Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walking on sunshine

Ever watched a musical and thought that all the singing was so artificial? That no one breaks into song to express their feelings in real life? Well, I can attest that after a meeting with my supervisor, I came quite close to singing in jubilation!

It all began with researching my topic area. I was disheartened to find that my original idea was well researched already. There were a few gaps in the literature, but I was unsure if they justified another project. It seemed like I might have to abandon my original plan. So I sent my supervisor a synopsis of what I had found. Ironically, this proved the springboard for my project taking on a new and exciting direction. So much so, that I walked out of my next meeting with the prospect of doing an even better project that might even be publishable.

I don't mind telling you that I was walking around campus, simply grinning. I was as joyful as Maria in the opening credits of the Sound of Music, so happy I could have sung. It was an amazing confidence boost to realise my supervisor was willing for me to take on such a great project.

So for anyone out there on their honours journey, my story shows that sometimes a hurdle in your journey can be a blessing in disguise. And at the risk of sounding like I am giving a sermon, my other 'tip of the day' would be to always go about researching wholeheartedly. Make an effort with your notes, make sure you understand them. After all, they showcase your work to anyone who reads them. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Great Expectations

Everyone knows that honours year is an expedition into the unknown. The beaten path of structured assignments and lecturer driven lessons are left behind to embark on a new and challenging journey. What I have found surprising is the disconnect between what I thought honours would be like and the reality. I knew I would  hear about current psychological research and research methodology in a more interesting and practically orientated light. However, I was not prepared for how fascinating and entertaining these classes are. A three hour seminar seems to fly by.

I also didn't expect to be drawing so many comparisons to my first year of university. As a first year, do you remember the excitement of learning something in class that just made you think 'Wow, I really have to tell so and so about this'? I'm sure you can also recall the feat of trying to remember people's names and your timidity exploring previously uncharted areas of the university. These aspects of university life have been heightened in my honours year. My class has doubled in size, meaning there are many new people to meet. Likewise, the scarcity of computers this early in the semester, has led me to discover labs overlooked by other students. Every day is a chance to learn something new.

Yes, this journey into the unknown is marked by nerves, self-doubt and the need to grit my teeth and walk over the speed bumps, but it is also one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences of my university career so far. I am starting to understand what past honours students have said about this year really being one of the most rewarding experiences at uni. Hopefully when the path seems impassible I can look at the post and remember why I am doing this, because I love it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A journey of 12,000 words, begins with a single step

My journey of 12,000 words began with perusing the literature in my area of interest, autism. I must admit I am resorting to reading and noting the articles in short bursts. However, it does seem to be working.  My current approach has been to read around a couple of aspects of autism, paying particular attention to  researchers' suggestions for future research. My plan is to read a few more articles and then brainstorm possible project ideas so I'm ready for my supervisor meeting. 

I'm also finding CiteULike a brilliant resource while I'm researching. For the uninitiated, it is a free site to keep a tab of all your references. It even puts them in your choice of referencing format. It did take me a few attempts to work out how to import citations, but is should save the headache of losing them!

My honours year classes officially started yesterday. It was a gentle start to the academic year. We revised statistical concepts and rediscovered the importance of evidence based practice and remaining cautious when evaluating research.

I also attended the first weekly seminar for research students offered by my university. I am so glad that I went. The seminar highlighted that other students do feel a bit 'at sea' in their research journey too.

 The brown object is an oar, not a bottle. Drawing is not my strongest point...

The session also gave me some useful signposts to navigate the journey. I think the key principle I need to hold onto is that laying a solid foundation for my research is paramount to its success. Now I understand why the first few months of brainstorming, researching and designing a project are said to be the most intense! I'll definitely be going back for the next session.
So to any student undertaking research or studying at uni...

 get thee to your uni's learning programs