Archives for : June 2015

Useful tips when attending a conference  0

Last week Tessa and I gave you an overview of our experiences from a conference (the ORD2015) we recently attended. We really hope you had fun reading our experiences and maybe related to it from your own experiences. This time I would like to be more helpful with my blogpost by providing tips when attending conferences. Or, actually I should say that I am only helpful by showing these tips to you… Other people have provided them; I asked PhD students from ICLON and other institutes to provide tips for when you are attending a conference.  The idea is that everyone (presenter, non-presenter, already having a large network, in a presentation not completely on your subject, etc.) attending a conference should find some useful tips in here.


Before the conference

Jorine Vermeulen (PhD  student at CITO and University of Twente) told me to be sure to prepare before attending the conference: Take at least half a day in advance to check out the program and make a selection of must go to session as well as sessions you can possibly skip for an extra break, some working, or a meet up with some people you really want or need to talk to about your project.

Daniël van Amersfoort (PhD student at Welten Institute, Open University) gave a tip you should think about when signing up for the conference: Always visit pre- and post-conferences or, in case it is being organized, a doctoral consortium; most of the times these meetings are more profound than the conference itself. In addition, these are perfect places to meet people you will probably also see at the conference!

In addition he says you should not only try to schedule where you are to meet new people, but: If it is a bigger conference and there are specific people, or even ‘big names’ you want to meet, email them months before the conference. Using this approach, I have sat at a table with almost half my bookcase ;-)!

Your conference presentation
So, try to stick with how you planned it 😉

Preparing a presentation for the conference? Bas Agricola (part-time PhD student at Utrecht University) has some tips for you:

  • Use the more standard building blocks for your presentation (theoretical framework and research question, method, results, and conclusion and discussion). This way it will be recognizable for you audience.
  • Considering your PowerPoint, Prezi, or other way of presenting you use; do not use too many words on your slides. Try to prevent from writing full paragraphs, use key words.


During the conference

The time has finally come. It is time for the conference! Time to do something with your preparations. But also, to be spontaneous; you didn’t plan that extra break for meeting specific other people? No problem, according to Nienke Woldman (PhD Student at Wageningen University and president of VPO): Do nNetworking at ORDot only attend presentation sessions. Make sure to have spare time to talk to other researchers. Making new contacts and maintaining ‘old’ ones is at least as important at a conference as exchanging information during sessions. Most of the times the scheduled breaks are too short for this. So, be spontaneous, decide suddenly to skip a session, grab a cup of coffee and see who you end up talking to. Sometimes at these, more quiet moments, you make really good contacts!

Daniël also made this point when I asked him for tips. Although he added: Do not stick with your colleagues the whole conference. You see these people often enough; go your own way. (also hearing Fleetwood Mac in you head right now?! I am….)

By the way, if you haven’t contacted those ‘big names’ do not think you’ve missed your chance. You have something to discuss with them? Do not hesitate to approach then and ask if you could discuss your research with them over breakfast or lunch.

Of course, during conferences the prepared presentations mentioned above are being presented. Are you presenting yourself? Bas has a tip for you: Share your doubts with the audience. Being transparent on the subjects you still have questions about will provide the best input for discussion and questions. And this in turn, will provide you with new information and thoughts to take home.

The idea during presentation sessions is that the audience is not a passive listener of what the presenter as to tell. Bas says: Actually, the same I just said about the presenter counts for the audience; share your thoughts. You do not have to be fully informed on the research subject of the presentation. You can always provide some new viewpoints on methodology and share your questions, criticism and feedback. Sometimes these new viewpoints are very refreshing for a researcher who is most of the time surrounded by his own research (subject).


How you can do this and what you can get from being an active listener, Tim (PhD student at ICLON, also blogger here on the research blog) shares with you.

Having attended several conferences as a non-presenter I would like to share some tips about ‘that what is not being said’. These can range from implicit assumptions, logical fallacies in reasoning, leaps of faith or simply not stating the obvious. To better understand the presenter and whatever it is (s)he is presenting about it can be very useful to make the implicit, explicit. For example:

  • Make notes (mentally or physically) during a presentation on which implicit assumptions the speaker makes about any theoretical models being used. To what extent does the presented study rely on the mentioned model or theory? Is it being assumed that this is the only theory? A complete theory? Is it being contrasted with alternative theories?
  • For studies which use a sample to generalize to a population: what exactly is the sample a sample of? What are the limits of generalizing the findings of the study? How representative (in size and characteristics) is the sample of the specific population?
  • For studies which use inference statistics: to what extent are the analyses explorative (e.g. no a-priori established hypotheses were made and many analyses were performed) or confirmatory (e.g. a-priori established hypotheses were tested)? What does this tell you?
  • For the ‘conclusions’ part of a presentation: are the conclusions sufficiently backed up by what was said before or are there hidden reasoning steps? If the given conclusions would not be true, would the presented study be able to found evidence for this? What are the alternative explanations or conclusions which may also have some – or maybe more – merit?

The goal is not to be overly skeptical, but to be sufficiently critical to look beyond what is being presented and (hopefully) learn more. This does not only help you to better understand presentations at a conference but might also prove helpful for your own studies, articles and presentations. But that’s just my assumption.


Now Jorine, Daniël, Bas, Nienke and Tim have flooded you with tips, I wish you a very fruitful conference the next time you attend one!


Oh, wait before I say goodbye here is a last tip from Nienke:

Never skip a ‘borrel’! Enjoying a drink together can be the beginning of  the best collaborations!


Do you have tips that haven’t been shared? Let us know!

ORD2015: Experiences from the Dutch Educational Research Days 2015  0

ORD logoUsually we upload a new post every two weeks. However, last week the yearly ORD (Dutch Educational Research Days), a three-day conference, took place and we thought this conference deserved an extra post. Every PhD-student will go to at least one conference and you might therefore either recognize some situations depicted below, or use some of the experiences when preparing to go to a conference.

In this blogpost Tessa and I will give your our experiences from the ORD2015. Tessa, as a non-presenter who visited the ORD for the first time. Me, as a presenter of my first paper and who has visited the ORD now for the second time.

Read more

Long time to write short !  1

Lately, I was asked to reduce a paper by 20% to meet the word-count requirements of the target journal. As you might except, this can be a painful task, because you don’t want to lose the body of your writing, but you’ve got no choice if you want to hand the piece in as required. Furthermore, this can be even more painful if you are not native English speaker. To me, the paper was already quite short as a literature review study, but nothing to do! Thus, I decided to consider the ways I could shorten the paper, and as a researcher I strated doing some research on it! Then I found out that I was not the only one ! 🙂 I have read a lot of ways, techniques and to do lists for shortening the academic articles.

In today’s blog post, I would like to share some of the techniques and example to shorten a paper without eliminating anything important with you.

1. Firstly, check the following that might let you reduce the word count without doing any modifications: a) Do the references count? b) Does the appendix count? c) Does the abstract count?

2. Delete, delete, delete …
When you remove some words from any sentence and still it does not change the main idea so definitely remove those words. It may seem difficult at first, but after deleting some words back and read the piece once more, I guarantee that you will see that you have deleted much more words than you guessed.

blog3a. Delete articles, adverbs, adjectives, connectives, propositions, and auxiliary verbs
Occasionally articles are essential to make something specifically clear. Though, often, they’re just fillers and can safely be eliminated if their presence isn’t necessary for clarification. Let’s look at this example,
With articles: He won second place for the best tasting pie, as well as third place for the most original ingredients.
Without articles: He won second place for best tasting pie, as well as third place for most original ingredients.
Adverbs are usually very deletable in academic writing. For example, “dropped rapidly” could be replaced with “plummeted”. Tip ! using ctrl + f to search for “ly” is a quick way to find a lot of adverbs. As an alternative of using adjectives, try to keep your prose clear and straightforward, and get straight to the point. Avoid detailed descriptions unless they are absolutely necessary for following your argument and you are sure that the reader needs the detail. Rather than having longer sentences linked with “and” or “but”, just delete those connectives and have two separate sentences. This will reduce the word count.
Remember ! Keeping everything clear and simple will make this process easier for reader.
Convert chunks of text that use a lot of unnecessary prepositions into rephrased, shorter versions without prepositions: you could replace “functions of technology” with “technology function” . The auxiliary verbs you might want to remove in academic writing are ones like “could”, “may”, “might” and so on.
Do ! Say what you mean directly and drop the extra verbs wherever you can.

b. Eliminating unnecessary spaces
Extra spaces between words, numbers and the percentage sign (%), the degree sign (°), symbols or operators and within numerical ranges and fractions can lead to word count inflation. Example: 55 % → 55% (-1 word)

c. Eliminating wordy transitions
In addition → Additionally, Moreover, Furthermore
In particular, More specifically → Specifically
As a result ,As a consequence → Thus, Therefore, Consequently
On the other hand →Instead, Conversely, Alternatively

3. Cut out repetitive chapter-linking sections
In academic writing, a lot of people have a habit to ‘tie off’ each section with a mini-summary and then ‘refresh’ the reader again in the beginning of the next one. This is redundant and wastes a lot of word count.

blog24. Two-line rule !
Do not extend sentence if you are not a native English speaker like me! The reader can’t remember how the sentence began upon reaching end if sentence is too long. Here is simple rule; don’t let sentence exceed two lines, otherwise split it. We love to use connectives so it would be end up being a very long sentence. Combined sentences turn into twisted just like caterpillars.

5. Write using active voice instead of passive voice
Active voice also typically requires fewer words to convey your ideas.
Passive voice: It was found that protein X activated transcription of gene Y. (11 words)
Active voice: Protein X activated transcription of gene Y. (7 words)

6. Reduce the introduction and conclusion
Two of the important parts of academic papers are the introduction and conclusion as their main function is to summarise the whole work. There’s no need to go into a lot of detail in these sections, that’s what the main body is for. Also remember that you should not include new information in the conclusion, keep it all in the main body.

7. Don’t rewrite data that is already presented in your tables and/or figures
It is acceptable, and typically preferred, to simply refer to your table or figure in the text instead of repeating data in the text that is also presented in either a table or figure. For example, you can simply state “Teacher demographics are described in Table 1.”

8. Review your chapters carefully to remove info or data that is defined in earlierblog4
After you have finished writing your manuscript, go through the entire text again to see if you have repeated any information in more than one section. For example, you may describe your data in the Results section and again in the Discussion. If you find this type of redundant text, it is fine to simply refer back to the original section in which the information or data is discussed. While eliminating this type of redundancy, you should be careful not to eliminate any important points, but, believe me; this helps you to reduce your word count.

9. Avoid starting sentence with “there are” or “there is.”
The phrases “there are” or “there is” are typically unnecessary and can be eliminated entirely. For example: There are no previous studies investigating the relationship between classroom management and student profile. This can be rewritten eliminating “there are” as following. No studies have investigated the relationship between classroom management and student profile.

10. Keep the mode !
Love the tenses. Yes, the study carried out in the past, nevertheless, in the article, when you describe the study using present tense seems more accurate. In fact, this issue is open to debate! But at least we can agree on ending a paragraph with the same tense as you started.


To sum up, there are plenty of sources for those who want to find out how to write an academic article in English language. For example, James R. Wilson’s article is the good one to start. Especially, the references at the end offer a nice selection for good academic writing, among all of the references, I definitely recommend The Elements of Style ( EOS ) !


Useful Resources

On talented academics, and why Sherlock Holmes isn’t one  4

Do you know talented academics? I do, or at least I think I do. Considering that you are reading a research blog you will presumably also have an opinion on who is, or is not, talented as an academic. Does ‘you know it when you see it’ apply to academic talent? And how can you become successful?


I could try to answer these questions myself, but considering that I have only worked as a PhD student for less than a month that might be a bit presumptuous. Instead, I will summarize a dissertation on this subject. Yes, you read that right: someone spend the first four years of her academic career to investigate what a successful academic career entails. I think that is simply brilliant, although I wonder how successful she is now.


The ‘grantballing’ effectGrants

Research grants, such as the Veni- and Vidi-trajectory are extremely important for starting academics. Researchers who receive any type of grant early in their career are much more likely to continue to receive grants. Those who do not get such a grant typically hop from one short-term research contract to another, or stop working as an academic all-together. Obtaining a research grant does not only allow you financially to continue working as an academic, the prestige which comes with it is just as important, if not more so. It makes it easier to expand your network, which helps you to collaborate with more researchers, which leads to more publications in top journals, which leads to… more grants. Behold: the ‘grantballing’ effect. Read more

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