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Complex Writing Projects; Simple Writing Logs

Complex Writing Projects; Simple Writing Logs

Although my writing projects tend to be short, meaning measured by number of words instead of pages, my dissertation is one huge exception. Managing it and keeping myself motivated and accountable requires some outside structure, some sort of device that tracks my progress and doesn’t ding me for not “measuring up.”

I have tried some really great software, apps, and online accountability programs (special shout-out to 750 Words); however, they tend to be too complicated, too punitory, or too expensive for what I need.

Inspiration, as it often does, came from my friend Ryan, an English Ph.D student and my personal writing instruction mentor/guru. He just prints out a writing log, something simple that tracks word count, and enters in each day’s work with a pen.

No muss; no fuss.

Here is a .pdf of the Writing Log I made and use. Feel free to download it and use it in whatever way you want. As long as you promise to just keep writing!

Reining in Your Metadata with Help from an Archivist [GradHacker]

Reining in Your Metadata with Help from an Archivist [GradHacker]

Now up on GradHacker, a little advice for effectively employing metadata to bolster your research:

Every book we read, every source we mine, and every number we collect has a history, has a life that precedes us and will continue long after we are gone. It is easy to forget this when we are frantically collecting materials for our dissertation. This legacy is rich but, in the hustle-and-bustle of research trips, exam prep, and writing, it is often neglected or even forgotten.

One of the most important parts of building an archive is capturing this legacy by recording an item’s dimensions, condition, material composition, origin, and provenance. In so doing, an archivist generates a vast amount of metadata, or information about an item irrespective of its content. Not only is this information useful in categorizing and storing the item, it also enriches the context of the archived item for researchers and facilitates use of the collection as a whole.

Metadata, though, isn’t reserved for the hallowed halls (or cold, windowless basements) of an archive. It is also a vital part of any researcher’s personal database.

Check out the full article up on the blog!

[Photo is courtesy of Flikr user Forsaken Fotos and used under the Creative Commons.]

GradHacker: Choose Your Own Database Adventure Game

GradHacker: Choose Your Own Database Adventure Game

An excerpt from my latest GradHacker post!

“The first time I ever touched a computer was in the second grade. Our elementary school had built a state-of-the-art computer lab, which was attached to our library. One afternoon, we filed into the windowless room and nervously sat in front of our computers. I had absolutely no idea what these boxes were even supposed to do, but, after an hour, I had learned how to turn my Mac II on, insert a floppy disk, and play Number Muncher. Many of my classmates were unimpressed though I was enthralled. From then on, I did everything I could to get back into that lab. Yes, I liked learning DOS commands and typing, but mostly I just wanted to play Oregon Trail or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

These early experiences, supervised by librarians and teachers, established a strong connection for me between computers and information. Because of this, research has always felt like a game. I study history, for example, like I would play a game of Clue, strategically working my way backwards to understand what happened, when, and why.

After I passed my qualifying exams and started writing my dissertation, though, research became an overwhelmingly demanding job. Books and microfilm reels and citations and journal articles and notebooks and dictionaries and random scraps of paper started piling up quicker than I could process them. Every time I entered my office, I heard Venkman say, “No human being would stack books this way.”

It was time to get my act together and corral my collection; it was time to build a dissertation database.” […]

To read the rest, check out the full article at GradHacker, Inside Higher Ed!

[Image from Flickr user abstrkt.ch, and used under Creative Commons License]

A Toast: To My One Year Anniversary at GradHacker

A Toast: To My One Year Anniversary at GradHacker

As many of you might already know, I am a contributing author at GradHacker, a blog written for and by graduate students which is hosted by Inside Higher Ed.

This month marks my one-year anniversary at the blog, so, to celebrate, I am lifting a (metaphorical, since it is 10am) pint to GradHacker and linking to all of this year’s posts!

  1. Loving Your Back in Graduate School | May 5th, 2016
  2. Organize Your Computer with Help from an Archivist | April 24th, 2016
  3. Take Yourself on a Scholar Date | March 17th, 2016
  4. Analyzing Analytics at the University | February 14th, 2016
  5. Software for Adding Some Digital to Your Classroom | January 24th, 2016
  6. The 12 Days of an Online Class | December 23rd, 2015
  7. Ready for Your Close Up? | November 30, 2015
  8. Designing a Digital Classroom | October 4th, 2015
  9. Stop Feeding the Trolls! | September 14th, 2015
  10. Fostering an Active Online Discussion | June 23rd, 2015
  11. Learning Moments (Screen) Captured | April 30th, 2015

Each of those posts represents a lot of work and mental energy; however, they have also reinvigorated my love of writing and supported my attempts to think widely.

I have decided to re-up, so look forward to another year of how-to posts on everything from archival management and DH to writing a dissertation and finding a job.

This next year is going to bring with it a bunch of personal and professional changes, and I plan to write about all of them!