonder “yes but what should I do RIGHT NOW?”.

One useful trick I discovered was to set myself regular assignments. If you’re coming to a PhD from an undergrad or Masters level degree, chances are you’re more used to having teachers give you tasks rather than setting off into uncharted waters on your own. What’s more, you’ve got a big mountain of work sitting in front of you labelled ‘lit review’ and it can be hard to know where to start.


Synchronous lecture materials. How?

February 23rd, 2008 by jose

The efficient academic google group has a thread on . Any hack addressing this has a high chance of saving several hours per week for those of you who teach.

Given lecture material has three components:

  1. Slides for digital projection (preferable PDFs rather than PowerPoint or Keynote)
  2. Lecture notes to support what I need to say and remember
  3. Lecture handout

I regularly update all three, but I am finding keeping all three in sync to be a bit tedious.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but what I am visualising is some sort of single document, where you  write the lecture handout. I could then update this with new information between presenting the lecture.

If you have a solution, drop by and post it there (or here!).

Where do academics socialize online?

May 7th, 2007 by jose

The Chronicle (newspaper) has a good website with a very active forum. chronicle forumsI have been monitoring it for a while, and I can certainly say that there are very informative threads in there. It seems to be a very good place to get privileged hard-to-find information about subtle topics such as what is a good job offer, whether a particular department should be red-flagged because of internal fights, or how to negotiate a start-up package. This forum may well be old news for many, but it was an interesting discovery for me so I’ll just post about it just in case it’s useful for anyone.

They have a section on “balancing work and life”. I wonder how many similar forums centered around a profession have one. Scary.


How do you submit seven papers in a month? interview with Dan Navarro

March 7th, 2007 by jose

Dan posted in his blog that he had managed to get seven papers out in the open literature in January. I had to interview him. How do you manage your daily workload?

Dan Navarro: A lot more pragmatically than I used to. I put an hour or so aside each morning to cover the miniature administrative rubbish – it’s not really enough time to do it properly, but I’ve started to realise that most of it doesn’t matter very much, so I can cut-and-paste a lot of things (Incidentally: never throw away a good piece of bureaucracy-speak, like a research profile or a course description. You can reuse it about 10 times before anyone starts to care). I tend to do intellectually heavy things throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. I tend to take a bit of a siesta in the late afternoon – I don’t sleep, but I do switch off a bit (sometimes I do paperwork). I find this makes it easier to do something useful in the evening. (more…)

Minimize unproductive time

January 6th, 2007 by jose

Here is my attempt at a general strategy for managing time. I define productivity operationally here by measuring it in terms of publications (of course, this definition may have critics).

The central point is that your time at work can be divided into productive and unproductive time (see graph), and that both are important; however we should try to maximize the productive time.

The graph may be biased towards the kind of work I do (modeling and experimental cognitive science); other disciplines may not have some of the activities, and the partitioning of your time may well be very different, so feel free to make your own graph with relevant tasks. (more…)