Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Identify Scholarly sources

Do not sleep in the library!

Instead, use this video to help you identify scholarly journal articles!

Good luck with the work!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday morning video!

As you regular readers know, I post a video or cartoon every saturday morning, something light to bring you cheer as you head into your weekend of homework. Enjoy!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Tips for those returning to school - part two

When you are in the water, swim! Graduate students sometimes expend significant energy worrying about school, feeling guilty if they aren’t working etc. I believe this ultimately makes people less effective when they are working. When you are working, be present with it and try not to let thoughts about other responsibilities creep in. This is your time to work, honor that time – you deserve it and you will work more effectively. When you aren’t working, for whatever reason, don’t expend energy worrying or feeling guilty – be present to whatever responsibility you are dealing with, or if you are taking a break, take a break and enjoy it. You will return to your work refreshed and ready to be productive.

Step away from the desk. When you find yourself getting frustrated, not able to make sense of a reading or unable to write, perhaps your head is too full and the ideas need time to simmer. Take a break and perhaps you will gain clarity by giving yourself space.

If you get overwhelmed, break it down. If thinking about all the work that you will need to do for a course, or in the next month, or in the next week, feels overwhelming, focus on the next step. Sometimes it is helpful to break work down into small chunks – try to focus only on what you are working at the moment and get through that, and then on to the next chunk.

Take good care of yourself. While I encourage you to put something down (an extra area of responsibility, etc.), I’m also encouraging you to hold on to something that is good for your well-being. Exercise, meditation, walking – do something that will get your body moving and help you clear your head. Also, this sounds simple, but eat right (make sure to eat before class) and try to get enough sleep.

Get to know your faculty and advisor. These people are here because they love to teach and are committed to your growth and development. Great conversations await!

All the best! Harriet

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The to-do list....

Thanks to Nikhil who responded to my last post, in particular suggesting that we need to plan for interrupted time.

Making a to-do list is just the start... something to help us narrow our focus on what needs to be done this week and what can wait. Effectively managing that to do list will likely require some finesse.

First off, as I noted in an earlier post.... plan your study times... thinking you'll just fit it in is not likely to work. Schedule blocks of school work time right into your schedule. However as Nikhil suggests, sometimes those blocks will be interrupted. How will you adjust?

A few strategies include: asking for help (e.g. extra help around the house so you can do your work), rescheduling something optional to a later date so you can work now, and taking full advantage of unexpected free time (an appointment gets cancelled, etc.... hit the books).

And bottom line... if you get totally overwhelmed, talk with your professor.

What other strategies have you used to make up for lost time, when something comes along and disrupts your previously-scheduled study time?

Keep at it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feeling overwhelmed??? Here are four strategies

The start of graduate school can certainly feel overwhelming. Here are a my top my top four strategies for dealing with feeling overwhelmed. I have listed some of these ideas in other posts, but I'm listing them here together all under this theme.

1. Make a weekly to do list... spend a few minutes with your syllabus and note exactly what you need to do for the next class. This will help you pull back from thinking about all the work over the course of the semester and instead to focus on the most immediate work.

2. Do something every day. Read even one chapter or part of a chapter. Begin an assignment. Heck, even just download articles. Do something. Find little chunks of time: lunch hour, get up early before work, read on the bus... see if you can carve out some extra time. These little bits of work will add up and will help you build and maintain momentum.

3. Take something off your plate. If you have a significant other or kids, ask for their help around the house (e.g. they do dishes while you have "study hall"). If you have a lot of outside of work commitments, this might be time to cut back.

4. Ask for help. If you are still having trouble managing, if it still feels overwhelming, talk with classmates to get ideas on how they are handling the work load. And definitely talk with your professor and/or someone in your academic skills center. Often, someone who is outside of your experience can help you assess and improve time management, work strategies, etc.

You can do this! Remember, many students have come before you, have felt just as overwhelmed, and have succeeded!

Cheering you on,

Tips for those returning to school - part one

For those of you who have been out of school for awhile, here are some suggestions to help you balance school, work, family, and the rest of life.

A space of your own. Carve out a space at home, a desk or work area where you can leave your materials, so that you know where everything is, and can resume work without having to reorganize.

Determine an overall work schedule as to which days/evenings you will do homework and which you will not. Be intentional about carving out work time, rather than imagining you’ll fit it in when you have time. And this leads us to….

Take something off your plate. By committing to this program you are taking on significant work that also requires time to think and reflect. Now is the time to make a shift: ask for help with responsibilities at home, put a hobby aside, say “no” to additional commitments, etc. You don’t need to give it all up, but something has to give, temporarily, to make room for this new gig.

Do something, anything, even when you think you can’t. Even though you have carved out your work times, there will be plenty of days/evenings when you had planned to work and feel too tired or distracted or whatever. Do something! Read the most accessible chapter, read half a chapter… do something, anything to get even a little work done and keep the momentum going.

Get to know your rhythm and honor it! Observe yourself in your first few weeks… what time of day/week do you most effectively read, reflect, write, work online? Get to know when you are at your best for the various kinds of work and then work strategically in those times. If you notice that you write best in the morning and read best in evening, honor that, and so on. Also, how long can you effectively read or write and what kinds of breaks best keep you going? Figure this out and do it.

Part two later this week!

All the best,


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Short break

Hi Folks,

I need to take a short break from the blog, will be back sometime next week. All the best to you in your work, or your break -- whatever is up. More soon!


Photo by HLS. Guelph, Ontario

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book recommendation

"Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams" by Alfred Lubrano explores the intersection of class and education. Specifically, Lubrano considers the experience of first-generation college students. The central point is that those of us who grow up in working class families and then earn a degree (or two or three!) end up straddling two worlds. Our education, in some ways, separates us from our working class roots, and yet we may never be completely at home in the white collar world. Sure we can "go home again" and we succeed professionally, but there is some element of not feeling completely at home in either place.

Lubrano combines his personal narrative with interviews and research in this highly-readable book. I read this book many years after my college years and much of it resonated, I found it informative and affirming.

Ok. Happy Monday! Onward!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Writing Tips

Writer's Block is a free access website that has writing tips addressing a number of common writing questions. This site covers topics such as active and passive voice, affect vs. effect, muscular verbs, and punctuation.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More thinking about confidence

Two readers, Donna and Paperback Writer, responded to my post asking about confidence. Both said that others perceive them as more confident than they feel inside. Both noted that they are still working on their confidence. This might surprise some of my students... but in some situations, I still work on my confidence too! I'm not as confident as I would like to be, all of the time.

Here is one of the strategies that I use.... in those moments when I feel very solid, very confident, I pause and really take note of how I am feeling... how I feel emotionally, how I feel in my body (my posture, my body awareness, etc.). I try to really take that all in, almost like a snapshot. And then in a future situation, when I'm not feeling as confident, I try to put myself back in that previous more confident place. I picture myself walking into the room (where I felt confident), I remember what I felt in my body, etc. I find that this can give me a confidence boost in those situations when I'm not feeling as solid.

Anyone else... any sort of imagery or visualization that you use?

Keep at it!

Photo by HLS. Vancouver, B.C.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Can you do it?

This weekend I went back to Yellow Springs, Ohio for Antioch's commencement. I recalled arriving on campus four years ago. I was early so I stopped at the bookstore and I thought about buying a t-shirt, and then I said to myself "I better make sure I like it, first. I'll come back later." Well, four years later, I can say without question, I LOVED IT!

The other starting and ending point that is quite vivid is that when I was applying to the program, I told my partner that I was confident about handling the writing, but was nervous about managing all the reading. I like to read, and read every day, but I'm not a fast reader and for years before I began doctoral study, I had mostly read a few pages before bed and a little bit more on vacation. I knew I was facing long reading lists. Could I do it? YES, I DID IT!

Most of us begin graduate study with concerns, anxiety, and maybe even fears. Sometimes our concerns are on the mark and we have accurately identified challenges we will face (in my case, the writing did come more easily than the reading). In other cases, we discover strengths we didn't know we had (e.g. I've had colleagues who never expected that they would embrace and become solid in quantitative research, and they did).

Readers who are already immersed in your work... what have been the surprises and confirmations re: your concerns before you began study?

One of the most amazing things that graduate study does is it stretches us. We find out we are capable of more than we anticipated.



photo from Venice Beach, CA by HLS

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Graduation weekend!

Hi Friends, I'll be offline this weekend for my doctoral graduation! So, until Monday, I send you off with this video:


Photo by HLS

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Are you generally confident? Or is confidence something you are working on?

What boosts your confidence?

cheering you on,

Monday, August 3, 2009

Potholes and Detours

"The road to true success is filled with big potholes and detours, but if you follow your heart, the path you create will be the only one worth living." David Terra, Founder and Publisher, Beyond Race magazine

I like the pothole metaphor in this quote. I think we are more accustomed to (when using the road metaphor for our journeys) noting detours and obstacles, but the pothole metaphor is important. Potholes can be jarring, sudden, and unexpected. And yet, we adjust, we regain control of the car or bike, we right ourselves and keep going.

What are the "potholes" in your academic journey? What experiences have jarred you and momentarily thrown you off course? How did you recover?

Keep at it!

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