Monday, 15 December 2014

Jobs for Christmas.

Here is my suggested list of academic activities for you to engage in over the holiday...

1) Read some book chapters and journals for upcoming assignments.

2) Engage with some academic texts and make some notes on what you've remembered.

3) Open some of the tomes in the library and look at the words which make up the sentences.
Then record some of these sentences.

4) Find some academic literature from your chosen subject; then look at it.

5) Find publication, peruse publication.

6) Locate text, conduct scrutiny of pages.

Got the message yet?!?! Good!

I wish you all a relaxing and warm break (punctuated by some reading, maybe?) and I'll see you again in January. My last day is tomorrow (Tuesday) and I won't be going near social media over Christmas so hopefully you'll be fine.

Much love and a successful 2015 to you all.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The What, Why and How of Podcasts

It's easier than it's ever been to make information come to you.
Missed a TV show? Just use catch-up or on demand services.
Missed a gig? Someone will have recorded it and put it online.

Very little media is now gone forever and radio shows can be caught up with via Soundcloud or Podcasts.

This post is just looking at Podcasts and how you can use and reference them effectively.
You can find Podcasts in every corner of the web and if you're unsure of what they actually are then it's simply a digital recording of a radio show which is converted into an MP3 format, so it can easily be downloaded. Podcasting is easy and all you need is a mic and a web-enabled device.

There's a lot of Podcasts out there (both on itunes and elsewhere)  that are certainly broadly relevant to the social sciences so you'll need to explore, but I'm going to suggest five specific Casts that I think are worth a listen.

1) Thinking Allowed is a Podcast covering the Sociology radio show on radio 4.

2) Digital Human is a show debating different psychological/sociological aspects of our relationship with the Web.

3) British Psychological Society (BPS) Podcasts page is a list of psychology-related programmes, some of which cover topics of interest to anyone studying criminology, child-related topics or mental health.

4) More or Less is a good listen for anyone trying to get their head around statistics and research-it's much more interesting than it sounds!

5) Podology is a general resource for sociological-related Podcasts. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but certainly worth an explore.

Finally, remember you can reference Podcasts. If you need help with that bit then use your unit handbook or contact me and I'll show you the format.

Happy listening.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Kate Tempest, subjectivity and truth and the need for more rap on this blog

As part of my critical thinking lecture I like to have a debate with you on what counts as truth or fact.
One of the reasons this is fun is because it's never the same twice. I can never tell which bit is going to rile people and which bit is going to go unchallenged. This week it was about whether countries (specifically Spain!) exist in any 'factual' sense. The idea that countries change borders, languages and populations to me suggests that countries are as transient as individual lives. Borders are often arbitrarily drawn up by third parties, as in the case of India and Pakistan. 

Anyway. In other news, I've been listening to the Kate Tempest LP a lot these past weeks (she should have won the Mercury prize this year...) and it's currently my 5th favourite LP of the year. These things matter. 

There's a track on it called The Truth which features these lines: 

"Whose truth even counts?

Is it the person who doubts

What a person proclaims they're about?

Whose version is perfect?

Is there a truth that exists

Outside of perception?

This is the question".

I love that. Clearly, I need to include more lyrics to illustrate my points. 
Expect a Coldplay song at some point in the future to illustrate how we're all doomed...

One final thing; it's also a bit sweary at one point so don't play if you're likely to be offended.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Critical Thinking

Tomorrow I'll be seeing some of you for a lecture on critical thinking.
So in addition to the oh-so-lucky ones who are attending, I thought I'd give a general explanation as to what critical thinking is.

Put simply, it's about questioning everything and not assuming facts are unchanging. Because they're not.
Facts are transient, like opinions, countries, people and theories. So that's what tomorrow will partly be about. It'll also touch on how you can pick apart theories and research too. This is a tremendous skill to have in readiness for your dissertation, because the option to be more refined in your selection of materials is key in final year.

We have loads of books (both electronic and paper) which cover the skills required to be a critical thinker. The e-book I'd recommend as a starting point is this one by Aveyard but there's plenty of others on the shelves.

One more thing.
Any of you who've had sessions with me previously will know that I'm interested in engaging with you. Not just talking at you but having a proper two-way conversation. Tomorrow will be no different. However, there are times to speak and times to stay quiet and listen and I've recently been involved in conversations between students and lecturers on the thorny issue of classroom disruption.

In my lectures and training sessions you get one chance. If you continue to talk over me, use your phone or disrupt others I will ask you to leave. My time with students is too precious to be wasted.

That aside, I'm hoping that the lecture will confuse, bemuse and eventually inform you.

See you tomorrow, second years.

Monday, 24 November 2014

New report on poverty and social exclusion in the UK

Hello again.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has produced the latest in their series of excellent reports on poverty in the UK. Even compared to recent research in this area, it makes for grim reading. It states that the number of people trapped in low wage jobs are on the increase and 1 in 5 working age adults without children are living in poverty. The reasons for these conclusions are clearly complex, although JRF highlights low wages, higher rents and changes in the welfare system as key.

If you haven't heard me promote the JRF before it's a very good source of evidence-based research specialising in the links between poverty, housing and wages. They produce a vast range of reports which you can access by going here. It's all free and it's all fine to reference.

The latest report is available in full from here, or if you'd prefer the Guardian's summary on what was written then have a look here.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Credo vs Wikipedia

You know how using Wikipedia makes your lecturers really grumpy?
Well we have a huge online collection of encyclopedias and dictionaries which you can not only read without fear but reference without anyone getting upset too. It's called Credo and it looks like this.

You access it by just typing Credo into the normal library catalogue and follow the links. 

Use it to find detailed biographies of theorists, the origins of theories or specific topics. It's easy to use and you can reference it, save your articles and even produce mind maps of individual searches. 

A couple of things to remember in relation to using it; use "speech marks" to ensure accuracy and the subject option on the left to narrow down your options.

If you'd like me to arrange a session with you on using Credo (ideally a small group would be best) then contact me directly or ask via one of your lecturers.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How many references do I need?

There are certain tricky questions I've developed stock answers for.
Questions like, do you write assignments, what's the point of post-modernism and how do I get crime statistics on left-handed burglars called Geoff in the UK?

But the big one is always 'how many references do I need?' The problem with the answer is the problem with the question. How do you quantify enough of anything? Enough to pass? Enough to get an 'A'? The question also presupposes that all references are equally good; they're not. So an assignment with 20 poor references probably won't be marked as highly as an assignment with 12 good quality ones. Put simply, the quantity is secondary, the quality is primary.

For dissertations this 'how many is enough' question is particularly difficult. For undergrads you're partly constrained by your word limit. You couldn't physically fit 300 references into a 6000 word dissertation even if you wanted to.
The best advice I can offer is this; look at how academics write journal articles, look at how they use referencing to construct and support their arguments and look at how often they do this. That should give you a pretty good idea of how often to reference whilst your writing, and in so doing you'll naturally end up with enough academic back up to write a decent piece of work.