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I'm currently working on a DPhil in HCT at the University of Sussex. This section of the website is for an on-going 'learning diary', for me to write my thoughts and notes on various courses and my thesis.

Entries in presenting (2)

Monday
Jul162012

Brevity-busting

On Friday we had our school postgraduate poster presentation, which as a 2nd year PhD student I was required to participate in. I've never produced an academic poster before, let alone presented it, so I think it was a very valuable experience to have in a 'safe' environment. 

I've had a little difficulty in working out what should appear on a poster, and how much detail I ought to give. I think the conversations I had around my poster have given me a little more insight and I thought I ought to write it down.

  • Start from the research questions. I need to work out what my single over-arching research question is.
  • Present more information about the face-to-face (tabletop?) games I am investigating. It is important that there can be 15-30 participants, not the normal 5-6 that are involved in most boardgames. 
  • I need to be much clearer about my design. 2x2, draw it out. I put it in the presentation I did, so why didn't I carry that through?

I still think less text is better, so I'll have to juggle that a little, but I'm sure I included irrelevant information so we'll see. I'll try harder for my next one. (Maybe it's time to brush up on my comic-drawing?!)

I've also just had my thesis committee meeting for this year. I'm waiting for my supervisor to come back through and give me the feedback, but I enjoyed it more than last year. I got a lot of useful information on what areas I need to defend and beef up my knowledge of. Again, a lot of it centred on what I had left out. 

  • I need to introduce my topic better. Introduce Social Identity Theory properly with historical references, talk about why that not a different group theory (done very well in Jonas Heide Smith's thesis*). 
  • I need to stay focussed on my research question (write it down!). That's not just in my reading, but in my coding too. If something isn't going to have an effect on my research question, don't do it! 
  • It would be useful to think about all possible outcomes to my experiments, and what conclusions I could draw from them. 
  • I need to clarify what I'm varying, what references I have to back up why that's going to have an effect, and really look hard for 'confounding issues'. 
  • And I need a contingency plan. If my experiments take longer to organise than I'd hoped, what can I do in the meantime? How can I make sure I hit that September deadline? 
  • It might also be useful to show how I could do this using only one board game. See if it's possible. Interesting idea.

I think one of the hardest things for me to do in terms of writing is going to be including all the relevant information. I think my brevity often comes from discarding information that to me is obvious or disinteresting, and it's only when I discuss it with others that I realise I've done it. I know I do it when I'm chatting sometimes and bouncing through ideas, I hadn't realised I did it quite so much when I write. All useful feedback and a part of the learning process. 

Now. Back to my code while I wait for feedback. 

 

*Smith, J.H., 2006. Plans and Purposes: How Videogame Goals Shape Player Behaviour. IT University of Copenhagen. Available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.122.9290 [Accessed April 5, 2012].

Thursday
Nov242011

Practicing on the lab

Last Friday I lead the lab group meeting for the first time since I started. I've seen other PhD students do it, and lab group members often 'use' the lab group as a testing ground for ideas and presentations, or if they have something they want to talk through. I am in the process of trying to write the questionnaire to use as my main data-gathering tool, the tool that will hopefully provide me with the vast majority of my data, so I'm a little anxious about it. Perfect for lab group feedback!

I thought pretty carefully about the structure I wanted to use. It would have been quite easy to present the games, the theory I'm looking at, and then asked them to look at the survey and lead into a discussion. I didn't do that because I felt knowing what I was looking for would affect the way they read the questionnaire. Instead I presented a little bit on three games I'm going to be looking at, then I asked them to read the questions. When the discussion around that got to the point where I felt answering the questions needed it, I went back to my slides and introduced more specifically the differences in the games (and introduced the fourth - a variant on the online game we're writing), and how I expect those differences to influence the team cohesion amongst the players.

Picking the point to go back to the theory was a little tricky, but I think it was worth doing it that way. I got some very useful feedback, some around the use of specific words, but also about thinking about who will be potentially filling out the survey. It may be that a reasonably high percentage may not have English as a first language, so some of the subtleties of the statements I've put together may be lost. That's a point that I (in my privileged English-speaking way) hadn't considered! There were a couple of contentious statements, but actually only the ones that I was already not particularly happy with, so that's not so bad. 

The other thing I've taken from the experience is that I'm reasonably confident of my background theory. I feel I can talk about it coherently, and pull the reading I've done into a shape that makes sense of what I'm looking for and at. While the lab group is a reasonably safe environment to practice in, the flip side of that is that these are my closest colleagues. If I look foolish in front of them, I still have to see them regularly for the next two years. Plenty of people have said it's actually the audience they get most nervous about - not just my lab group (who are all perfectly nice, polite, interesting and interested people) but close colleagues in general. So coming away feeling more confident was a definite plus. 

I actually feel like that was quite an important step. Now, back to that questionnaire!