October 15, 2011

Learning about the research process

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to reflect on the research process. There is so much background knowledge and information that is not published about how to undertake high quality research that  results in successful publication and grant outcomes; but more importantly results in changing people's lives.

I had the opportunity to learn about grant writing and increasing grant success from Prof Alan Johnson (Former Australian Research Council Executive Director) during his week-long visit to CSU. Hints included how to profile your top ten publications by not only including the number of citations for each item, but also the ISI Journal Citation Report rankings to demonstrate the quality of the journals you have published in.

Also during the past weeks I have worked with guest editors on special issues of the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology  - showing them background information about the review and publication process. I think one aspect that was new to them was the number of potential reviewers who decline invitations to review manuscripts (thank you to all of you who say yes!), and the number of life events that happen to reviewers so that their reviews are late.

The CSU Faculty of Education PhD Students' Forum was held recently as well. I enjoyed listening to The Thesis Whisperer, Dr Inger Mewburn (http://thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com/) who presented an entertaining keynote address titled "What I learned about doing a PhD from reading trash fiction". She likened a PhD to an avatar. 

During the Forum, I was invited to co-present a session  titled "Undertaking a PhD by publication"  - and the Thesis Whisperer tweeted about the session, drawing a number of comments from around the ether. I see a thesis by publication as a very sensible strategy, that enables you to get immediate international feedback on your work, enables you to establish yourself as a scholar, and enables you to move onto new things after your PhD (rather than rewriting your big book into a format for publication).

At the same forum, I was also invited onto a panel with three other professors to discuss PhD supervision. We came from very different disciplinary backgrounds. Some of us had young students who were studying full time on-campus, whereas others had mature-aged students studying part time at a distance. These aspects influenced our answers to the following questions (although comments about ensuring high quality outcomes, and providing students with high quality input were similar).
  • Could you share two of your top tips for supervising?
  • How do you typically use your allocated time for supervising?
  • What do you give priority to during the first month of a new higher degree student supervision relationship?
  • How do you sort out a 'personality clash' within a supervision relationship? 
  • What factors do you take into account when selecting thesis examiners? 
 Some of my thinking and ideas about the research process will be published soon. I can't wait to read the other chapters in the book.
McLeod, S. (2011, in press). Disseminating research: Reading, writing, and publishing. In N. Müller & M. J. Ball (Eds). The Blackwell guide to research methods in clinical linguistics and phonetics. Oxford: Blackwells.

Finally, over the past few weeks two of my research students (Kate Crowe and Bek Lockart) have spent productive time in Bathurst writing papers from their research. I really enjoy this face-to-face time with my students - since most of them are doing their studies by distance.
Prof David McKinnon, Kate Crowe, and Prof Sharynne McLeod