Tag Archives: graduate school

Thesis Writing: 9 Tips on How to Write the Results and Discussion

Writing the results and discussion section could be one of the difficulties that you encounter when writing your first research manuscript. There is no simple hard and fast rule in doing it but the following guide can help you start off with confidence.

The results and discussion section is also referred to as the data presentation, analysis, and interpretation section. You present the results, show the analysis, and interpret the outcome of the analysis.

As a take off point, it would help if we separate these two terms, i.e., results and discussion, into simply the results and the discussion as separate parts of the paper. In some universities and usually in scientific journals, however, these are taken as one.

Writing the Results

As the term connotes, you should write only the results of your study. What comprises the results? I describe it in detail in the following paragraphs.

1. Graphs, tables, or photographs

Observations are derived from the application of your methodology or method. These can be best presented using tables and graphs as objective representation of the measurements that you made. Numbers are more definite approximations of reality compared to just mere words. Words are more subjective and replete with misunderstanding.

Be consistent with your units of measurement. If you start off with kg, then use the same unit all throughout your paper.

Never should you manipulate the outcome of your measurements. Be honest in presenting information even if the result is unexpected. Whether the result is positive or negative, present it. This is an objective move.

You may also add photographs whenever needed but make sure these are relevant, not just whimsical addition to your paper or a means to flaunt your good photography skills; although it would be advantageous to show such skill coupled with relevance. Pictures can speak a thousand words.

In general, give as much detail as possible in your presentation of the results. Read and reread your statements for clarity. Engage a competent friend or a colleague’s discerning eye for details.

2. Topic sentences or subheadings

It is easy to follow your presentation if you break this into meaningful subtopics based on your stated objectives. A one-to-one correspondence would be great. Say, the first subheading will be about objective one, the second subheading about objective two, and so on.

Notice that in writing this article, it is an easy read to have a subheading for every major thought. This makes for easy reading thus understanding. And the writing becomes logical.

3. Key results

Your key results should be stated clearly at the beginning of each paragraph. It should serve as the topic sentence (see the TSPU Principle). Support that statement with more detail such as presenting the results of statistical analysis.

For example:

There is a significant positive relationship between the number of hours spent by students in answering Mathematics questions and their examination score. This result is consistent across all grade levels in the three schools examined. Table 1 shows the correlation coefficients and their corresponding significance level.

Writing the Discussion

After examining several theses of previous years, I noticed that many undergraduate and even graduate students miss this part. The results were presented as well as the analysis but no discussion is in sight.

So what comprises the discussion? Here’s what should be present in the discussion part:

1. Trends and spatial differences

Trends refer to changes over time. Are your results showing an increasing, decreasing or just plain, constant direction? This should be evident in the graph that you presented.

Spatial differences refer to differences in space or location within the same time frame. Is there a significant difference between the two groups examined? Is there a difference in the morphological measurements of one group of animals obtained from one location compared to another group? These are questions that explore spatial differences.

2. Insightful interpretation of results

Insightful interpretation means well thought explanations. That means you will have to ponder deeply the results of your study and make a knowledgeable statement of your interpretation using the body of evidence at hand. This is where you cite evidences obtained by other authors. You either confirm or affirm other people’s work or refute using your own findings.

3. Generalizations

Be on guard in writing your generalizations. Make sure that the data you analyzed can be extrapolated or will allow you to predict somehow the behavior of one variable. If you have enough samples then you may make a generalization.

How enough is enough, you may ask. If your data has little variability as indicated by low variances, then it is possible that additional measurements will not change whatever trend you have.

Always match your generalization with whatever results you have. Conversely, do not generalize when you have very few samples. Don’t say 50% when you actually have only two, three, or even four samples described in your study. That’s plain absurd.

4. Exceptions to the rule

In scientific inquiry, not all things or factors are discovered. There are always unknown or unaccounted areas. This is the reason why everything is founded on probability. No one’s 100 percent sure. So you should never say “prove” as a matter of contention. Prove means 100% sure which never happens. There are always expected deviants from the norm.

5. Reasons why things happen

Things happen due to something else. Reaction arises from action. These are called determining factors.

Are there reasons why your results follow a trend? Is it evident in your study? If there is, then say it and explain why so, again based on your observations or evidence.

You may guess but make it educated, meaning, you have done your homework. You have reviewed the literature and use it as a leverage for advancing your hypothesis or inference.

Does your finding support or refute what has been done so far? Does it support previously advanced hypotheses?

Remember that there is no such thing as a simple explanation of a complex phenomenon. Find one that is most aligned to your findings.

It would be interesting to be in the controversial side as long as you have done your study systematically and bias is reduced to a minimum.

6. The contribution of your work

What the are the important things that your study has contributed so far in view of what has been laid out in the body of literature? Why is your work important and what things need to be investigated further?

From your set of questions, if many other questions arise, then your work has helped unravel other areas worthy of investigation. This is just how science works. The mysteries of the universe are uncovered yet there are still many unknowns.

No human has absolute understanding of everything. But if your work has potential to make life better, then it’s a great accomplishment.

Reference:

Kim Kastens, Stephanie Pfirman, Martin Stute, Bill Hahn, Dallas Abbott, and Chris Scholz (n.d.). How to write your thesis. Retrieved May 24, 2015 from http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~martins/sen_sem/thesis_org.html

A Research on In-service Training Activities, Teaching Efficacy, Job Satisfaction and Attitude

This article briefly discusses the methodology used by Dr. Mary Alvior in the preparation of her dissertation focusing on the benefits of in-service training activities to teachers. She expounds on the results of the study specifically providing descriptive statistics on satisfaction of in-service training to them and how this affected teaching efficacy, job satisfaction, and attitude in public school in the City of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines.

Methodology

This study utilized the research and development method (R&D) which has two phases. During the first phase, the researcher conducted a survey and a focus group interview in order to triangulate the data gathered from the questionnaires. Then, the researcher administered achievement tests in English, Mathematics and Science. The results found in the research component were used as bases for the design and development of a model. The model was then fully structured and improved in the second phase.

The participants were randomly taken from 19 public high schools in the Division of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. A total of fifty-three (53) teachers participated in the study and 2,084 fourth year high school students took the achievement tests.

The researcher used three sets of instruments which underwent face and content validity. These are

  1. Survey Questionnaires for Teacher Participants,
  2. Guide Questions for Focus Group Interview, and
  3. Teacher-Made Achievement Tests for English, Mathematics, and Science.

The topics in the achievement tests were in consonance with the Philippine Secondary Schools Learning Competencies (PSSLC) while the test items’ levels of difficulty was in accordance with Department of Education (DepEd) Order 79, series of 2003, dated October 10, 2003.

Results of Descriptive Statistics

Teachers’ insights on in-service training activities

Seminar was perceived to be the most familiar professional development activity among teachers but the teachers never considered it very important in their professional practice. They also viewed it applicable in the classroom but it had no impact on student performance.

Aside from seminar, the teachers also included conference, demo lesson, workshop and personal research as the most familiar professional development activities among them.

Nonetheless, teachers had different insights as to which professional development activities were applicable in the classroom. Science teachers considered team teaching, demo lesson, and personal research, but the English and Mathematics teachers considered demo lesson and workshop, respectively.

With regard to the professional development activities that were viewed very important in their professional practice and had great impact on student performance, all subject area teachers answered personal research. However, the Mathematics teachers added lesson study for these two categories while the teachers in Science included team teaching as a professional activity that had great impact on student performance.

Moreover, teachers had high regard for the INSET programs they attended and perceived them effective because they were able to learn and developed themselves professionally. They were also highly satisfied with the training they have attended as indicated in the mean (M=3.03, SD=.34). Particularly, they were highly satisfied with the content, design, and delivery of in-service training (INSET) programs, and with the development of their communication skills, instruction, planning, and organization.

Teachers’ teaching efficacy, job satisfaction and attitude

Teachers had high level of teaching efficacy (M=3.14, SD=.27) particularly on student engagement, instructional strategies, and classroom management but not in Information Communication and Technology (ICT). It seems that they were not given opportunities to hone their skills in ICT or they were not able to use these skills in the classrooms. Likewise, they had an average level of job satisfaction (M=2.91, SD=.27) and had positive attitude towards their teaching profession (M=2.88, SD=.44).

In conclusion, there are professional activities that are viewed very important in teaching and there are also which have great impact on students’ academic performance.  In addition, the study found the inclusion of ICT in teaching and for professional development.

To know more about the model derived from this study, please read 2 Plus 1 Emerging Model of Professional Development for Teachers.

© 2014 December 29 M. G. Alvior

10 Qualities of a Successful Graduate Student

How can you succeed in your quest towards obtaining a higher degree? Are there desirable traits that you should cultivate to reach your goal? See if you have the following qualities of successful graduate students.

Every time new graduate students enroll in the subjects I teach, I always give tips for them to ponder and adopt while pursuing a higher degree. I do this primarily to encourage them and ensure that they finish what they have aimed to achieve, that is, to finish an advanced degree.

What are the qualities or characteristics that a graduate student must have in order to succeed? I draw upon my experience and my observations of students who have made it through the graduate school.

10 Qualities of a Successful Graduate Student

You may already have some of the traits below but consider other characteristics that you might have missed.

1. Adept at multi-tasking

A successful graduate student is flexible in his dealings with home, work, and other duties requiring his attention. He should be able to easily shift from one task to another.

Graduate school work is demanding so you must develop this skill to succeed. While waiting for the computer to boot, arrange things in your table.

2. Finds time to relax

Despite the grueling work involved in graduate school work, a successful graduate student should find time to relax. The old saying “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy” holds true. Taking rest replenishes your energies to do more.

I find my 30-minute trip to dreamland invigorating. A quick nap relaxes me and sharpens my wits once again to write much more efficiently.

Give yourself a rewarding rest and relaxation each time you accomplish something. Even a visit to a beach and seeing the horizon can give you a good break from a hectic day.

3. Knows how to plan to reach a goal

Planning saves time. Breaking tasks into manageable bits keeps the momentum going. Work on the most urgent and important ones. Imagine your goal and picture yourself reaching that goal. Your body follows what your mind sets you to do.

4. Has a deeply ingrained motivation to succeed

Think of the benefits you will gain once you finish your advanced degree. This can keep you motivated to go on despite the hardships along the way.

Always be positive, stay on course and finish what you have started.  The end result of pain is gain.

5. Works hard in a smart way

Don’t be exasperated by lots of reading materials. Enjoy your readings and extract important theories or concepts from them. This activity becomes much more meaningful if you ask yourself some questions before reading.

Questions like “What do I want out of this reading material?” or “What significant piece of information do I need to derive from this book?” can spare you from wandering about the text. Read with a purpose in mind.

6. Has a keen eye for mistakes

A good graduate student has a keen eye to notice mistakes. He does not take things for granted. He is meticulous to see even a wrong punctuation or illogical statements in his write ups. He writes the References section completely, with all the commas, periods and semi-colons in their proper places.

7. Manages resources effectively

A successful graduate student manages important resources like time, money, and effort efficiently. He keeps appointments, arranges files for easy retrieval, and works on assignments quickly. He passes class requirements on time.

8. Has a passion for discovery

The end result of a master’s degree or a doctoral degree is the capacity to do research. Research is performed to discover new things or new relationships between variables.

If you have that passion to discover something new, then that will keep you going in your chosen field of specialization. Discovering something new is satisfying.

9. Can integrate scattered data and draw up concepts

Integrating scattered data or information takes some skill. Once you develop this skill, it will be easy for you to develop concepts that will guide you through research work. Concept building requires higher thinking skills like analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating different works on a given phenomenon.

10. Physically and mentally fit

Last but not the least,  graduate students should be physically and mentally fit so as to take on the stress associated with graduate school work. Walking or running for a total of 150 minutes each week can give you the energy and conditioning to take on long hours of reading and writing.

© 2014 September 17 P. A. Regoniel

E-catalogue: An Innovative Instructional Design

This article introduces an out-of-the box idea in designing an instructional material. More often than not, books are used to contain lessons or bits of information that teachers would like to impart to the learners.

However, the rise of social networking and e-learning prompted Dr. Alvior to design an instructional material that would address the teachers’ and students’ needs to keep abreast with current developments in educational technology – the e-learning approach.

My doctorate program at West Visayas State University in Iloilo City, Philippines requires graduate students to create something new or come up with creative ideas. This task consists part of my training because an advanced graduate course, i. e., a doctorate degree, requires students to come up with their own theories (see theory testing and theory building). Thus, as I specialize on curriculum development, I have to innovate an instructional design without sacrificing the essence of the teaching and learning process. I call this the “e-catalogue.”

Definition of eCatalogue

According to Meriam Webster Dictionary, a catalogue is a complete enumeration of items arranged systematically with descriptive details. It is also defined as a pamphlet or book that contains a list of information.

In my instructional design, I operationally defined it and added the word electronic. Thus, e-catalogue is a pamphlet that contains information for teaching and learning. Specifically, it includes the learning objectives, motivation, procedure, evaluation (assessment), and enrichment activity.

Features of E-catalogue

As previously stated, the e-catalogue contains the following information:

1. Learning objectives

This e-catalogue is taken from a syllabus that contains the skills needed by the students to succeed in the workplace. For example, if the subject is English for Business Communication, students need to develop their skills on how to write an opinion letter, order letter, letter of request, among others.

Likewise, the skills to be developed are translated into learning objectives using the three domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. Cognitive refers to conscious mental processes such as thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering. Affective pertains to a student’s feelings, moods, and attitudes while psychomotor relates to learning that entails thinking with action or movement to demonstrate physical skills.

2. Writing prompts

writing on boardWriting prompts are sets of instructions for writing. Prompts provide information as to whom the students should address the letter (the intended readers), and as to why the students are asking or giving the information (purpose). Likewise, authentic or real-world situations are integrated in the prompt. Students should address the prompts well by portraying and/or giving only the information that is asked of them.

3. Writing Activities and Assessment

Writing activities involve discussion of materials taken from newspapers, comic strips, puzzles, blogs, power point presentations, documentary films, internet and others). The purpose of this activity is expose the students to the different types of media so that they won’t easily get bored with the lessons. In addition, the writing drills progress from simple to complex. Revisions start with words, then phrases, and finally, sentences. Also, it uses the process approach in writing, that is, 1) pre-writing, 2) writing, and 3) post writing in which students’ outputs are marked using a holistic rubric.

Other Features

An e-catalogue is easy to use and has no cultural biases. Students can easily understand the concept because it is designed as to what, why and how a particular topic like business letter should be written by providing examples and activities.

Due to the fact that most of the students nowadays don’t like to read a lot, the presentation of the lesson is capsulized. Students need not filter the information that is deemed important for them.

So, why don’t you try this? Sometimes, it’s good to do something different.

This innovation in instructional design was presented in 2007 to Dr. Bibiana Espina of West Visayas State University.

© 2014 June 4 M. G. Alvior

How to Finish Your MS or PhD on Time

Are you concerned that you may not be able to finish your graduate studies on time? Here are four tips to keep you on track.

How can you finish you MS or PhD on time or even before the prescribed period? As a graduate student, you may be quite concerned especially those who have a fixed number of years to finish their degree as part of the requirements of a grant or scholarship given them. This is possible, as long as you are determined to finish graduate studies as a desirable goal in your life. If others were able to do it, why can’t you?

Remember that the main reason many people pursue an advanced degree is such that they are able to do independent research. Aside from personal satisfaction of maximizing your potential as a student, you actually are preparing yourself for a life of research, of discovering things and ultimately contributing to the improvement of human life on this planet.

However, many MS and PhD degree holders just get their degree for the sake of getting that degree for promotion purposes, to get a permanent teaching position in a college or university or just plain vanity. These degrees are not designed to be taken for such purposes. Learning the art and skills of research requires responsible application of what has been learned.

So if you are inclined and is ready to take the challenge of finishing an MS or a PhD in your chosen field, here are four tips that will help you finish your course in due time and dispel of your worries. These are products of experience topped with a little imagination.

 Four Tips on How to Finish Your MS or PhD on Time

1. Have a research topic ready early in your schooling

During the early part of my advanced schooling to finish my PhD, my professor noted that ideally, graduate students should already have their research topic ready upon entering the graduate school. This is important so that the student is able to select the appropriate subjects required to be able to effectively conduct research on the topic envisioned to be explored.

Find a good adviser and refer to your university’s or scholarship granting institutions’ research agenda on topics to be pursued if there are prescribed directions for the preparation of the thesis or dissertation. It is better to be aligned with such priorities especially if you expect funding assistance from these institutions.

2. Procrastinate up to a certain point

Many people say that procrastination is bad. But procrastination can be productive too — at a certain point. The point is, if you postpone doing things at a later date, there may be better options along the way that you could consider or integrate in your decision. So, it’s better to take action, within a time frame, because you gain more information as more time is allowed to pass. More information means better decisions. You can write your manuscript better with intensive editing. And there will be less time-consuming repetitions or revisions of your manuscript. You are then able to save time.

A haphazard work, even if quickly submitted, is never acceptable. If you are given a week to work on a project, maximize it. Chances are, you can do your best if you make use all of those time. But of course, there are exceptions. If your scholarship provider gives monetary incentive for you being able to finish early, then go for it. Hack away…

3. Use a fishbone planning guide

There are many free tools available now to facilitate planning activities within a time frame. One of my favorites is XMind, a free mind mapping software to help your ideas take form. It is freely downloadable while extended features can be enjoyed using the Pro version. Plan your time frame to finish your advanced degree using this tool.

I prepared a simple sample of a fish bone plan guide for graduate students below showing the critical points of graduate school work (see below). You can add more detail such as adding the time you will do the things required to finish your course and including details on what you will do under those major milestones in your study. You may print this and stick it on a wall to remind you always.

fishbone plan
A simplified plan to finish graduate school work.

4. Play

You also need to de-stress once in a while. All work and no play can make Johnny a dull boy. Take time out with friends and relax. After all, what are you studying for. Is it not that you want to have a good life to enjoy? Little joys can compensate for a hectic work schedule. Taking too much stress can be bad for your health.

While stress is necessary to get things done, too much stress can have negative effects. Too much production of the stress hormone cortisol, according to Scott (2013), include the following negative effects:

  • inability to think well or understand things
  • problems in the thyroid which is responsible for calcium secretion (related to bone maintenance)
  • higher than normal blood pressure that could lead to stroke
  • weakened immune system that will allow cancer cells to proliferate
  • more fat in your abdomen (!)

If you gain too much fat, you will have a host of other problems associated with it. That will be another source of stress.

Apply these tips and you will be well on your way to the path of academic success.

© 2013 November 22 P. A. Regoniel

How to Write the Abstract

This article provides guidance on how to write a good abstract. See how it’s done.

After you have written fully your research paper, thesis, or scientific paper, there is a need for you to write the abstract. How is the abstract written? What are the important elements of a good abstract?

If this is the first time or you do not feel confident about the abstract that you have written, here are important points to remember and adhere to in writing the abstract. An example is provided for your guidance.

Definition of an Abstract

An abstract is a short summary of your research paper, thesis, or scientific paper. How short should it be? If you are submitting it for inclusion in a conference presentation, the convention is to limit its length from 250 to 300 words. It is possible, however, to capture the essence of the paper in less number of words. This means that you will really have to make it as short as possible without leaving out the important items that will cause readers to read the paper. The abstract serves as a teaser, a taste of the pie for readers to decide whether they will read the whole piece.

Elements of a Good Abstract

A good abstract is a mini-version of the whole research paper. Therefore, it should contain

  • the aim or purpose of the research paper,
  • the methodology or the procedures used in the conduct of the study,
  • the major findings, and
  • the conclusion or conclusions.

Recommendations are not included in the abstract.

In writing a good abstract, therefore, the critical sections of a research paper should be present. How is this achieved? You can simply start off by writing each of the above mentioned sections in only one sentence. This means that your abstract can be written in four sentences.

All right. So how should the different sections be written in such a way that they are concise while at the same time meaningful? Be guided by the following descriptions of each critical section:

  1. Aim or purpose – state why the study was undertaken and what are its objectives
  2. Methodology – give a brief description of how the study was conducted
  3. Major findings – only state the significant results or highlights of the study
  4. Conclusion – after those findings were obtained, what conclusions can be drawn?

Example of an Abstract

This report discusses a two-year study on the effect of exposing four to six-year old children to violent computer games. The study involved 200 children in nursery schools whose aggressive tendencies and anti-social behavior were observed with their teachers’ cooperation. The computer games they played at home were likewise assessed with the help of their parents. A strong correlation between violent computer game use and aggressive tendencies was obtained. Violent computer games, especially the interactive ones, caused greater aggressiveness and anti-social behavior among children.

flash games

I hope that should get you started. Have your own style by deviating a little from the convention. The point is, the abstract should be interesting enough such that the reader will want to read your investigation and learn from it.

© 2013 November 16 P. A. Regoniel

5 Ways on How to Generate Ideas Even When You Are Not Inspired

Perhaps one of the most difficult situations a graduate student encounters when writing parts of their research is when they are not inspired at all. How can one overcome this difficulty? Here are five ways to generate ideas even when you are not inspired.

Ever faced a blank wall, feeling uninspired to write something at all and finish your thesis or dissertation? This feeling is normal; everybody goes through this stage of their study life in the graduate school.

Here are five tips to keep you going in your quest to finish your thesis.

Five Ways to Generate Ideas

1. Take a break in a relaxing atmosphere like a beach or a place away from distractions. 

Relaxing in a beach with some notes with you can help you jot down ideas as you clear your mind of your cares at home. There may be cares at home or work that keeps you from writing. Being by yourself amidst a peaceful atmosphere help unclutter your mind and let ideas come in. Write anything that comes to mind.

2. Review your goals in life.

What do you really want out of your life? Sometimes, the lack of inspiration reflects a lack of direction. Remember why you want to finish your research paper. What will you get out of it? Is it something that will help you reach your goals in life?

By asking yourself these questions, your mind will try to justify the need for action. It will force your mind to think and generate ideas to realize your goals. If the goal is quite clear, ideas will converge for its achievement.idea

3. Outline your tasks and do these tasks incrementally.

Make sure you outline your tasks and break them down into doable bits of action. You can use a mind map to follow on your progress. If you are just starting your research proposal, you can use this mind map to help you submit your research paper on time.

Make sure that you are clear about your statement of the problem. Psychologists noted that among cognitive factors that have been shown to hinder creative thought are failure to perceive and define a problem correctly. [1]

4. Do some chores.

Do what you kept hanging for a long time. Do you need to fix something at home but have postponed it hoping you will find the ‘right time’ to do it? The time is now. This may be one of the needed chores that keeps you from thinking when you need to. Unfulfilled tasks hinder creativity. The mind must be free to harness its creativity.

While doing the chores you need to do, there’s a great possibility that something might crop up in your mind. So keep your notes within grasping distance for a quick jot.

5. Write freely.

Take a pen or pencil and a sheet of blank paper. If you prefer, open your laptop and use an uncluttered word processor to start writing anything that comes to mind. One of these excellent writing tools that can help you focus on your writing is FocusWriter, a distraction-free word processor.

Write freely, close your eyes and let your mind flow. After a while, inspired messages will offer themselves to get you going.

Reference

1. “Creativity.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 1968. Retrieved October 01, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045000261.html

© 2013 October 2 P. A. Regoniel

Five Tested Time Management Tips for Graduate Students

As a graduate student, how do you manage your time? Here are five tested time management tips from someone who has been there.

Once you decide to get yourself ahead by enrolling in the graduate school, you are bound to meet the time management challenge. It is a must that you use the best time management approach you can lay your hands on.

Time management is a very crucial consideration because you cannot hope to carry out everything considering many things demand your time. These things include your work, home life, leisure, social life, love life, hobby, spiritual life, and many other things you committed yourself into.

Many of those who enroll in the graduate school are already professionals and are working. As a graduate student, how will you survive all those demands on your time and reach your goal?

Based on my experience, here are time management related techniques that enabled me finish the two levels, master and doctoral levels, within a reasonable period.

Five Tested Time Management Tips

1. Prioritize by saying No

You always see this suggestion in any time management book out there. What is prioritization for the graduate student?

This means that once you enroll in an advanced degree of your choice, you should devote enough time to it. This will entail changing your daily routine.

Two decades ago, on any given day, fellow workers would invite me for a drink after work (and I did many times) but I reflected that all those merrymaking and gossiping amount to nothing. At one point, I just have to decline the invitation and tread a different path. My answer is a definite, categorical NO, and they respected my decision.

You need to be honest with yourself and others to reach your goal. Practice saying NO to all those activities or demands on your time that do not align with your goals.

2. Divide long-term goals into chunks of manageable time

If you are a working graduate student, there is really no need to stress yourself out by taking too many subjects at the same time. Just enroll in a manageable number of subjects in your curriculum that you can finish within a reasonable time.

I recall that I finished my master’s degree within five years. I believe that is a reasonable amount of time because I had a full eight-hour work week and I can spare time for only two subjects a week. I consistently attended those classes and tried hard to comply with the requirements despite the occasional field work that brought me out-of-town.

3. Invest to gain time

There is a limit to what you can do within a given day. But you can multiply your effort by hiring others to do work for you.

In gathering related literature to develop the conceptual framework of my dissertation, I sought the help of a group of enterprising students who offered gathering research materials for a fee. Surely it saved me time, especially commuting time, that eats up a lot of unproductive hours. That was the time when the internet is not yet a reliable source of information.

Now, it is relatively easy to gather a pile of literature useful in building up your conceptual framework through an internet connection. If you don’t have time even to surf and/or don’t know how to do it effectively as you find yourself in a sea of confusion in the world wide web, ask a competent colleague or service that can do that for you. Just specify which types of literature you would like to have in your collection.

Ask your service provider to focus on factual information. If you want to do the screening yourself, read my earlier post titled 10 Tips on How to Discern Fact from Fiction.

4. Set deadlines

Plan out and specify specific target dates or time periods for the following things you need to do in the graduate school:

  • submit assignments,
  • read assigned books and articles,
  • explore research topics,
  • submit research topic for your thesis,
  • develop your literature review,
  • come up with a conceptual framework,
  • review notes for the comprehensive exam,
  • schedule defense date,
  • revise manuscript (this takes a great deal of time),
  • finalize the manuscript (almost there), and
  • submit final manuscript.

assignments

Image Source

Always be one step ahead in addressing any of these concerns. It is good habit to aim to submit your requirements before the target date. If there are glitches along the way such as a damaged computer hard drive due to a virus that wiped out all those well-thought composition of yours, then you have more flexibility. This habit also relieves you of the stress associated with doing work at the last minute, that is — stress. Too much stress kills.

As you will have to do a lot of reading assignments, it pays to have certain guidelines to follow on how to do read more effectively. For tips on how to do this, read Five Effective Reading Tips for Graduate Students. If you apply the tips, you’ll finish your reading assignment in no time.

5. Read time management books

I bought and have read a good number of time management books in my effort to manage my time well. Among those books, Bliss’ Getting Things Done[1] stood out and were very useful to me. I like the way he presented his practical tips because he wrote concisely about each tip and offered excellent advice.

Final Notes

Ultimately, a very strong motivation to finish a master’s or doctoral degree will propel you to your goal. Finishing graduate school opens new opportunities for personal and professional advancement as well greater opportunities to earn through consultancies.

Since time is of the essence, start graduate school work as early as you can. You may do so once your finish college, but a good work experience of three to five years in your line of specialization will enable you to discuss topics more meaningfully with fellow graduate students.

Reference

1. Bliss, E. C. (1976). Getting things done. New York: Bantam Books. 198 pp.

© 2013 August 20 P. A. Regoniel

Five Effective Reading Tips for Graduate Students

Graduate students need to do a lot of reading to familiarize themselves with theories and ideas along their field of specialization. This activity will help them develop their critical thinking skills to effectively engage in research work. If you are one of those tasked to do so, here are five effective reading tips that will help you reduce stress associated with the need to read an endless queue of reading assignments.

Once you commit yourself to graduate school work, you will face more academic responsibilities than you were in your undergraduate years. One of those responsibilities is to read more than you used to do. This is with the end in view of enriching your knowledge on theories or ideas that will help you build the conceptual framework of your thesis or research later on.

But how much reading should you really make? Does reading all those stuff really matter? Are there ways on how to read more effectively?

Of course, your reading assignment is not the kind of reading that you make for pure pleasure, but to get something out of it. And many of the assigned readings are not just a few pages of nonsense but thick pages of something to ponder upon. Usually, graduate students have to digest three to five books a semester. This is a challenge for those who are not used to reading books with thick pages such as novels.

It is to your best interest and advantage if you follow a set of reading guidelines before doing any reading. This is not only to help you finish the required readings on time and actively participate in class discussion on the topic, but also to help you get the most of your reading without necessarily giving you a nervous breakdown.

Here are five tips on how to make the most of your reading:

1. Find out why that reading material was assigned

Figure out first what you intend to get out of that article, handout, journal or book before embarking on that long journey across words devoid of refreshing graphics. Unless you fully understand  why that reading was given, it will be difficult to comprehend it.

Ask yourself the two most important questions: “What am I looking for in this reading material?” and “Where can I find it?” These questions will help you avoid wandering on not-so-important sections of your reading material.

2. If you are reading a book, browse the table of contents to give you an overview of the book

This is common sense but many students fail to do this, i.e., making full use of the table of contents (TOC). If you really are hard pressed due to the limited time given to read a thick book, skimming through the TOC will be an effective strategy. Just read those items that you are not thoroughly familiar with or those that are relevant to the questions posed in #1.

This works better than any speed reading technique ever devised. Why in the first place will you read something that you don’t need to? Just focus on those that align with your interest and get on with life.

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3. Write short notes on a record book as you go along reading

If you cannot make marginal notes right there on the reading material, you may just write notes and questions on a record book as you go along. Write the main topic on top and all your notes below. Notes remind you of the critical points you need to consciously store in your brain.

Why use a record book and not a notebook or a plain sheet of paper? This apparently unimportant suggestion is very important for the very reason that the record book allows filing and labeling for easy retrieval. You will, therefore, avoid that common mistake of losing your notes.

How should your notes be written? Make it as short as possible, noting only the important keywords. You need not rewrite the sentence, just make bullet marks for every important phrase and draw a star on those very important points made.

4. Read the summary if present

Reading the summary of a section, if present, can save you a lot of time. The summary serves to “warm up” your brain and gives you an idea of what to expect upon reading the composition. Thus, it will be easy to digest the contents.

5. Read only the lead sentence using the TSPU principle

Last but definitely not the least, use the TSPU principle in your reading venture. TSPU stands for Topic Sentence Paragraph Unity. Almost always, for a well-written composition, the topic sentence or lead sentence serves as the summary of the paragraph. A good book adheres to this principle.

If the lead sentence appears vague, you may read the supporting sentences after it. The main purpose of sentences after the lead sentence is to enable the reader to understand what it means by expounding more on it. If the first sentence is quite clear to you, then there’s no need for you to read the rest of the paragraph.

At this point, you will have a better idea on how to go about your reading assignments in the graduate school. Happy reading!

© 2013 August 5 P. A. Regoniel