Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writing Tips #13

Be careful with commonly confused words

Temperature affects the reaction. 

Temperature has an effect on the reaction.

 Less food (the use of less is appropriate since we can't count food) 
 Fewer animals (can count how many animals are there)  

A large amount of food (can't count numbers of food)
A large number of animals (can count numbers of animals)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Writing Tips #12

 Make sure you say what you mean


Instead of: The rats were injected with the drug. (sounds like a syringe was filled with drug and ground-up rats and both were injected together)
Write: I injected the drug into the rat.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Can you fail a PhD?

 No one fails PhD; they just rise up to the heavens... the spirit that is. The pressure when one could not find time to finish his/her PhD is unbearable. It is hard to imagine that someone would continue to endure the painful burden of doing PhD but that someone has made a pact and has to abide by it whether he/she likes it or not. In the beginning it was a world of fun and pride but later on it wasn’t that much to talk about. Then one fine day you will realise that it is much more than just a burden of the work but the whole world is crumbling on you. The sad thing is that you have to face it one way or another with your head or with your tail. There is no escape this time; the fun has to stop and find a way to get it over with. Maybe one question keeps popping  up --- why me? Why this is happening to me ?(okay two questions!) no one has the answer except yourself. So it has become more complicated. We like to blame others, it is easier that way, so we remain the good guy that falls victim to someone else. But you know what?! It is time to let the dust settled and see where we are standing . maybe you want to continue walking or maybe you just want to quit; it does not really matter. Let’s clear the air and let you see the path ahead. Do you see delightful green pasture or just a dark and dull pathways that you have been so many times before?...now it is time to answer it with your heart.

Many, like myself, would prefer to try one more time. Everyone has done it, why can’t I? It emerges from the many failures that all PhD candidates had gone through. We failed to impress our supervisors, failed to show impressive outcome, failed to get into top journals, failed to win any awards ; the fail-things just never stop. But we kept going until the money and the time ran out. That was the time when the dream collapsed and shattered into a million pieces. Is there any more energy to pick up the pieces and do it again? It’s like a sharp knife slicing a piece of your heart out. Very painful indeed. Maybe all you want to do is to curl up into the corner, close your eyes and hope for the pain to go away. It will never go away; and you know that too. What is there to burden yourself, this PhD thing will never make you happy. A sour-grape-thingy creeps into the mind so everything seems to be alright. The answer to this predicament is to stop running; just stop it and face the gun.

But things won’t be easy. It might be harder than everything that has been confronted us before. The hardest part is to make our own self accepts the fact that something must be done and the time to do it is now. Not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Acceptance is always the hardest part because it reflects our own effort and capacity. The fact that we are incapable of something draws in inferiority and degradation. That could be resolved with a sense of honesty; to one self and everyone around us. Being honest would lead you to a whole new dimension in life and takes you further without limit. This key inner strength will be your bean bag in case you fall again in the course of this new journey. This key will open up many doors that have never been opened before for you to see your journey in a whole new dimension. Be honest when you talk to your supervisor or your friends about the research. Seek their opinion when you know he/she is an expert in the area. With it people will help and soon things will get much more easier to  manage. Good luck in your PhD!.

Writing Tips #11

 Write accurately


Scientific writing must be accurate. Although writing instructors may tell you not to use the same word twice in a sentence, it's okay for scientific writing, which must be accurate. A student who tried not to repeat the word "hamster" produced this confusing sentence: "When I put the hamster in a cage with the other animals, the little mammals began to play." A scientific article values accurate details far greater than artistic style of writing where mostly can be found in poems or stories. They are nice to read but just could not fit into a scientific article. But it does not mean the article has to be boring and dull; good sentences and choice of words will definitely keep the readers focused and interested in the writing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Writing Tips #10

Break up a large writing  project into small pieces and work on the pieces

Writing and analysis for any given paper is often an iterative process. Writing the results section of a paper is often the best way to discover the analyses and figures that still need to be done. Sometimes things would be much more manageable if they were small and focused. Not much deep thinking has to be endured and we just focus on finding the right word to make up the sentences. Try to  make them into bits and pieces so you can tackle them separately  and still maintain the cohesion of the original idea. Sections of a paper like an introduction, review of literature, methodology , analysis and discussion can be dealt with in this manner. Those sections will be discussed in detail later on in this writing tips series.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Writing Tips #9

 Keep it simple

Good academic writing demystifies, and simplifies
complex ideas.

 If the water is dark the lake must be deep

(avoid such sentence in scientific/academic writing as it overcomplicates things)
This is not a mistake but a habit that could not fit into an academic writing. Malay culture tends to signify “round around the bush” kind of thing. We prefer theatrical over direct actions as the latter deemed inappropriate. So this habit has to change. Write in simple sentences and direct to the point.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Writing Tips #7

  A recipe of good writing


  1. Logically organize the material
Logical organization closely related to your own understanding of the subject or the content of your paper. Even before the first letter is penned down a writer already has in mind the message that the paper will deliver. What is the main story that you want to tell people? How would you put it across so people can understand and use it? These are the questions that will give you the way on how your paper will be written.
  1. Use good grammar
As a non-English writer, this grammar part is always the hardest. But not worry, “just do it” will be the best motto. Good or bad is secondary as the skill will develop along the way. It takes a long time to perfect your grammar but as long as the error isn’t that glaring the message will get across. The thing to worry is when the grammatical mistakes are all over the place and has intimidated the content of your paper.
  1. Check spelling
With a spelling-checking software this can be overcome immediately. Please don’t be lazy to check and change accordingly. Misspelled words are like zits on a beautiful face, they ruin the look of your paper.
  1. Use short sentences and paragraphs
Short sentences and paragraphs will reduce the language errors in your paper. You will go straight to the point by explaining the important part and avoid any unnecessary elements. The long and winding sentences are the result of translating the idea in Malay (or any non-English language) into English. Therefore, it is important to think in English and right away put that into writing.
  1. Don’t use big words
‘Big words’ refers to those words that are difficult to understand or rarely used in scientific context. Words specific to our research area are sometimes difficult to understand but they are necessary; so its use is inevitable. So avoid using the unnecessarily difficult words as they will put another barrier before the reader. An excellent tool is to use thesaurus and pick the simple and easy to understand words instead.

Enjoy your writing folks!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

50 Tips On Writing Great Research Papers[Tip #6]

Writing Tip #6 :

Right ambience+Right people+right attitude = great articles

·      Find quiet, distraction-free place
·       Solid blocks of time (regular one hour every day)
·       Find the best time to write ( early morning/late night)
·      Whole day of intense work
·      Get partners/mentors
·     Good partner will motivate
·    Bad one distracts
·    Start a blog
·      Make your writing activities enjoyable

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

50 Tips On Writing Great Research Papers(Tips #5)

Writing Tip #5 : Avoid writer’s block!

Please avoid the following “symptoms” that contribute to writer’s block:

1.Low energy


         3.Lack of knowledge of how, what to do


              5.Evaluation anxiety


My advice  : Follow this blog closely....I follow!

Monday, July 9, 2012

50 Tips On Writing Great Research Papers(Tip #4)

Writing Tip #4 : Write first, revise later


Don’t try to generate text and revise it all at once; these require different skills and focus. Those who try to write excellent text at first draft invariably write nothing or very little. After your first draft, put it away for a few days then come back to it and revise. Revise, revise, revise and keep revising your article --- you will have a great article in the end.

Even for this small piece of writing( this Writing Tips postings), I did it over a period of time as well. Going through the same process as I mentioned in the last few posts and will reiterate in the future posts. The same thing---you write and then revise,revise and revise. As non-English writers we have to admit our limitation with the language. You can never be perfect but through a proper process the errors will be minimized, that’s all.

It’s also a good practice to let someone read your article before you send it out to a journal or a conference. Pick someone who is familiar with the subject, who can understand the terms and the process , to read your article.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

50 Tips On Writing Great Research Papers (Tip #3)

Use an outline to organize your ideas and writing

When you first start a writing project, make an outline of the major headings. List the key ideas to be covered under each heading. Organize your thinking logic and the logic of your arguments at this level, before you put it into a complete , grammatically correct and elegant sentences.
Separate out the three tasks of: 

(1) figuring out what you want to say – something like brainstorming where you jot down whatever comes to mind. Ideas come and go so make sure you put it down the moment they come to mind. Having a pen and a notebook  handy is a must for an academic. Don’t wait until later or until your ipad has been fully recharged to secure the great ideas.
(2) planning the order and logic of your arguments – putting the ideas into proper perspectives in terms of order and logic needs a lonely time at the desk. A work of a writer is usually lonesome; you can’t do it over at the mamak stall or somewhere like that. If you can’t do it in this manner then make yourself do it. Academicians practice this behaviour during their PhD-days when the pressure was constantly on your back you would sit yourself down and write.

 (3) crafting the exact language in which you will express your ideas- having ideas is only half of the journey (maybe less than that) and it won’t be good until someone can read it and use it for something. And that means you have to put your ideas in writing. Good writing would make the ideas more appealing and interesting. This is what these writing tips are all about.

Good luck and happy writing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Having pain or pleasure ?

(pic) Feona on top;Ashes at the bottom

My sexually active cats are at it again.Love is in the air or rather the mating scent is in  the air. Ashes just gave birth to 3 baby kitten less than 2 months ago. As usual the stupid cat hid the babies but Ashes was even more stupid because she forgot where she put the little ones. We heard the calling but just could not figure out  where they were. I even asked my maid to climb up the roof and looked in between the gutter (apparently I’m too heavy for the old roof top not that I could not climb or anything..just...oo never mind). So we did not find the little kittens and after a couple of days the calling died and I supposed that’s the end of the poor kittens. Stupid  Ashes!. Anyway she ‘s all horny again for the last couple of days and a lot of ugly male cats are coming to Ashes. It looks so painful just to mate or it’s just me trying figure out “If I were a cat” thingy. She was chased around, over the roof, under the car and all over the place for that pleasure or pain!? The funny thing is that when those macho male cats went away she would call them back with her low grrummmmy voice and the male cats went crazy all over again. And it’s been like that for the last two days and maybe for a lot more days ahead. Well maybe they are having fun......

Ironically, human is like that also, don’t you think? We chased girls around for one thing only....pleasure..right..and the pain just came along with it-a package.
That orange macho cat just came by for Ashes. Obviously a fiery fight follows.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

50 Tips On Writing Great Research Papers

Writing Tip #2 :
Hang on to your first draft!


Most people's first drafts are terrible. "Good writing is rewriting," and you should make a serious effort at editing, rewriting, and fine-tuning before you give the manuscript to anyone else to read. If you need to put a piece of writing away for a few days before you can approach it dispassionately enough to rework it, do so. But the important thing is not to be demotivated by your lack of skill in writing or lack of ideas to write. Just jot down that first word then you are on your way to get a great article. Of course the first draft is not good maybe unreadable altogether but what the heck. This is what I want to do and I am going to do it. Be clear. Be firm. Be consistent.

The flow of process in the previous posting has given some hints on what the general framework is. The framework of a great research paper. It is important to develop your own unique style of writing. In the coming posting I will talk about the mood and the ambience that will trigger the flood of great ideas for your paper. But this is not a novel we are talking about; it is an academic work which is very straight forward and factual based writing. A remedy of a boring piece of work. Any one in academia would agree that reading a research paper is very hard to understand, and why is that? Is it because of the complex use of language and scientific terms? No, because the author sucks, that’s all. So it is vital to equip yourself with good writing skills—which anyone can acquire, be an English native or non-English. For us as English is the third or fourth language, learning to get the right skill is quite difficult but not impossible. Just keep at it and enjoy the process. You will get there eventually.
It is a common practice for some to think in Malay and translate that into English sentences. Thta is not going to go down very well with the editors or reviewers of your paper. During the translation process the words and the sentences tend to be twisted around to convey the message but at the same will intimidate the semantic as well as the syntactic value of the sentences. Think English and write English; there is no other way around it.Aahhh!! another obstacle, I can’t do it... it’s very hard. The secret of writing is in reading. So in order to write good you must also love reading. And in this case let it be English. Pick up a novel in English and let yourself be taken away by the stories and characters in that novel. Along the way you will learn how to say things in English as well as to keep your grammar fresh.

The first draft is always difficult but the many that follow will a piece of your mind, maybe your opinion or your suggestions. Isn’t it awesome to know that people will benefit from what you say and think? The experience is priceless and the next thing you wonder why you did not do  this much much earlier? The time is right here and right now. Enjoy your writing experience.