As a student I did two things everyday that developed my research skills.
I wanted to know as soon as someone did something new in my field. I was curious about new developments in science and technology. Straight after lunch I would go to the library scanning A-Z of latest journals and read anything of interest. Sometimes I would be in the library for 15 minutes but if I found something really interesting then two hours would be too short. I always carried a note book to write down interesting things I was reading. As a result I was the most informed student in my group. This gave me interesting topics to talk about with friends, fellow students and academic staff.
I also spent time in quiet places where I could think about my project and note down any ideas for new experiments and interpret things I had read or analyse graphs and tables. I also freed my imagination and asked questions about what would happen if I did various things that I did not have facilities and capabilities to do in my lab. This habit developed my planning and analytical abilities. It also opened my mind up to search for people who could do what I wanted. My mind was tuned into collaborations and linkages naturally. I would go to a conference or meeting to another university and seek out people and facilities that could help me to do new experiments.
In this blog post I want to emphasise the importance of regular reports.
So, what are the benefits of doing a weekly research report?
1. You will have a written record of what you have done during the week.
2. The report will help you to reflect and analyse your efforts and the things you have done.
3. You will have things to discuss with other research students and supervisors so that you get valuable feedback.
4. Your ability to write will improve and help you towards writing transfer reports and thesis in the future.
5. It will help you to develop focused creativity.
6. The report will help you monitor your own progress and keep you on track.
7. It will highlight your strengths and weaknesses.
8. The report will improve your efficiency and will save you time when you have to do longer reports and write your thesis.
Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. Francis Bacon
How to do weekly reports? Here are some ideas
1. Decide a report structure that works best for you and your advisor. Keep the structure simple.
2. When I was working in industry my manager only had few minutes to read reports. My report included
a) what contracts have come in? How much they are worth? Who are the clients?
b) what contracts are you bidding for? How much and with who?
c) what are the chances of securing the contracts?
d) what can you do to increase the value of the business?
3. Write the report in your own words. Polish the grammar and the language. Give it your best effort.
4. Keep your report short and limit it to 2 pages.
5. Have 3 subheadings
a) Work completed
b) What do the results mean?
c) What are you going to do next? Why?
6. Have a fixed deadline for the report eg Friday 12:00. It will give you focus. Always stick to your deadline. Never be late.
7. Send your report to your supervisors for feedback or post on private blog.
8. Always reflect and act on the feedback and advice given.
9. Enjoy writing your weekly report.
The discipline of writing something down is the first step towards making it happen. Lee Iacocca