Tag Archives: research

10 Research Paper Presentation Tips

Are you presenting your research paper in a conference, symposium or forum? With advanced digital technology nowadays, it is easy to prepare one using, say, a powerpoint template.

But is the template enough to get your point across? Chances are, you have missed some important points especially if you are given only a few minutes to explain the findings of your study.

Here are 10 research presentation tips that will help you make an effective powerpoint or slide presentation.

10 Research Paper Presentation Tips

1. Simplify each slide.

On the average presentation time given to oral presenters is 10  to 15 minutes. To keep within the time limit, stress only the most important points in the research findings. Three lines of text in a slide will suffice.

Since you do not have all the time to present all your ideas, prepare slides in such a way that these are understood in a few seconds or at a glance. After the presentation, interested colleagues will approach you anyway.

2. Present slowly for better understanding.

Presenting few main points slowly is better than many ideas presented rapidly that that  make the whole presentation incomprehensible. Aim for audience comprehension.

3. Don’t overuse animations.

Your presentation may become too entertaining and lose its essence because of too many animations. Animations generally slow down the whole presentation and can draw away one’s attention from the main idea presented in the slide.

4. Use large, even fonts.

Arial or Helvetica font is best. Use at least font size 16 to ensure readability at a distance of 50 meters or more.

5. Use pictures with a few text.

A picture speaks a thousand words. A few lines of text reinforces what the picture portrays.

6. Don’t read your slide.

Flash the slide but don’t read it. Talking about your slide but not really reading it shows your mastery of your presentation and is helpful especially if you are presenting to compete.

7. Be redundant.

Define new concepts and repeat words or phrases that explain those concepts. Repetition fosters understanding in front of a diverse audience of professionals.

8. Be considerate when asked.

Presenting in a symposium, conference, or forum provides an opportunity to improve your research paper. Graciously accept critics or suggestions. There may be things you have overlooked or missed.

9. Don’t cite too many literature.

It is undesirable to cite most of the literature in your paper. Just point out the the gap in knowledge that you are addressing and fill those gaps with a report on your findings.

10. Organize your presentation in a logical manner.

It makes sense to start off with a short introduction pointing out the reason for your study, how you did it (the method), and the salient findings. Of course, the presentation ends with your conclusion and recommendations.

For more presentation tips, read the following:

©2014 December 28 P Regoniel

Do You Know that the Computer Can Disturb Your Sleeping Patterns?

For those who lack sleep due to computer overwork, here is an article for you. Take control of your sleeping patterns by getting rid of the blue light emanating from your computer. 

What does the blue light do to your brain and how does it affect your sleep? Listen to the video and appreciate how research findings can improve the quality of your sleep and affect your way of life in general.

Relationship between Hours of Computer Use and Sleep Time

I noticed that there seems to be a connection between the hours I spent sleeping and my use of the computer. As I stay logged in late in the night staring at the computer screen, the shorter my sleep time. I thought, “Is there a relationship between computer use especially at night and the number of hours I spent sleeping?

I’ve read somewhere that the computer does affect sleeping patterns. So, this could have been resolved simply by sleeping early thus avoiding the use of computer which may have been the culprit for my lack of sleep. But during times when I need to keep up with a heavy workload, I have to stay awake until late in the evening.

The Effect of Blue Light

Once again, I searched the internet for the specific effects of the computer to sleep. Then I came across a youtube video on how to sleep better. That video reminded me of the “blue light” emitted by the computer.

The video did not explain why blue light affects sleep but I remembered I read an article about it. According to research, blue light from the computer inhibits or reduces the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Thus, my lack of sleep may be due to reduced melatonin levels. I searched further in youtube about the blue light and what it does to melatonin. And I found a good explanation by Dr. Dani. I embed the helpful video below.

How to Counter the Effect of Blue Light

Knowing about blue light and upon hearing from another youtube video that it can be countered by wearing glasses with red filter or ultraviolet light protection, I resurrected my old sunglasses to experiment. I placed it on top of my progressive lens while typing in front of the computer late into the night.

At the first night I did it, I gained one hour of sleep and on the second day, I gained another hour. The latter gave me enough sleep, a full 7 hours, and greater energy to run early in the morning. I covered 7 kilometers that day in 39 minutes.

In summary, the lack of sleep that you may be experiencing may be attributed to the blue light emitted by the computer. Counter it by wearing glasses with red filter or sunglasses that serve the same purpose. If it doesn’t work then there may be other reasons.

For more tips on how to counter the effects of blue light, read the newsletter on blue light published online by Harvard Medical School.

©2014 December 12 Patrick Regoniel

Qualitative Methods: How to Collect Data

You may not realize it but you have already been doing simple research almost every day. If you want to know the price of a particular canned good, for example, you may decide to go to the store to get your answer or simply ask someone you think has the answer. This activity per se is an example of simple undocumented everyday research.

The research that is being taught in school, however, is a more complex methodological documented process of inquiry. Since the focus of this inquiry is far more complicated than your everyday exploration, there is a need for an appropriate and strategized set of tools in collecting the answers (called as data) for the questions that you pose (Dawson, 2007). The process is documented as a contribution to the extant set of knowledge as confirmation, negation or addition.

The following are the methods or sets of tools that you could use in qualitative research.

Interview

This is a common method wherein the researcher/interviewer arranges a meeting with the interviewee/participant for a dialogue about a topic that is the subject of the inquiry. In here, personal and social interactions occur wherein the interviewee serves as the source of data (Jupp, 2006). This could be done one-on-one or by group and could be face-to-face, by phone or computer mediated. This is analogical to asking someone (say one-on-one) about the price of canned sardines.

interviewing
A woman conducting an interview (Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung@Flicker.com).

 

Observation

As opposed to documents, the researcher gathers the data firsthand. He/She does the recording process personally using notes and/or audio/video. There are two ways of conducting observation, i.e., naturalistic and participant. If the researcher wants to retain the natural setting of the data source field so as to minimize the researcher influence, she or he may conduct a naturalistic observation without disturbing the participants in the field. In everyday research, if the individual wants to know how to fish, she may just observe others do it; otherwise she may join them and experience the activity herself. Participating in the setting is known as participant observation. Being a researcher-participant would further enrich the data as the researcher himself has additional point of comparison for analysis as long as he retains reflexivity. Reflexivity is a careful monitoring of the researcher’s biases, assumptions, and own perceptions regarding the experience.

Documents

While observation and interview involve social and personal interaction, and firsthand data collection, these are not available in documents. Documents as extant records of information; e.g., text, voice, sound and images are rich source of second-hand data which are still useful especially as supporting information for triangulation as such. Triangulation is a combination of data from at least two different sources to strengthen the findings. They could be journal entries, pictures, videos, audios, archives and other written (soft or hard) records like affidavits and legal papers.

Facebook statuses or comments on its walls are documents which could be used as data. Analogically, if you want to know the lyrics of a particular song, you may just surf on the net and read on the site.

Survey/Questionnaire

This method does not require personal interaction and/or dialogue as the participant called as respondent may just fill out a set of items or answer a series of questions written on a paper or posted on the internet. This could be self-administered or guided by the prompts of the researcher. It is just like giving someone a piece of paper asking for her name and contact number.

References

Dawson, C. (2007). A practical guide to qualitative research: A user friendly manual in mastering research techniques and projects. Oxford: How To Content

Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage dictionary of Social Science research methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

©2014 December 3 J G Pizarro

Qualitative Research: Definition and Principles

What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research? This article defines qualitative research, its focus of inquiry,  principles, and seven qualitative research approaches.

Research is a process of inquiry. It starts with a question whose answer could be acquired through a chosen approach and designed methods perceived as suitable. There are two approaches for inquiry, i. e., quantitative and qualitative which could also be mixed together if deemed appropriate.

What is qualitative
research?

Quantitative research uses numerical data for analysis while qualitative research uses non-numerical data and those other information which are not amenable to quantitative measurement, for description and interpretation (Jupp, 2006). In simple terms, when numbers are used to answer the question, then it’s quantitative otherwise it is qualitative; e. g., images, statements, and stories.

What is its focus of inquiry?

Qualitative approach is often small-scale and/or micro-level (Jupp, 2006) as it focuses on the ‘thick’ description of a particular phenomenon, culture, social reality, discourse, theory, and experience (Flick et al., 2000). These things could not be substantially inquired about with just the use of numbers. If a researcher wants to describe the life ways of a particular group for example, the data that will be needed involve images, narratives, conversations, text and other documents.

The three world views

The principles of qualitative approach could be summarized into three views, i. e., interpretivism, constructivism, and inductivism (Jupp, 2006).

1. Constructivism recognizes that meanings of things are not objectively discovered; rather they are subjectively created and imposed by people in given contexts. If the context changes so is the construct. For example, meanings created by a Filipino mother for motherhood will be different from the definitions provided by an American mother.

playing at the beach
Mother and child playing at the beach (Photo by: Sagie@Flicker.com)

2. Interpretivism emphasizes that the definitions of both are equally important for analysis and that there is no exact standard definition that requires one universal objective interpretation that is apparent in the tradition of positivism (a view of quantitative approach).

3. In inductivism, the new set of knowledge, meanings or theories are emergent through the process of induction. The approach does not require the testing of a particular extant theory or set of knowledge; rather it aims to produce new ones.

The seven approaches

There are about seven qualitative approaches being utilized across the different areas of Sciences, Humanities and Education.

1. Ethnography is usually useful in cultural studies as it aims to explore, describe and understand an intact cultural group.

2. Case study is particularly being utilized in clinical and health settings. Its goal is to collate and analyze all relevant information about a particular case under investigation such as an HIV patient or an individual with schizophrenia.

3. Grounded Theory focuses on emerging a theory about a particular reality so it undergoes a rigorous process of reflexivity, cross-analysis and emergence.

4. Phenomenology puts into the surface the participants’ subjective meanings of a phenomenon as experienced by him/her.

5. Autoethnography is an approach wherein the researcher himself/herself is the researched. This is usual in queer theory, sexuality studies, research areas, and emotionally loaded experiences.

6. Meta-analysis and discourse analysis are common in philosophical researches. These involve putting together theories or discourses for cross-analysis, confirmation, debates, and/or theory generation.

7. Narrative research is for the exploration and description of events and personal accounts which are chronologically connected, thus historical. This is interconnected with larger events beyond the individual.

References

Flick, U., Kardoff, E.V., & Steinke, I. (Eds). (2000). A companion to qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage dictionary of Social Science research
methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

©2014 November 16 Jemimah Pizarro

Effective Strategies for Engineers Writing Technical Reports in English

The research or report produced by an engineer is extremely important in getting himself established in his field. The hard work he put into his research could not be well presented if not well written. However, novice technical writers face numerous obstacles that prevent them from presenting their information clearly thus create wide readership.

This article shares some tips to engineers who are non-native speakers of English who would like to become successful technical writers in that language. It highlights some strategies to be adopted during writing. Further, the article outlines how various aspects like word choice, paragraph building, tone and grammar of a text could affect the way readers comprehend the text. It also shares some do’s and don’ts to become a good technical writer.

Introduction

Engineers investigate and try to answer questions on the working of things. While writing research reports, not only a sound knowledge of the subject is a pre-requisite but effective communication through correct language use is also important. Technical writers need to adopt a clear and effective way of expression in order to be well-understood by the readers.

This article outlines a few aspects that need attention when writing research reports in English in order to be well accepted by readers and field experts. Particular attention is given to word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, tone and grammar.

Word choice

Choices made at the lexical level make huge difference in how texts are received by the readers. While this is equally true for both verbal and written communication, verbal message especially face-to-face can be accompanied by acts such as gestures, eye contact and body language. This facilitates overall comprehension.

Unfortunately, this facility is not available in written communication. The only way left to convince the reader is through the correct word choice.

There are many factors which are decisive in determining the choices at the lexical level. To begin with, a technical writer needs to have information on the prospective readers of the text. A text written without an imagined reader is like music without soul. They need to identify who is going to read the text – whether they are students with limited knowledge or field experts with vast level of knowledge and experience. The language should have appeal to both sectors and should possess technical depth to satisfy the experts while simple enough to gain attention of novice learners of the field.

There is a possibility that as researchers, engineers writing a report might possess greater domain knowledge than their readers. This situation often results in failing to provide a proper background to their study as they tend to fall prey to the assumption that since they are aware of it, the readers ought to know it as well.

Contrary to their assumption, writing involves putting the reader in the situation. The text should be written by identifying exactly what the reader wants to know and orienting the text to arouse his interest.

Technical jargon

A technical write up usually contains a lot of technical vocabulary which do not pose a problem to field experts. However, a list of acronyms should be provided for students or newcomers in the field as they might eventually be reading the report after it has been accepted by the field experts.

Sentences

Long, complex sentences do not indicate the expertise of a technical writer. These sentences act as a hindrance in readers’ comprehension of a composition. While conveying highly technical information, small connected sentences should be preferred over very long and run-on sentences.

Paragraph building

The essential component of a written piece is the way paragraphs are built. The writers often cram information in a paragraph without any thought on organization. This leads to information dumping rather than information building.

The paragraphs should follow a structure. Each paragraph must revolve around a single idea. The first sentence of a paragraph should be the topic sentence and the rest of the sentences should be written to support that main idea presented in the first sentence (see the TSPU writing technique). The last sentence could either refer back to the first sentence or lead to the idea in the following paragraph.

(Next page please)

Five Tips for Research Paper Presentation

Are you ready to present the findings of your study in a conference? Here are five pointers for research paper presentation that you will find handy.

I figured out these tips from my personal experience in presenting research papers in many conferences I attended. 

Five Tips for Research Paper Presentation

1. Be ready with your presentation one week ahead.

Allocating a generous amount of time in preparing your slides means better quality presentation. Start preparing your research paper presentation at least a week ahead of schedule. This will give you ample time to download or prepare graphics that will make your presentation more interesting to your audience.

2. Assume that your audience does not know anything about your study.

Many presenters assume that their audience understands their jargon or scientific musings. Always assume that your listeners are laymen who know nothing about your study. This will help you present your ideas clearly to a broader group of people. After all, the intention of research is for people to see the relevance of your findings to their lives, not for purely academic debate. Reserve that one during your thesis or dissertation defense.

Your main purpose in attending the conference is to disseminate information. Many findings are left unutilized because people were not able to appreciate them in their utmost complexity.

3. Present only the highlights of your research paper.

In a large gathering of professionals particularly those that cater to many disciplines, the sheer number of research papers submitted for presentation will leave researchers a very brief time to explain the results of their study. It is common that a presenter will be given 15 minutes to present his paper with 5 minutes allocated to questions or clarifications by a panel or the audience. This will mean preparing roughly 10 to 15 slides of content.

It is good practice, therefore, that for every slide you prepare, present only three to four bullet points to put your idea across. Don’t be too wordy as the audience cannot grasp a paragraph-long content in one minute aside. This will also mean showing fonts that are indiscernible from afar.

Good quality, not tending to distract, and relevant graphics can help a lot. A picture speaks a thousand words.

4. Use large fonts that can be viewed easily from a distance.

How large fonts should be that these can be viewed from a distance? Arial font, size 26 can be a great size even from a 50 meter distance. Why arial? That’s because the font has more or less even sized impression. Contrast “Arial” with “Times New Roman.” The former is easier to read.

5. Always have a back-up.

Make sure that you have back-up copies of your presentation before going to the conference area. Copy a file in either a USB flash drive or a CD aside from having it in your laptop or desktop. If something goes wrong with your laptop or your file gets corrupted due to a virus that prevented you from accessing your files in the computer, you have another copy ready for use. Test each copy to make sure either works.

Applying these tips will help you gain more confidence in presenting your research paper. Do you have other tips to add? Leave your comments below.

©2014 November 6 Patrick Regoniel

A Critique on the Cooperative Writing Response Groups

Are you interested in writing a critique and would like to see how it is done? This article is for you. I write about the work of an English teacher, Melina Porto, on how to teach students to write. How did Melina approach students’ difficulty in writing good papers? I explain below how she made innovations in her pedagogical approach and presented my own perspective about what she did.

Writing the Paper

The author of this article is Melina Porto. She is an English teacher from the National University of La Plata, Argentina. She believes that timed writing itself contradicts recent research on writing pedagogy, and is therefore inappropriate.

This pedagogic proposal is based on cooperative writing response groups and self-evaluation. However, the university has already established testing procedures and she can only take limited instructional decisions.

The university requires students to devote two hours in writing approximately 350 words on a teacher-selected topic. The teacher then gives feedback in the form of error correction. In this process, grammar is given more emphasis than content. This means that a student would receive a failing mark if his sentences are grammatically wrong.

This situation contradicts Melina’s belief that writing is an interactive activity wherein learners need to know who they have to interact with and why (Widdowson, 1984). In addition, writing is a provoked activity; it is located in on-going social life.

Raimes (1985) intensifies this argument by giving a real audience for the students —their own teacher. In doing this, students become more social and communicative in their written works because they know whom they are writing to.

Another problem in teaching writing is the time pressure involved. Students are deprived of the concept of writing as recursive, interactive, communicative, and social activity (Silva, et al., 1994) due to the length of time allotted in finishing a composition. They do not have enough time to give suggestions or comments about their classmates’ paper nor to revise the final copy of their work.

Finally, little or no teacher feedback only leads to limited improvement in student’s writing because of unawareness of the linguistic problems and thus, they cannot generate alternatives and assess them.

Porto’s Research

The problems mentioned above encouraged Porto to conduct a research guided by the following criteria for good writing pedagogy:

  • to respond to student writing as work in progress (Zamel, 1985),
  • to encourage revision for meaning, and
  • to offer specific guidelines and directions on how to proceed (Raimes, 1991; Zamel, 1985).

With these in mind, she used the cooperative writing response groups (Bryan, 1996) in which three or four students as a group take turns in reading out their written pieces to members who then give feedback to the writer based on instruction given. This was implemented by selecting a topic that was developed at home through teacher-student negotiation. The point of discussion was merely on the content.

As a result, the students were able to ask questions, give clarification and opinion, make suggestions for improvement, give examples and pinpoint ambiguities before grammar related aspects were considered. Likewise, the writer was able to evaluate himself based from his teacher’s and classmates’ suggestions and feedback. In this process, the learners need to write the first draft, two revisions and the final copy.

The steps involved in cooperative writing response groups and self-evaluation are complicated and time consuming; but at the end, this is rewarding. Students’ performance can be easily monitored by including their cooperative writing response groups and self-evaluation in their portfolios; however, it entails more time for a teacher and the students as well, to read and give feedback for the initial draft, the two revisions (one on content, one in grammar) and the final copy.

On the other hand, students achieved better when 80 percent of the learners passed the required writing task in 1997 compared to the 70 percent passing rate before the innovation was introduced.

Further, empirical support was clearly lacking. Thus, further research should be made whether the approach actually succeeded in helping the students meet the writing requirement set by their institution. Cooperative writing response groups synthesizes product and process; thus, capturing the complexity of writing.

The Critique

I strongly agree with Porto’s idea of implementing the cooperative writing response groups and self-evaluation because it is student-centered and content-based rather than grammar. As a teacher, I also experienced before the dilemma of giving grades. I tended to give higher grades to students whose papers were grammatically correct; and in effect, students got a lower score if their papers had grammatically incorrect sentences, no matter how comprehensive and substantial they were.

I also agree that students should address a particular audience in writing and have a definite purpose. In doing this, they will know what kind of words they will use and how they will organize and present their ideas. The use of a more familiar audience or a particular person whom they know more – like their teacher or a classmate can motivate them to express their ideas well. They might feel that it is a cool and non-threatening activity.

Likewise, the concept of writing as recursive, interactive, communicative, and social activity entails a lot of time. Therefore, students must be given ample time to write and to interact with their classmates for suggestion and feedback. The giving of feedback by their classmates and most especially, by their teachers can help them improve their work and correct their mistakes. This also helps them become critical thinkers, writers and readers.

However, the implementation of this concept is impossible if the school administrators still insist on carrying out their traditional belief or policy concerning writing. A total re-engineering of the curriculum is necessary in order to avoid mismatch of the theories and principles (worthwhile activities that should be done in a classroom to make students communicatively competent) and of our practice in the educational system.

© 2014 October 9 M. G. Alvior

Research Focus: Police Involvement in Kidnapping and Extortion

Can you imagine that police officers themselves were the ones kidnapping or committing extortion to the very citizens they are meant to protect? This article examines the issue and poses questions for research purposes. You might want to help shape enforcement policy by doing research along the questions identified.

A kidnapping and extortion incident broke in the headlines a few days ago in the Philippines. Allegedly, a businessman was held at gunpoint by an organized team of gun-toting individuals.

Someone passing through the scene thought of taking a picture and uploaded the picture in the internet—with success, because it took the attention of the netizens, and most importantly, honest police officers who swore to uphold the law.

Why use the term “honest?” That’s because those gun-toting individuals trapping a vehicle using three privately-owned cars in the picture were police officers themselves! The system of CCTV cameras somehow made out the plate numbers.

What ever happened to the police officers who should be the ones protecting the citizens? And to think that the police officers get their support from the citizens through taxes.

A large part of my salary goes to tax. Indirectly, I am paying these police officers for their services. For what?

It is a sad fact  that police officers were involved in that embarrassing situation at broad daylight. How could such thing happen? At least that’s how everyone is treating the whole thing—the police officers are the ones at fault.

This kidnapping incident is actually not the first time that happened in the country. There were similar events that happened in the past. The difference is that those were not so celebrated because nobody documented the operation.

Exploratory Research Questions

I have not yet heard substantial responses from those involved. Is it also possible that they were just victims of a frame up? Who took the picture? Should that person be likewise investigated? Is there a possibility that both sides are actually involved in something nasty or illegal?

Several other questions popped in my mind:

  • Why did the police officers behave the way they did?
  • Are they not aware and mindful that the citizens are their primary clientèle as they are paid by the government?
  • Are their superiors aware of their actions and are also involved? Up to what rank is involved in the illegal activity?
  • Did their training in the police academy fail to inculcate the proper values?
  • Did the educational system fail in general?
  • Did the parents inculcate the right values to their children?

In reference to the last question, Freud advanced that the first five years of a person’s life are crucial to the development of the adult personality (McLeod 2008). Whoever mentored or taught these police officers when they were still young children have influenced their minds and behavior. How were they raised?

Suggested Research Questions to Clarify the Issue

For those taking higher degrees in criminology, answers to the following questions may be sought based on the case described above:

  1. What is the level of commitment of police officers to their duties?
  2. How high is the morale of the officers and the rank-and-file?
  3. Is there a relationship between police officers’ officers’ profile and their propensity to commit crime? Which factor is most influential?
  4. Is there a relationship between the management style of superiors and the behavior of their subordinates?
  5. Is the recruitment system for police officers stringent enough to weed off undesirable individuals from the police force?

Answers to these questions will somehow help institute appropriate government policies to prevent, minimize, reduce or eliminate commission of crimes like this in the future. Research is a powerful tool that well-meaning managers of human resources should consider. Palliative, non-working, hit-and-miss policies or approach that serve to “cure” instead of prevent is more costly.

Reference

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Psychosexual Stages. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/psychosexual.html

© 2014 September 13 P. A. Regoniel

10 Pointers from One of the Winners of a Research Paper Contest

How do you write  a competitive research paper? Here are 10 points that can guide you towards realizing your goal to win.

Getting awarded for a research paper I hurriedly prepared within a three-day period is something that confirmed my approach in research writing. Last Thursday, August 14, the paper I wrote based on a nine-month project completed in 2013 garnered the third prize in the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Contest under the professional category.

During the convention, I learned that a total of 31 entries were submitted from all over the country for a double-blind review by experts in the field of health. And only three research papers made it – mine included. More than 500 participants nationwide coming from the 17 regional health research consortia participated in the event.

A senior colleague and once the university’s Vice-President for Academic Affairs was instrumental to my success as she prodded me to join the contest although I had misgivings because the deadline was three days away. Despite my apprehension, I confidently nodded and said okay. I thought I might be able to glean useful data and information from recently concluded research project on the economic analysis of household adaptation options to climate change.

I summoned all I could muster to at least beat the deadline despite the limited time frame. I reviewed relevant literature and organized my thoughts as I write, guided by the theme of the celebration.

I did this kind of writing before mainly for compliance; but this time, I thought I’d aim to win — for a change. I’m giving research tips in this site and I’d like to put them to work. My intention was, if ever I win the contest, I would share pointers in writing it here. And that will make this site a more credible reference for colleagues and students in writing their research papers.

So here are  the 10 key points that helped me deliver a winning research paper despite the time constraint.

10 Key Points for a Winning Research Paper

1. Assess your capability and stick to the deadline.

Before writing anything, note the deadline of paper submission. Is it still possible for you to figure out a paper before the deadline ends? You have to assess your capability and resources at hand to deliver a paper within the prescribed period.

My typing speed of at least 60 words per minute helped me write the research paper with ease as my hands can cope up with what’s in my mind. That speeds up my composition as every idea that comes to mind rapidly goes on paper in real-time.

I like blogging and I’ve written hundreds of online articles for the past six years; so putting ideas into writing has not really become much of an issue. This is the reason I encourage colleagues to blog. This will hone their writing skills while at the same time earn something if they join free writing sites that pay their bloggers.

Back to the deadline issue, if the deadline is Monday, then by all means, submit your research paper on or before the deadline. Indeed, during the announcement of the winners, the chairman of the board of judges mentioned that research papers submitted beyond the deadline were no longer accepted. I submitted my research paper in the afternoon of the deadline date.

2. Make your research paper relevant to the theme.

I made sure that the paper I submitted adheres to the theme of the convention. The convention’s theme focused on the role of health research in disaster and emergency health management. Thus, I titled my paper “Climate Hazard Effects on Socio-Environmental Health and Adaptation Strategies in Two Coastal Communities in Palawan Island.” That’s about disaster’s effect on the health of marginalized communities and how two communities adapted to climatic threats. The communities explored “soft” and “hard” adaptation strategies to make their communities more resilient to the negative effects of climate change.

3. Keep to the rules. See the contest guidelines.

I followed the contest guidelines in its entirety. There is a prescribed format for writing the research paper as well as in the slide presentation. I followed the IMRaD format using my favorite word processor. The slides must not exceed 10, so I prepared 10 slides; no more, no less.

4. Do the writing in the morning.

I have fun doing my write-up in the morning. My mind works best from 4:30 to 11:30 am. After lunch, my brain goes into a slumber. There’s something in the food that makes me sleepy.

According to Ben Biggs, increased serotonin in the brain as a result of eating heartily is the culprit. To keep my writing momentum, I will either eat a small meal at lunchtime, or… sleep.

In that three-day writing spree, I took the latter approach, taking a one-hour nap after lunch. I’m alive after that brief trip to dreamland.

Surprisingly, I was able to sustain my writing from the usual drowsy 2 pm writing struggle. Somehow, the adrenalin push caused by the nearing deadline counteracted the effect of serotonin. At 4 o’clock, I regain back my writing momentum.

5. Have a good review of recent and relevant literature.

Many of the published literature on climate effects are in scientific journals that I have no access at the time of writing. Unfazed by this constraint, I resorted to online material that are both relevant and recent, and of course, free.

My references on the weather and disasters were obtained from mostly government-operated sites that I could rely on as these are public service sites. I gathered the most relevant ones and kept my writing concise, summarizing each report as succinctly as I could by applying the 5Ws and 1H technical writing strategy.

third place winner
My certificate of recognition and trophy for winning the third prize during the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) week celebration.

6. Adopt the viewpoint of the reader.

I adopted the viewpoint of the one screening the research paper. I have had experience reading and evaluating the work of others so I tried to take the reader’s viewpoint while I read my own paper. This proved to be difficult because I have my biases. But thinking as if I am the judge myself and using the contest’s judgment criteria, I saw critical areas or arguments in my manuscript that need revision.

Asking colleagues would have been better, but the brief period to prepare the research paper would not allow it. I will certainly do this once another opportunity arises.

7. Be particular about your grammar.

In any contest where English is the medium of expression, a non-native English speaker like me has to rely on previous educational training, readings and references. I did good in English during my high school and college days. Further, I developed my writing skills by reading the composition of great writers as well as practicing the trade, mainly, through blogging.

For me, if it sounds right and not really awkward to read, then it’s probably written right. Further, a good word processor can point out obvious grammatical errors. I made good use of it.

8. Use short sentences.

A veteran research writer colleague reminded me once to keep my sentences brief and concise. This simple suggestion helped me all the way in my writing engagements.

Whenever possible, I see to it that each sentence I write contains one idea or a set of ideas that work harmoniously. This writing style simply works.

9. Provide relevant figures and tables.

Remember the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words?” I selected figures, graphs and tables that contribute to the message I want to put across. Just glancing at these complementary sources of information improves the readers’ understanding of the research paper.

Specifically, for the pictures to include in the research paper, show something controversial or intriguing that will spark a discussion. The picture should be socially relevant if the theme is about people.

As for the tables, I adopt three guidelines: 1) limit columns to a maximum of four as much as possible, 2) arrange the title of each column from the most important to the least important information, and 3) provide explanatory notes under the table for better understanding.

10. Direct your mind towards winning.

When I wrote the research paper, I thought of winning the contest. I didn’t try this mindset before. My write ups were not written to compete but just to comply with the minimum requirements for participation. I didn’t enter any contest for lack of a good reason to do so. I just don’t like to compete as a matter of choice.

How did a changed mindset help me write better?

Adopting a winning attitude forced me to bring my talents and creativity to the fore. One of those things that I determined within myself is the idea that I will not settle for anything less as much as possible. I will make my work as perfect as possible if I can afford it. My work should be more than just enough. It should be as excellent as it should, at least in my point of view. So I read and reread the paper many times over.

Of course, the time pressure did not really turn out the best in my research paper as I realized some loopholes when I read it again and when the panel of judges were asking questions. But during the time of writing, the composition was the best I could muster. And it worked, because it passed the initial screening. The research paper made it to the six finalists out of 31 submitted for review.

A proper mindset allows you to harness your talents and creativity. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck argues that people with a growth mindset see their qualities as things that can be developed through years of passionate practice and learning. And I believe I just did that.

Finally, connecting ourselves to the Supreme Being and having a noble purpose matters. All these things will not happen without blessings from the One who made it all possible. To Him all glory and honor return. After all, this toil is geared towards the betterment of humanity.

Try these tips and see how you perform. Or if you are a winner yourself, posting your thoughts below will be of great help to research writers.

© 2014 August 17 P. A. Regoniel

Five Time Management Tips for the Busy Faculty

Are you one of those who want to do research but find yourself too busy with your teaching tasks? Do you wish you can do more and improve your research performance? Here are five time management tips to help you out.

One of the four major functions of regular faculty members in the university is to do research. However, I always hear complaints among colleagues about their inability to deliver research outputs due to time constraints. There are just too many things to do with very little time to spare. For someone who has to prepare lessons for several subjects, writing a sensible research proposal for possible funding appears to be an impossible proposition.

How can you deliver despite these obstacles to your research writing engagement? I have found the following ways helpful which colleagues and anyone in the same plight may find handy:

1. Optimize.

Don’t work towards perfection. This doesn’t mean that you will write or do work haphazardly but set an acceptable standard that you can at least meet. It is better to do something than keep on griping that you can’t do anything other than teach.

2. Outline your planned composition.

Outlining before writing anything  can be a great motivator. Thirty minutes will be more than enough to prepare an outline.

I created a mind map to help anyone come up with a research proposal. Writing your proposal in chunks of activities at a given period can help you check your progress.

3. Use a pocket note.

Ideas crop up in your mind in the middle of the night or at unexpected times of the day. It’s difficult to capture these fleeting ideas unless you have a pocket note ready for this purpose. Keep one that is easily accessible in your pocket or stash in your handbag or waist bag.

busy personI advise against using electronic storage such as an android phone, tablet, or similar gadget. It is easy to lose files and even the whole thing. When you do lose it, it becomes a distraction because you feel bad having lost something valuable.

Besides, pocket notes are very cheap. After you have finished writing about those ideas in your notes, tear off the page and dump that in the garbage bin. That gives you a sense of accomplishment as your pocket note becomes thinner.

4. Identify your best writing time.

Set aside a specific time each day to write about research-related tasks.

My best time in writing about anything is the first four hours of the day. My mind is fresh especially after I have made my usual six to seven kilometer run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

After lunch, I’m useless as my eyes start to droop. I call that the “after lunch phenomenon.” A 15-minute nap will perk me up to work once again, albeit, with difficulty.

Unless something really needs to be done, I resolve to spend the afternoon on household chores or light tasks such as buying groceries, shopping, taking leisure time, and similar activities.

5. Be consistent. Practice makes perfect.

I know I am one of those rare guys out there who can keep on doing things I have set out to do. I find that writing each day gives me unexplained pleasure. Now, I can’t count the online articles I have written since I started off in 2008. I lost count but I am pretty sure I wrote at least 600 articles on different topics.

While consistently writing a lot of short articles for many years, I noticed that my writing skills improved and I do it with much less effort than before. I find my writing activity handy in writing research-related tasks.

Things happen when you do something about your plan. Nothing will happen unless you act NOW. I like that Nike slogan “Just do it.”

© 2014 June 30 P. A. Regoniel