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Research and Professional Development

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  1. Research and Professional Development INFO61003 Harold Somers

  2. What this module is about From the module description: “To equip students with a range of technical, managerial and personal skills which enable them to effectively undertake the dissertation stage of their degree programme”

  3. What does that entail? • Academic knowledge • Understand the objectives and rules specific to the MSc/Diploma project and dissertation. • Understand professional ethics • Project planning (including risk analysis) • use of appropriate tools to support project planning • necessary writing skills for academic writing (including referencing) • Intellectual skills • Produce a coherent, structured report aimed at giving • background to the problem • analysis of relevant literature and related work • project requirements and when possible a design overview • Produce a coherent project plan and risk analysis • Subject practical skills • Devise a project plan and specify milestones and deliverables

  4. Today’s session • General ideas about doing research • Some Golden Rules • Skills and Resources • How this module works • Quick overview of future topics

  5. A variety of topics • Dissertation topics in this School are very varied ... broadly • Very computational • writing programs • integrating components • interfacing with resources • Modelling and design • systems analysis • Relating to human factors • designing, testing interfaces • cooperative computing

  6. Information systems • Text mining, databases • Information management • Signal processing • Speech, images • HCI • Social web • Virtual agents • CSCW, CAL • Assistive computing • e-business • Requirements modelling • Software engineering • Language processing • Speech, spelling, editing, translation

  7. A variety of topics • Student backgrounds also very varied • Not all skills covered will be equally relevant for YOUR dissertation (this time around) • But, this module is about developing research skills in general, e.g. • Ethics • (Software) evaluation • Experimental design and (simple) statistics • and several others

  8. Today’s session • General ideas about doing research • Some Golden Rules • Skills and Resources • How this module works • Quick overview of future topics

  9. Golden Rule #1: Know what you are doing • You should have • a clear and concise one-sentence summary of your topic • a clear and concise one-paragraph summary of your topic • You should be able to explain your topic • to your peers • to your friends • to someone you meet on the train

  10. Sign the attendance sheet (this time)... • Next to your name (duh) • The name of your supervisor • A very general characterisation of your topic (3/4 words) if known

  11. Golden Rule #2: Always have a plan • Know what the targets for your research are, in precise enough terms that you will know when you are done • Make explicit what the intermediate steps on the way to your targets look like • Risk analysis should realistically assess the likely/possible main difficulties • Have some contingency plans in mind, and make them explicit in your planning document • “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”

  12. Golden Rule #3: Think outcomes • Where do you want to go or what do you want to do after? • What will your CV need to look like to achieve that? • Identify the differences between your current CV and the one you need, and plan how you will remove the difference • Focus your activities on the main game

  13. Today’s session • General ideas about doing research • Some Golden Rules • Skills and Resources • How this module works • Quick overview of future topics

  14. Skills Area #1: Reading • Read widely • Split your reading time between material focussed on your topic and more general background material • Read for important content • What should you read? • Learn how to get the most out of what you are reading • Recognize whether something really is worth reading • Read with specific questions in mind • What does it mean if you don’t understand the paper you’re reading?

  15. What does it mean if you don’t understand the paper you’re reading? • The paper is the problem because • it’s badly written, or badly structured • it’s not relevant after all • it is making unreasonable assumptions about the reader • it’s bad science • You are the problem because • you are stupid • you aren’t stupid, but you lack some background knowledge • you’ve misunderstood some key element, or made some false assumption about the paper

  16. Skills Area #2: Writing • Write constantly • Write clearly and get colleagues to read your stuff • Examine other people's writing to see what you think makes it good • You develop your academic writing style by reading • On a practical note: • Think about “Version control” • Use your word processor properly

  17. Use your word processor properly • Spell checker • Style definitions • They help you keep your presentation style consistent • Automatically number sections: this helps readability • Tabs, tables, figures • Split long documents up into smaller files • Style definitions will make merging easier • What fonts and font sizes should you use? • Check out the regs: you might as well use the prescribed style from the outset • A nicely presented piece of work says “Read me” • A badly presented piece of work says “Fail me”

  18. Skills Area #3: Presenting • Work on being interesting to listen to • Audio- and video-tape yourself • identify your idiosyncracies • Consider doing an improvisation course • When you see a good presentation, consider why it was good, and adopt those features in your own presentations • When you see a bad presentation, consider why it was bad, and eliminate those features from your own presentations • Learn how to use PowerPoint effectively

  19. Skills Area #4: Organization • Always have a plan • Research plan with contingency plans • This is the main outcome of this module • But also a personal plan • Understand where your time goes • Ask others how they organise their time • Don’t spend all your time planning • Involve your supervisor in your plan

  20. You and your supervisor • Different supervisors have different styles • Be proactive in meetings • On first meeting (have you arranged it yet?): • Ask what they expect of you • Tell them what you expect of them • (Actually, what do you expect of them?) • Decide on frequency of meetings • At least 4, probably 6 (= fortnightly) for this module • Subsequently, YOU set the agenda • Be ready to tell them what you have done since last meeting • Know what you want to talk about • Take notes and produce a summary shortly after the meeting

  21. You and your supervisor • Supervisor will provide feedback on written work, but is NOT a proof reader or English teacher • Give your supervisor a reasonable amount of time to read stuff • Never more than 25 pages at a time • Pastoral issues: supervisor is first port of call • Otherwise (eg if difficulty is with supervisor) course leader (who is it?) • You will have a regular meeting slot • It is discourteous to be late or not turn up without warning (on both sides) • Find out your supervisor’s attitude to skipping meetings if you’ve nothing to report

  22. Skills Area #5: Researching • More on this over the next 12 weeks but, briefly, • Be aware of what has been done before and try to BUILD on that: Don’t reinvent the wheel • Understand how to use the library • Understand how to use on-line resources • Post queries to mailing lists but check locally first: avoid early career egg-on-face • Research is about a hypothesis • What is your research question? • How will you know you have answered it? • What if the answer is “No”?

  23. Today’s session • General ideas about doing research • Some Golden Rules • Skills and Resources • How this module works • Quick overview of future topics

  24. How this module works • Weekly lectures • Big class so not as informal as I would prefer • Several “guest” lecturers • Some associated practical sessions • A range of topics • Not all necessarily relevant to your research • But should be of interest (long term) • Assessment • Project Preparatory Work report due 24th April 2007 • Some (voluntary) exercises for you to discuss with your supervisor

  25. Preparatory Work report • Precise content will depend upon the nature of a particular project but will typically include: • Requirements and specifications • Success criteria • Project plan (for the overall project including dissertation stage) • Initial survey of the relevant literature • Initial study of the relevant research methods, design methodology, and implementation tools • Length max.20 pages (excluding cover page, table of contents, abstract and list of references) • Additional material in appendices up to 10 pages • Strict size limit will be enforced; excess pages will not be marked • Due in 3pm, 24th April 2007 • Both hard copy and e-version via the WebCT page for this module

  26. Today’s session • General ideas about doing research • Some Golden Rules • Skills and Resources • How this module works • Quick overview of future topics

  27. Future topics • What is research? – hypothesis, background, method, criteria for success • Ethics • Research technologies I – interfaces, usability, experimental design • Research technologies II – programming, implementation, documentation • Evaluation of systems • IT resources • References and citation, incl. plagiarism • Presentation – written and verbal, how to do a demo