For 10.12.18

Your final portfolio submission is due on 10.12.18, as we have discussed in class and as outlined on 3.12.18, and I would remind you that the Table of Contents should be organized by date (Heading 2) and the topics for a given week underneath (Heading 3, with text in Heading 4).

Maybe the best guide to completing it remains those first few minutes of the Hans Rosling TED talk we viewed yesterday, The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen, where he argued that the problem was not the data or method or technology, but the overcoming of preconceptions.

  • Many arrive prepared to “data dump” a bunch of well-known facts, cobble them together at the last minute, and receive in return a cookie — when, as Rosling shows, the issue is learning how to step out of our preconceptions and view the world differently and better
  • To do this, organize your last entry as a story about learning — about how completely interesting is “your topic”, because it is a topic that concerns the top professionals in your field who have written a lot on it already, who fly all over congresses to talk and argue about it, and where you, an apprentice, have first to figure out what they are talking about and ask a lot of questions: tell a story of discovery and learning (on Conversations, see Chapter 2 of “The Craft of Research”)

You will find these conversations by effective use of Google Search, as you will find I’ve discussed here.

  • Google Search is a powerful data mining tool, and it works best when you use discipline-specific keywords
  • You add these keywords to your search terms, changing these terms as you review the results, select articles, and learn
  • For example, “YourTopic current issues critical evaluation” and where you are looking for how the experts analyze and evaluate the issues
  • You are indeed looking for issues, problems that admit of no easy remedy: you don’t tell the experts “what is,” you discuss how different concepts and methods offer competing interpretations and argue over which ones might better apply in any given case
  • A Case Study is a central part of your assignment, but the way to approach it is to begin and end with a discussion of methods and interpretations and using such phrases as, “from this perspective … but from another perspective …”
  • Patient Study is required here, studies over weeks, and where you develop lists of terms and definitions and special uses, note how differently they appear in arguments, and where you compare and contrast arguments along the way and argue using comparative frameworks or structures

Note-Taking. Among the many things one learns when developing disciplined work habits is to prepare notes as they will be read tomorrow, pick up where one has left off, and build on the earlier work. Notes are not about collecting “facts” for a data dumb, but about reporting on what one after another writer argues and how she structures her argument.

  • In class, we illustrated this principle in the discussion of innovative health care, how innovations are often best described as starting somewhere and developing over time, how there are variations in different contexts, and so how develops a bird’s-eye view so that when we read something new we add it to its proper place: we used the metaphor of a house and the careful building of a foundation and floors above
  • We noted how undisciplined thought will set up an “a + b” structure and then forget one or another part, but that disciplined thought will show parallel developments of “a + b” over time and eventually the addition of “c, d, and e” and each of them in their proper place: we build such structures carefully and over time — and any issue worth researching involves such structures

Mendeley. In our discussion of Mendeley we saw how this powerful application is very good at outputting bibliographic data according to any of the many modern formats, but we also saw how Mendeley makes sense only in a context, or workflow, that involves a number of other note-taking and authoring methods optimized for their particular purposes, for example;

  • Breadcrumbs, the quick and dirty saving of links, in chronological order along with search terms, will give you and your tutors a chance to see how you got to where you are, how by altering search terms you might next do things differently, and be always ready to include links in your notes so your tutor can go find your sources and offer you helpful feedback
  • Preparing to Solicit Feedback, is really what notes are all about, because with feedback from others you’ll have a chance to check your understanding, clarify your thought, and so remember what you are learning: prepare your notes to share
  • PDF Saving, as I demonstrated, quick and dirty pdfs saved with simple “author, title” and in folders and sub-folders will help you get at things when you need them easily, your PC’s search will help you find them, too
  • Constant note-taking and feedback is the name of the game: as you have the habit of waiting until the very end, when you go into panic, you are not giving yourself much of a chance to check, clarify, never mind remember: 5 or 15 minute studies every day will refresh your memory, lead to wonderful piles of notes, and great things to talk about and so practice formulating before you begin drafting
  • Write like you talk, and write up what you’ve discussed, coffee and beer in good company are among the best writing tools I know about, because then you really do get to pick each other’s brains, find your thoughts confirmed and challenged, and when you write you have only to start from where you left off, the conversations still fresh in your mind.

Of course, you are free to enjoy pain, but no professional is going to give you much credit or sympathy for it.

  • Skipping weeks of exercises and note-taking and leaving things to the end when everything piles up is a recipe for pain, loss of sleep, and so on … this familiar, but terribly limited repertoire
  • To get out of this rut we do well to follow Rosling’s fine example — and there are of course many others — where he asks questions, tests hypotheses, and so makes science completely interesting, illuminating, and fun!