Thursday, April 29, 2010

Once upon a time

Obviously I like writing or else I wouldn't have this blog, I wouldn't have been a journalism major as an undergrad (bet some of you wouldn't have guessed that!), and I wouldn't crank out big long family Christmas letters.  However, there's one kind of writing I haven't had much practice at: scientific writing, and it's the kind of writing where I notoriously get writer's block.  At least with the blog, if I don't have any good ideas, I can post a picture like this

and be done with it.  Because you can't tell me that's not entertaining.

That won't work for my poster, though.  So despite spending several hours looking for good images to punch up my layout, I don't have much done.

A year or so ago, I read the book A PhD is Not Enough, and even though I'm not getting and never will get a PhD, it had some helpful things to say about working in research.

The author spends a big chunk of time discussing developing good research projects and presenting them... because you won't get a good job if you don't do a good job presenting your work.

One of the points he emphasizes is that a good presentation tells a story.  To paraphrase:  Your background introduces the characters, your methods section sets the scene, the results and discussion are the climax, the conclusion ties everything together, and the limitations lets the reader know to stay tuned for a sequel.  The introduction, he says, is the most important part because it tells the audience why your work matters.  One of the biggest problems new researchers have is that they don't understand the bigger picture of their research (or it doesn't have one), which is why writing the introduction is the hardest part for many people.

Fortunately my topic is contrast sensitivity and visual quality of life- pretty easy for anyone to understand why both of those things are important.  But I still find it hard to tell their story in poster form.  That's my project for this afternoon, though.  We'll see how it goes.

On a totally different note, I did not have the opportunity to conquer my fear of sauces last night as life got in the way and we ended up eating dinner out so D could work late.  It worked out in a way because I got to have an extremely chill night at home involving changing into my PJ's at 6:30pm and reading until bedtime.  Ah, the simple pleasures.