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Showing posts with label graduate research students. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graduate research students. Show all posts

15 March 2017

Your literature review - getting it done

Do you feel as if your literature review has a life of its own and you don't always know what it's up to? Anne Melles, a Subject Librarian and PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, shares some of the insights she has gained (and is still gaining) from her experience of writing a literature review.



Writing a literature review is a bit like working with multiple pots on a stove that all need attention at the same time. Now, I know that there are too many analogies about the literature review out there, but I’m sharing this one as I found the concept useful when writing the literature review for my confirmation document, which I’ve just submitted. So, keep reading - you also might find it useful!

The idea of pots on a stovetop refers to the way that a literature review develops over time. This means that:
  • you don’t sit down and start writing the review at the beginning and work until you get to the end 
  • the review is a work in progress on multiple fronts (or a war on multiple fronts if you’re having a bad day!) 
  • the different sections of the review all speak to each other and so sometimes where your thinking ends up in one section means that things have to be rewritten in another section. 
Some sources that I had thought were significant at the beginning of my writing later turned out to be less important. I also found that I wrote about some sources with a completely different emphasis. This can sometimes be stressful and it may feel as if you’re trying to get your head around too many things at one time.

However, getting your literature review organised is a slow process. It helps to acknowledge and embrace the messiness of the whole business. Don’t try taming one section and then moving on to the next. Try to encourage conversations between the different parts of the literature review, and also between them and your research questions.

There are different ways of doing this. Sometimes when I found myself in a dead end in one section, I left it and looked at another section. I also found that drawing mind maps helped me get outside the writing and see a bigger picture. Looking back on previous mind maps also gave me an idea of the ways in which my thinking had changed. It also showed me how sometimes I’d just gone on a long wander in the literature wilderness only to end back at an idea I’d had months ago. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as I often found that I was then able to develop this more extensively and with more conviction.

So when it feels as if your pots are going to boil over or burn their contents, take a break: turn the elements on the stovetop off and try a different approach!


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28 February 2017

Planning your PhD journey

What does it take to go through the journey to a PhD successfully?  Learning Skills Adviser Anita Dewi offers answers to key questions asked by new candidates.


Are you commencing a PhD journey at Monash? A PhD is a great avenue to build your career in academia and other areas as well - the penultimate qualification! Through a PhD you have opportunities to share ideas and knowledge in your relevant field. But what does it take to go through the journey successfully?

One of the keywords in your PhD journey is planning. Your plan needs to cover  all aspects relevant to your PhD journey. Below are some key questions that you should ask yourself and find the answers when planning your PhD:

1. How do I manage my supervision?

Your PhD is YOUR journey! This means that you need to take the responsibility for these aspects in managing your supervision:
  • Maintain good communication with your supervisors.
  • Negotiate how frequently you will need to meet with your supervisor (this will vary over time).
  • Take responsibility for scheduling supervisor meetings.
  • Take notes from these meetings and send your supervisor(s) emails that confirm mutual understanding of what is or is not expected after each discussion.
  • Think of a few alternative solutions to issues arising, and then discuss them with your supervisor.
  • DON’T rely on your supervisor(s) to solve your problems for you.
Keep reminding yourself that you’re in charge of your own journey.

2. How do I manage my 3-4 year candidature?

Managing time is not always easy. A PhD journey is a “marathon” rather than a “sprint”. A key tip is to prioritise your tasks. One of the best ways to prioritise your tasks is by implementing, and possibly modifying, the Eisenhower method to suit your needs. To give you an idea of how this method can be implemented in real life situation, have a look at this link.

3. Where can I find relevant resources and advice?

The Library has a great range of resources that you can use to facilitate your PhD journey. Below are some examples that the Library provides:
Also keep in mind that the Library provides you with one-on-one consultations with a learning skills adviser or a subject librarian dedicated to your discipline. Highly motivating writing groups are also available at different campuses. The list of these contact people are here.

4. What will I do after completing my PhD?

Don’t forget to consider what kind of career you will seek upon completing your PhD. Understanding what responsibilities and skills needed to function in this dream role or job will help you in incorporating relevant skills development into your PhD journey plan.

5. What skills do I need to develop for my PhD to be a successful journey?

Here is a researcher skills questionnaire that you will find useful. Feel free to download, fill out, and hang on to it for the duration of your PhD journey. Get back to it and reflect on it from time to time, as a reminder of the skills you need to maintain and perhaps develop to enable you to succeed in your PhD.

6. What do I need to do and when should I do them?

It is best to have a map of your PhD timeline, along with the relevant milestones, e.g. confirmation seminar, progress review, pre-submission seminar, and the thesis submission at the end of the journey.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact learning skills advisers and subject librarians at the Library for advice. All the best with your PhD journey!


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14 September 2016

Jay Winter's Photographing War: the Kodak revolution

Yale historian Jay Winter presented a provocative lecture on the Kodak revolution of World War I, and the vast trail of unofficial photography it left behind. In this article Monash University graduate student Sam Prendergast discusses the concept of dignity in death, and the questions raised by what the soldiers chose to photograph. [Scroll to the bottom for a full recording of Jay Winter's lecture.]

Jay Winter at the lecture held at Matheson Library
Few 20th century events have been so heavily memorialised as WWI. In Australia, the process of commemoration starts early. Every April, Australian primary school children draw crayon depictions of Gallipoli. They group uniformed men in wide-brimmed hats and spend their red ink on poppies. The official iconography of war makes its way through generations; as we move further from the event we become increasingly reliant on what we have learned to remember.


This is the context in which Jay Winter spoke about the ‘Kodak revolution’. While official war photographers captured a censored record of WWI, soldiers left a vast trail of unofficial photographs. They did so with the help of pocket-sized Kodak cameras. In moments of boredom, action, significance, or reflection, individuals recorded their experiences of war. Few of the images have made their way to the textbooks, but that might change; as archives of the Great War grow, the photographs move out of family photo albums and into the public domain.


For historians, the significance of the ‘Kodak revolution’ is realised in the archives. As Jay Winter stressed throughout his talk, the collected Kodak photos hold some democratic potential: soldiers’ photographs can counter prevailing assumptions about the nature of WWI. In one of Winter’s selected videos, we see men piling corpses on a truck in a fashion that evokes the Holocaust. The image of men stacking bodies is haunting in a way that statistics are not. In images, we lose the accuracy of numbers but we gain a sense of what it means to deal with death on a mass scale. Unofficial photos do a good job of portraying the gruesome practicalities of war.

World War I items from the Rare Books Collection at Monash
The soldiers’ photos tell us less about what they wanted to remember than about what they wanted to record. As Jay Winter guided us through a collection of images, I found myself wondering why these amateur photographers thought to pull out their cameras at particular points. This was especially so when Winter called our attention to a set of photos that belonged to a doctor. At war, the man had captured images of people in their dying moments. Some of the photos seemed curated: a head tilted, unnaturally; a body placed in position. In one image, an injured soldier laid in the dirt, his face in pain. The photographer had titled the image, ‘A dying Serb’. When Winter showed us the photo he asked: is there no dignity, even in death?


It was a provocative question, designed to make us question the photographer’s motivations. The assumption, on Winter’s part, was that the photographer, a soldier, acted unethically when he captured an image of another man dying. I was not so sure. The value of the Kodak photos is that they show us how soldiers’ experienced the war. Without one man’s photo, there would be no record of the other man’s death. I wondered what the dying man might have thought about having his image captured at that moment. Perhaps he, like Winter, wondered why the photographer would strip him of all dignity in his final moments. Perhaps he felt relief that someone was bothering to capture an honest portrayal of his death at war. Or maybe he was just consumed with whatever consumes a person when they’re lying, near-death, in the dirt.


Either way, the photo tells us about something about the reality of the man’s death, and there must be some dignity in having that experience recorded and remembered – if not for the photographed man, then perhaps for the many others who died similar deaths, or for those who returned home, having witnessed friends and strangers die. Because of the Kodak archive, the man is, at least, remembered as something other than a number. In capturing images, the amateur photographers left us with a democratic scaffolding around which to construct meaning. That one man could photograph another, as he died, reveals something about the battle front; it is at once tethered to the home front and, yet, removed from the home front’s norms.


War strips people of their dignity long before they die; the question is whether or not the archive can restore it. The ‘Kodak revolution’ created a wealth of source material, but the value of an archive is realised through its use, not through its mere existence. As more ‘democratic’ records of war make their way into historians’ hands, we face new questions about how to use the materials – how to read them, select them, and present them. Perhaps there is rarely dignity in archives: the respectable, legitimised trash cans of the past. But there might be some dignity in using them to restore a lopsided version of history. As a graduate student, Winter’s lecture raised unexpected questions about the ethics of trawling through documents and guessing at the motivations of people who are long-dead.




A video recording of the lecture is available, with permission from Jay Winter.

Sam Pendergast is a Masters candidate in the History Department, Faculty of Arts. Her research focuses on the question of how historians can overcome the limitations of long-archived oral histories in order to bring forth "unheard" narratives. Currently, she's working with a collection of post-WWII Soviet displacement narratives; in 1950s Munich, US scholars created translated transcripts of their non-recorded interviews with Soviet DPs.


Follow Sam on Twitter:  @samprendergast_. 


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19 April 2016

Creating a thorough search strategy

Finding every possible article relevant to a particular research topic is something that researchers and graduate research students may need to do. Get some expert tips on how to go about it from Subject Librarian Tracey Whyte.



Photo: Got Credit
When conducting research you may be wondering: Has this research been conducted previously? Have I reviewed all the literature on this discipline? Have I retrieved the most recent research conducted? Are there gaps in my research?

One way to resolve these questions is to plan a search strategy. A search strategy is a systematic method of searching for information. There are a few steps in this process.

Step 1
Prepare your search strategy by first brainstorming what you know about the topic already, defining terms or identifying particular resources to include.

Step 2
From the keywords you’ve hopefully identified already, think of similar words or phrases and group the similar terms together. This will broaden your search as you can choose from these alternative words if you can’t find information using the one term provided. Steps 1 and 2 are described in more detail in the ‘Developing a search strategy’ section of the Graduate Research Library guide.

Step 3
Next, test your search strategy across relevant Library databases or search tools. You can access Library databases from the Database Library guide or from the Databases tab on other subject Library guides. Highlight relevant resources and read the information about the resource from the abstract or summary and select relevant records to review more closely.

Step 4
Another useful tip to guide your searching is to identify the subject terms in the record. The subject terms are terms the database uses to describe what the article is about. You can replace your keywords with these subject headings to broaden or narrow your search. You may find alternative subject headings that are relevant so include those in your search too.

At right is an example of subject terms displayed in a complete record. This process of identifying terms, testing in a database and identifying subject headings relevant can be repeated until you have enough relevant information. Most search strategies use a combination of subject heading and keyword searching so use the method that retrieves the most relevant results.

Remember you may not be able to find all this information in one search, you might need to break down the components of the topic further into several searches or try a combination. There will be trial and error before you perfect your strategy.

Step 5
Lastly, you may also find it useful to create saved searches or alerts particularly if you will be viewing resources at another time or reusing the search. Login to the database or search tool to be able to save the search. Follow the database prompts and check the search tool or database Help screens for more information about how to do this. You can save and retrieve your searches as long as you sign in.

Need more information? The Library has also developed a comprehensive, interactive tutorial to guide you in the search process and don’t forget you can contact your subject librarian for advice about developing a systematic search strategy.



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15 March 2016

Keep track of references: use Endnote

Checking references for your thesis is a long and tedious process, but you have to do it, right? What if we told you there was an easier and quicker way? ... by Paula Todd



Monash has the license for EndNote so all students have free access to the full version and can download it from the Library website.

By learning how to use this software you can save a lot of valuable time but the key is to understand your referencing style first and THEN use the software. A bit like the theory that to use a calculator to solve a mathematical problem, you need to understand the formula before applying it. Talk to your supervisor if you are unsure which referencing style you should use.

OK so you know your referencing style, how is EndNote going to help you? 

When you use databases or library Search you can export the details of the article, book etc. into your EndNote library. But this isn’t the end of the story, you can then use the ‘cite while you write’ function in EndNote to put your in-text citations into your thesis or report and at the same time EndNote will automatically start creating your reference list at the end of your paper in your chosen referencing style. No more painstaking typing of references!

How do you start?

It’s best to book into an EndNote class to get started, as the librarians will give you lots of tips and tricks to make EndNote run smoothly. Once your EndNote library is set up then most databases will have an export function to add references straight into your library.

You can attach the full text PDF’s of articles to your EndNote library which can save time when you are writing your thesis as the article and its citation are in the same place. With EndNote you can also highlight and annotate PDF’s (see right) which makes the relevant parts of the article more easy to spot when typing your assignment.



Another really cool feature is the Group option where references for a particular purpose (such as for a chapter in your thesis or a paper you are writing) can stay together. This becomes extremely useful as your EndNote library gets bigger and you want to easily see which references are relevant to different projects.



Can I share my references with others?

If the idea of having your EndNote library in the cloud to access anywhere appeals to you then check out EndNote Online  You can also use this version of EndNote to share the references in your library with your supervisor or other researchers you are collaborating with. 



Paula Todd is a subject librarian for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. She is based at Peninsula Library.


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2 March 2016

Search: Your gateway to the Monash University Library collection


I’m a new graduate research student. How do I explore and access the library collection?...by Katrina Tepper, Research and Learning Coordinator.



Search is Monash University Library’s resource discovery tool. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking for books, articles, journals, DVDs, databases and other items held in the Library collection, both print and online!

Here are a few useful things to know about Search:

1. Results are listed in relevance order. 

This means the most useful items should appear close the top of the list.

To narrow your search results, use the options in the left hand column e.g. limit to specific publication years, or resource types.

2. Reference details can be saved to your eShelf

This is a great way to save the reference details of books and articles you’d like to refer to in future.
 Sign in to Search at the top right of the screen.

As you browse records in Search, click the small star to the left of the title to add a reference to your eShelf. The star will turn yellow.

If you’re signed in, these details remain in your eShelf until you delete them.

3. You can request print items which are on loan or held at another campus

Click the Get it tab, to view the location and call number of an item, and find out if it’s available.

If the item is on loan or at another campus, Sign in with your Authcate at the top right, then click “Request” in the Get it tab. You’ll receive an email when the item is ready to pick up and borrow.




4. You can browse the shelves virtually

The Virtual browse tab appears on the records of print items (e.g. books), and allows you to browse similar items held in print in the Monash University Library collection, based on their call number.

5. The “View it” tab provides access to electronic resources

The library collection includes a large number of e-books, journals and other online resources.

To access these use the link(s) provided in the “View it” tab, and login with your Authcate username and password.

6. Sign in to view your loans or renew

Sign in with your Authcate username and password to:

-view items you have on loan and check the due dates
-renew your loans

As a graduate research student you can borrow unlimited loans for 6 weeks (excluding short loan items). All items, except those in high demand and those requested by other users, are automatically renewed.

7. You can transfer reference details to EndNote

Instructions are available on the EndNote Library guide.

8. You can make Document delivery requests 

If you find an item in Search, which isn’t available in the Library collection, as a graduate research student you can place a Document Delivery request.

Sign in and click Document delivery to place your request.


For more information refer to the Search Library guide or get in touch with your contact librarian.








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