Sunday, July 5, 2009

Writing InsPirations

There is nothing scarier than staring at a blank piece of paper with a deadline quickly approaching. Whether you're writing a column, article, or essay, the following ten techniques will help you find the topic or angle you are looking for.

1. Read

You can read anything, a newspaper, book, or milk carton. Jumping into an

environment that already has lots of ideas in it may lead to new ideas.

2. Surf the Web

Start on your favorite site, and follow random links for a few minutes until you come to something strange to you. Reading about something new, unconventional, or out of your comfort zone will get your brain moving.

3. Seek Help From Coworkers

Two heads are better than one. And three heads are better than two. Ask some coworkers if you can bounce ideas off them. As you speak, have them respond with
their own ideas. Soon, you will have several working topics to write about.

4. Exercise to Stimulate Your Brain

Sitting in front of your computer in your boring
corporate office will drive you nuts. Go for a walk or to the gym and get moving! The oxygen and adrenaline in your system will stimulate brain and body will inspire you to write.

5. Go Somewhere New

Again, sitting between the familiar four walls of your office is probably what dried up your ideas in the first place. Go to a park, a museum, the mall, or the gym. Being in a different environment will stimulate new ideas.

6. Listen to Music

I don't often recommend listening to music while you're trying to concentrate. However, immersing yourself in sound will allow you to free associate. Let your mind wander off. It may wander into the garden of writing ideas.

7. Flapoodle

This is Doug Hall's (author of Jump Start Your Brain) term for an exercise you may have heard of. Put your main idea in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Think of three or four possible topics and branch them off the main idea. Allow each "branch" of the "tree" to grow its own branches with related ideas. Soon, you'll have a messy page filled with lots of useful thoughts.

8. Brainstorm

Get an easel and a group of coworkers together. Shout out ideas while one person writes them down. Pay no attention to whether they make sense, are silly, impossible, or totally unrelated. When the page is full, sort through the ideas, picking out the ones you like best.

9. Freewrite Until You Get There

This is the fastest way I know to beat writer's block. Get out a blank pad of paper, put on some classical music, and write. Keep the pen moving for a set time, say, 10 or 15 minutes and write down whatever comes to mind. Don't think, look back, correct, or delete anything; just write. At the end of the session, read what you wrote, underlining anything that jumps out at
you. Use these words to find a topic.

10. People Watch

Go to the mall, an airport, or other crowded place. Take a seat and watch people go by. Where is that guy with the green sneakers going? Where does that couple live and what do they drive? How about those children running back and forth while their parents pay no attention? Think up stories for all these people to get your mind moving. Soon, you'll have several topics to
write about.

Using any or all of these techniques is sure to stimulate your brain. Keep this list posted somewhere in your office for the next time you need to invent a topic to write

Source: Generating Innovative Ideas for Writing

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thesis Again~

Writing Your Thesis: Suggested Strategy

First, consider this:

  • Almost nobody will read your (or anyone�s) thesis once you complete it!
  • You have become an expert in some area. To share what you have learned, you need to present that material to people in ways they can digest given their busy lives. You need to make it easy for them to understand what you did.
  • If you are designing an interactive system, very few people will ever see it � they will read about.
  • If you are designing an interactive system, even if they see it, the people who saw it need to write about it to convey what you did to others.
  • Moral: you need to write what you do, and you need to write it in a format that others can understand and appreciate in a reasonable number of pages!

Overview of the suggested strategy:

Don't write a thesis. Write a paper (or papers) for conference or journal submission that you turn into a thesis by adding an extensive set of appendices. Why?

  • You will be forced to describe the important parts of your work (i.e. the new ideas) ... concisely.
  • You will avoid writing a tremendous amount of text that nobody reads that muddles your main contributions.
  • You will be well on your way to getting your work published so that researchers will actually read it.
  • You will acquire the skills necessary to describe your work to the research community.

A good paper will very clearly explain what about your work...

  • Has a surprising, unexpected result
  • Solves a problem that nobody has solved before
  • Can be proven to work substantially better than any other solution anyone has tried
  • Raises some questions that nobody has thought about before

A good paper will also concisely argue how your work compares to other work that came before it, specifically answering the following questions:

  • How have you advanced the state of our understanding of the problem?
  • Who do you need to credit for similar or motivating ideas?

So, step by step, here is what I recommend (learned the hard way!)

Part 1: Figure out who will care
  • Identify your audience (research communities that will care). You can do this by looking at the papers you have read on prior work. Where were they published? Follow these tips for doing a literature search.
  • Find the conferences or journals that represent the communities that would be most interested in your work. If you are working with Stephen you should take a look at this list of conferences and journals. This should be easy to do after your literature search, because you will probably find the key papers cluster in a few publications or conferences.
  • In addition to the papers you have read on prior work, peruse some recent proceedings/volumes and study how people write up their work and what types of research are published in conferences or journals you have initially identified.
  • With your advisor, pick one conference or journal with a deadline in a reasonable time frame to aim for.
  • Find out the formatting and length requirements for this conference/journal from its website (usually this will be something like 6-10 pages in single-spaced, double column 10pt font for a conference and longer for a journal article).
  • Create rough outline of your thesis in this format. Consider these thesis organization tips.

Part 2: Identify what will make your work stand out in the research community

You should have a good idea what these points are from your extensive background reading and literature search. At this point you should write an extended abstract, following your outline (in the format of the targeted submission). Make sure your key idea and supporting ideas come through crystal clear in that abstract. What differentiates what you are doing from prior work, and how will you evaluate your results? This step will require a back and forth between you and your advisor, with you making extensive revisions to this extended abstract. This will also likely cause you to revise your research plan somewhat.

Part 2.5: Finish your research! (or make significant progress)

Part 3: Write an outstanding conference/journal submission

This will turn into your thesis, but do not think about "thesis" writing yet! Stick to the guidelines for the submission and target the deadline if it is prior to the completion of your thesis (the best case scenario if it works out).

  • This will force you to think about how to succinctly and compellingly describe your main ideas/discoveries.
  • You will produce a document that the research community can easily learn from and archive.
  • When you are finished, you can easily submit your work to the conference/journal.
    • If it gets in, you will have multiplied the number of people who will know about all your hard work and great ideas many times over.
    • If you ever want to pursue more research, your submission will help you tremendously.
    • If it doesn�t get in, you may get some interesting feedback on your ideas (or how you presented them).
    • When someone asks you what your thesis is about, you will have something to give them they might actually read.
  • Your advisor is likely to be much more interested in helping you refine your writing for a conference submission that for the actual thesis document.
  • Finally, when you complete this paper, the hardest part of writing your thesis will be over!

Part 3a: Things your paper will need to have

  • A terrific abstract
  • A clear focus
  • Only a few images and diagrams that will need to be exceptionally clear and concise
  • A tone/style/format that is consistent with other publications in your field(s)
  • A complete but concise references cited section
  • It should satisfy the needs of the "review criteria" listed for the conference/journal you will send the paper off to. These criteria will help you keep your discussion focused on the important stuff.
  • No grammatical/typo/spelling problems.

Part 3b: Distribute your paper to as many people as you can get to read it and get their feedback on

  • Big ideas
  • Grammar/typos
Hopefully the timing works out so you submit this paper 1-2 months before you these is actually due. Then you can move onto completing your MIT thesis document requirements.

Part 4: Quickly finish off your thesis

  • Your thesis becomes your conference/journal submission with an extensive set of appendices.
  • The submission part contains:
    • All the main ideas, images, etc. needed to describe the most important points.
    • It can essentially stand alone.
  • The rest of the thesis, the "Appendix" part contains:
    • Details that only a subsequent "implementer" is likely to care about, e.g.:
      • More examples of the solution, datasets, etc.
      • Details of study design that would be excluded from a short submission
      • Pseudocode
      • Interview transcripts
      • Additional descriptions of prior work
  • Use references cited not a bibliography
    • Bibliographies list readings
    • References cited lists readings that you have referenced in your work as relevant to understanding your research.
    • If you are not going to explain how it fits in with what you have done, why list it?

Source: Writing Your Thesis: Suggested Strategy

Thesis Writing

9 The Thesis Writing Process

©1996,1999 Dianne Prost O'Leary

Last modified May 19, 1999 .

Most students find that doing the research for the thesis is the most challenging part of graduate school. They often budget their time to allow a very short period for the actual writing of the thesis.

This plan invariably leads to an unpleasant surprise: writing results in a form that other people can understand is a very slow process! Here are some of the often unanticipated reasons:

  • In order to get a well-written paper, the first 2 or 3 drafts must often be completely discarded!
  • In the course of your several years of research, you have probably changed notation several times, developed new points of view on your work, and developed many results that looked significant at the time but now seem to contribute nothing toward your final product. Sorting through all of your work and reorganizing it is a lengthy process.
  • Even if you have several technical reports, conference papers, or journal articles discussing partial results, the audience for your thesis is different, and thus the style of exposition must be significantly changed. A research paper is addressed to a group of experts in the field, who presumably know the literature and the background issues quite well. A thesis is written more for the generalist. A thorough literature review must be included, as well as an evaluation of where your work fits into the scheme of things.
  • All the small details that were put off and forgotten must now be filled in. Citations must be checked, the historical progression of various results must be carefully documented, the ``trivial cases'' must be worked through, the documentation of your methods must be complete.
  • Your thesis advisor will probably have strong opinions on how the work should be presented. Adapting your style to these requirements will take some flexibility and thought.
  • Your committee members, your first detached readers, will often find undefined jargon or symbols, holes in your arguments (or at least in your presentation of them), and other deficiencies.

Even after you are on track, you will probably find that a ``good'' day of writing produces about 5 pages, leading to an overall average of perhaps a quarter page per day.

9.1 How Can You Minimize the Pain of Writing?

Some habits begun early in your research will help:

  • Keep careful notes about your work. You might choose to keep bound logbooks (square ruled paper is helpful) or on-line notes. Write your notes regularly: write up every new result, but make an entry at least weekly even if you believe that nothing of significance has been accomplished. Even noting what you are thinking about can be helpful.
  • If possible, write up each piece of the work for publication as it is completed. This makes the final writing easier because each piece is documented at its completion time rather than months or years later, and the early write-ups give a basis for organizing the thesis. In addition, it establishes your reputation early and makes the job search much easier.
  • As you read other theses and published works, be a student of technical writing styles. Find out what works and what doesn't. Study a good writing manual; see 13.

A student who has developed skill at writing non-technical term papers as an undergraduate will have an easier time of learning to be a good technical writer, but there is one additional skill that must be added: you must also be a good teacher!

When you write a term project, you are explaining the work of others. You have a good idea of what is immediately obvious and what is more difficult to grasp, since you recently went through the exercise of grasping the material yourself.

It is easy to be fooled into thinking that since something is now obvious to you after several years of study, it is also obvious to your reader. The most difficult part of thesis writing is organizing and presenting your material in an understandable way.

An important early step is to develop a tentative outline. The outline will probably change several times, but it is important always to have a current one foremost in your mind so that you can make the pieces fit together smoothly.

A typical outline will be of the form:

Chapter 1: Introduction
What is the problem?
Why is it important?
What have other people done?
What is central idea(s) of my approach?
How is the rest of the thesis organized?

Chapter 2: The problem

Define the problem.
Introduce the jargon.
Discuss the basic properties.

Chapter 3: Big idea 1


Chapter k+2: Big idea k

Chapter k+3: Conclusion

Recapitulate what has been accomplished.
Discuss ideas for future work.

Don't think that the thesis must be written starting at page 1 and continuing until the end. Most often, the presentation of the ``big ideas'' shapes the presentation of ``the problem.'' The introduction is often written (or at least rewritten) last. The important thing is to jump in and begin writing something, and make notes along the way of how other sections need to be adapted so that they all work together.

One way to organize each chapter is to present the material to a group of fellow students. (If you cannot find an audience, then present to an imaginary one.) If you can organize your ideas into a coherent hour lecture, using chalkboard or overhead projector, on a level understandable by your fellow students, you are probably ready to write a chapter.

Remember that the style of thesis writing is expository: you are trying to communicate your ideas, their significance, and their limitations. It is not the compressed style of a page-limited conference paper or journal article. Don't make your reader work too hard! At the same time, don't talk down to the reader, wasting time with repetition or adding unnecessary filler. Committee members and later readers will resent such tactics.

9.2 Writing Tools

See 13 for suggestions on writing manuals.

A major decision to make is the choice of document processing system in which to write your text. Knowledge of a good text processing system is almost as basic a tool to a professional in the mathematical and computational sciences as calculus or the C programming language. Although technical typists used to be common, they are an increasingly rare breed, and professionals are expected to be able to produce their own manuscripts.

Currently, the most popular typesetting and formatting systems are Tex, AMS-Tex, and Latex. Less elaborate systems might get you through your thesis, but eventually you may be forced to use one of these systems in order to communicate with colleagues and to transmit manuscripts to journals. The Tex-based systems can be used on workstations, personal computers, etc., and most journals can accept files in these formats, thus saving you the enormous job of proof-reading a manuscript that has been typeset after re-keying.

Each university has a set of style requirements for the thesis. These requirements often give rules for the use of different fonts, the format for bibliographies, the width of the margins, etc. Check around and see if your department or university has a style file compatible with with your typesetting system, so that you can satisfy these rules easily. If not, be prepared to iterate a few times to make the style-checkers happy.

9.3 Dealing with Your Thesis Committee

Ideally, you have chosen your committee members because of their interest in your research area and in you. Ideally, the members have followed your research over the course of a year or more, and understand your problem and your approach. Ideally, they all get along well, and egos are not a factor. And ideally, they are willing to take the time to read your thesis in detail and give you valuable feedback.

But the world is not always ideal. You might be very lucky to find one professor other than your advisor who is willing to listen and read and comment meaningfully. Other committee members may prefer a less active role, at one extreme, simply showing up for your oral exam and questioning you. Rules or reality may have dictated that some committee members have little interest in your research area, or little time to devote to mentoring.

Whatever the situation, draw your committee members as much into the process as they wish to be. If the committee is established early, then stop by or send a brief update to them two or three times a year so that they can follow your progress. If it is established after the thesis is written, give them plenty of time to read the thesis, and then contact each one, asking whether it would be helpful if you stopped by to answer questions or discuss your work. You don't want to be surprised at the oral exam by a very unhappy committee member.

After the oral exam, it is courteous to give a bound copy of the final version of the thesis to each committee member, and to express gratitude for the time they spent on your committee. Their participation should be noted in your thesis acknowledgments.

Source: The Thesis writing Process

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Building a Bright Future with SMART goals

Assalamualaikum wbth,

My beloved friends,

There are so many things to do in life isn't ? There are too many ways to go, too many options to choose, too little time we have...

CAREER is a means for you to groom yourself and achieve your goals with satisfaction. It is a waste if we separate our career with others as we waste 8 prime hour a day, 5 days a week for 30 years! If you 'divorce' the career with others, it will mean that you only get back your prime 8 hours at age of 55. SO? Love your Career and align it to your goals along with all the other things you want to achieve.

How to start realigning the career to meets our goals?
Remember SMART, not RM2 'terowong' SMART.

How to create an action plan and monitor your progress towards achieving SMART goals?

This step-by-step approach creates the discipline and structure required to see results:

To achieve a professional goal, start by creating a goal statement using the SMART goal setting technique. Once you have a strong goal statement, it is now time to create an action plan to map out how you will achieve the goal.

The process is as follows:
  1. I ask them to write their goal statement on a large sticky note.
  2. I then give them smaller sticky notes and ask them, “What will it take to attain your goal?” They start to list off all of the tasks that they will need to do and each task is written on a sticky note. After they have a few of the top-of-mind tasks listed (in no particular order), I keep asking the questions “And what needs to be done to complete this task?” My objective input helps to make sure everything has been considered so partner with someone that can help you see the forest for the trees.
  3. Once we have a complete list of all the tasks that need to be done, I ask them to set a deadline to achieve their goal.
  4. I then ask them to commit to a goal achievement schedule for the next two months e.g. 2 hours on Monday evening, 2 hours on Thursday morning and 4 hours on Saturday.
  5. We then use another colour of ink to mark the time it will take (in hours) to complete each task on a small sticky note.
  6. The sticky notes are arranged in sequential order and are added to a spreadsheet. The column headings are: Task Type (broad category like meeting or phone call), Description, Time Estimate, Actual Time, Scheduled (date in the goal achievement schedule), Completed and Progress.
  7. We then work through the plan together. I help them to get over any hurdles and learn from any time management mistakes i.e. over or under budgeting the time it takes to complete a task.
  8. At the end of the process, I encourage my clients to celebrate achieving their goal. I believe this is a very important step in the process.
My experience has been that clients who work with me through this process see how they can use the same techniques for goals in other areas of their lives.

But remember, berdoa agar Allah tetapkan pendirian kita dengan goal yang kita plan, jangan jadi macam pepatah melayu, sekali air bah, sekali pantai berubah.

Friday, November 7, 2008

:: Alhamdulillah ::

I am really sorry to not have been able to update on a daily basis as things should be. Would try harder for my phD, insyaAllah;)

Well, back to my masters, alhamdulillah..I owe Allah to all His blessings for all that He has granted to me. For the publications that i've done, Thank you Allah.

Btw, a new lecturer from MMU have came to join the Photonics Lab - another bonus supervisor for me. He is very interested in my Masters project & will be a great mentor a.k.a co-supervisor to help guide me towards excellence!. Welcome to the club Dr. Mansoori, I look forward to be working with u;)

Alhamdulillah......things always do turn out to be way beyond my expectation, to be full of miracles & it's indeed a bless. Thank you Allah.

I'm nearing my graduation date & the schedule is tight!. Let's meet at the Success Line - if there would be any..huhu;p

Thursday, October 23, 2008

S.M.A.R.T Goals


Smart Goals

Specific - A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six "W" questions:

*Who: Who is involved?
*What: What do I want to accomplish?
*Where: Identify a location.
*When: Establish a time frame.
*Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
*Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

EXAMPLE: A general goal would be, "Get in shape." But a specific goal would say, "Join a health club and workout 3 days a week."

Smart Goals

Measurable - Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.

To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as......How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?

Smart Goals

Attainable - When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.

Smart Goals

Realistic - To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love.

Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.

Smart Goals

Timely - A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there's no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? "Someday" won't work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, "by May 1st", then you've set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

T can also stand for Tangible - A goal is tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses, that is, taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing. When your goal is tangible you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and thus attainable.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm Back....

with loooaddss of papers coming, ameen;)

Tips as shared in Taufiq's blog:

For every simulation and result achieved in our research, document them nicely on an A4 paper & give some explanation to it. After that if we want to publish for some conference, we can simply choose which result needs to be included for respective conference. That way, we can publish 2 or 3 conferences in the same time.

Yeay~ ;)