Category Archives: Writing

The summer of writing up

On Wednesday I met with my primary supervisor to discuss the draft of my Methodology chapter. In his written comments he described the chapter as “a thorough and meticulous account of your research process with an [enviable] attention to detail and rigor in argument” and “a fantastic first draft”. More specifically, he said, “It provides a very robust defense of the methods chosen and makes a strong case for a coherent and theoretically informed approach. It is well structured, clear about claims and superbly well referenced.”


He wanted to see more discussion of a couple of things, he said, and we talked about those. But on the whole that chapter is in great shape and I have agreed to send him the final draft on Tuesday. Day after tomorrow.

I have drafted a timetable for finishing the drafts of all my chapters over the summer, and I’ve got my work cut out for me. Good thing I had already decided to forgo my usual holidays — a week of singing Renaissance polyphony in the East Midlands in July and a couple of weeks in Italy in September. I may take a weekend or two and go somewhere, but basically it’s The Summer of Writing Up.

Wish me focus and persistence!


From the “Duh!” department

I’ve been having a bit of trouble organizing the literature review section of my thesis. There seem to be multiple ways that the content could fit together.

This evening I sat down to write a blog post about this past weekend’s talk at World IA Day, when all of a sudden it hit me: I could use tagging and inductive analysis to help in organizing the lit review!

Research into practice and back into research! How’s that for research-practice interaction? haha

It is needful that she abandon the subjunctive

I’m writing the draft literature review for my (belated) First Annual Review (“AR-1”). In working on the section about some changes in focus of the HCI research field, I wanted to write: [X scientist] “urges that the study of spiritual experiences include first-hand experience on the part of the researcher.” But this is the UK, and they don’t use the subjunctive in such constructions. I would have to say “urges that the study…includes…” And I can’t bring myself to do that. So I’ve written “urges that the study…should include….” — which doesn’t sound quite as wrong to my ears.

I’m getting used to a lot of British language ways that aren’t natural to me. I don’t envision it happening with this one, though.

Trying out Office 2011

One of my PhD student colleagues convinced me last night that I really needed to upgrade to Office 2011 because it will make my research much easier. The reference manager tool called Mendeley, which I have been using for a couple of years now, has a plug-in for Word that makes inserting and managing citations and references a breeze. The plug-in, however, supports only Word 2008 and later. So I concluded that the usability issues of the Word 2011 user interface (and there are still issues in Word 2011, don’t get me wrong) were worth the huge advantages of being able to use the Mendeley plug-in (see screenshot, below).

Screen shot of Mendeley plug-in for Word 2011

But wait — there’s more. Remember that very-part-time job I have for a US-based company? It turns out that it got me an additional $100 beyond the work I did recently — in savings on software. By virtue of the company’s participation in the Microsoft Home Use Program (“HUP” — isn’t that cute?), I downloaded Office 2011 Mac for only $9.95 (it’s $110 on I would have qualified for this program even if I hadn’t recently had those few hours of work, but the reconnection with the company is what reminded me of the discount.

When I finish my PhD and am no longer a student, and if I resume running my business or start working for someone else, I will have to buy a full copy or get my new employer to buy me one — but for now, every little (legitimate) discount helps.

Reorganizing this blog

In the last day or so I’ve made some changes to the organization of this blog:

  • Added a “History” section and moved “Preparation”, “My Topics”, and “My Options” under it (after all, this blog is now focused on the process of getting the PhD rather than the process of deciding and preparing)
  • Renamed “Observations” to “Living”
  • Set an order for the menus across the top so they would make sense (I hope!) and not just be alphabetical

I plan to flesh out the “Living” section as I have time. My favorite bit is the Language page, but the others are relevant as well, and I owe them some love.

See you soon!


First full research paper accepted!

I received the news this week that my first full research paper was accepted to a conference. The conference is Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces; and the paper, called “Meditations on YouTube”, is an analysis of viewer comments on YouTube videos for meditation. (The paper I presented to the CHI conference in May was an “alt.chi” paper, not a full research paper, which is what’s special about this one.) It is, as usual, a collaboration with my supervisor.

Initially I was very excited by this news. Then I got home from a week away (I was on a very intense workshop on Renaissance choral music, about which I’ll  write later) and read the reviews — and realized that we just squeaked in. I have a fair amount of work to do to respond to the comments and get the paper into better shape for publication in the conference proceedings (and then for presentation at the conference). I have about ten days in which to do this. I’m not going to go into detail here about what the reviewers said, but I will say that I think their comments are fair, for the most part, and I will address them as best I can.

“Summarizin’s hard to do…”

They say that summarizin’s hard to do
Now I know, I know that it’s true
Don’t say that this is the end
Instead of summaries I wanna do analyses again

— with apologies to Neil Sedaka

Just needed to whinge.

I’m writing a paper that requires summarizing a huge amount of raw data. It’s interesting and I do enjoy doing it, but it’s hard work.

I do have to give myself a little comic relief once in a while, eh? :-)

Milestones Part 1

This week I submitted my first academic paper to the CHI conference, the primary conference on human-computer interaction and the one that got me into this field in 1982. It’s not a full research paper (the deadline for that was about a month before I started at Northumbria), but one written for the “alt.chi” venue, described as follows:

alt.chi formed with the CHI program committee’s recognition that sometimes innovative and insightful work goes unrecognized through the standard process of review. Particularly where methodologically far afield, or critical of accepted practices, promising contributions may be systematically overlooked. Therefore, as part of a commitment to bring forth the year’s best work on human computer interaction, the program committee provides a procedural intervention in the conventional selection process: alt.chi.

This paper is a collaboration with my PhD supervisor, who has been very encouraging about my work and is wonderful to collaborate with. He says this paper is fabulous, and he thinks my findings show great promise for a longer paper for next year’s conference. Comments on alt.chi papers open on Wednesday, at which point I will post a link.

Some PhD students don’t publish until their thesis is complete; others publish smaller works during the course of their program. I am taking the latter approach.

My next milestone — coming up very soon — is the “Project Approval” for my PhD work. I have to fill out a couple of forms and give a presentation, to get the department’s approval to proceed with my research. I am fairly confident about that, and will write about it in Milestones Part 2.

On another note: I am so very glad that the days are becoming noticeably longer. I grew up at 35º North latitude and spent the last 35 winters at 39º. Newcastle is at 55º, though, and I am finding that the short winter days — at least two hours shorter than in Maryland, at the solstice — are affecting my mood more than I had expected. I don’t sleep late because I want to be awake for every minute of daylight, but I find that I don’t much feel like going out and doing things. I like to think that that will change soon.

Writing is half research

I’m writing a paper that’s due in less than a month. Most of the research is complete, but as I write I realize that there’s more I don’t know and then I have to go find it out. I’m a natural task alternater anyhow (probably have a touch of ADD), so this shifting focus suits me well as a style. I like to think it won’t prevent me from getting the paper finished and submitted on time!

The title and subtitle of this blog

I titled this blog “leisurely” because I started looking into this idea two years ago (and as an allusion to the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan”). But several months ago the process stopped even remotely resembling anything leisurely.

Also, I won’t be fifty-something much longer; in fact, I’ll turn 60 before I arrive.