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A doctoral researcher asked me about the QuickSearch and SubjectSearch options in the Electronic Library:
Why is it that I cannot select either a) all sets; or b) no sets?
Good question. So I asked Helen in the Library’s Research Liaison section, and she very helpfully gave the following explanation…
Quick search and Subject search…. I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of these as search tools for doctoral students and in any 1-2-1s I tend to suggest that people use the databases individually. My reasons are that not all databases can be searched using Quick/Subject search, that the results often come back in a strange order so the 50th ranked article may be more relevant than the 1st, and that people may really need to tailor their search terms for particular databases (eg needing to be more specific with search terms within a database that searches the fulltext like JSTOR, not needing to use terms like ‘psychology’ in PsychInfo but needing to use them in the big, general databases). If they’re all being searched at once you lose the ability to do this.
Phew, I don’t mean to be negative about it, it’s a great resource for undergrads who just need *some* articles, not a comprehensive search. Dphils may want to use it to get a sense of which databases might have useful results but may struggle when it comes to more systematic searching.
To actually answer your question, the sets in Quick Search cannot be altered and each set searches databases for a particular subject area that have been selected by the staff here. It’s designed so people can just start searching. It is, however, possible to customise the sets in Subject Search so that you basically create your own set of useful databases that can then be searched. There’s a guide to doing this in the yellow box on the front page of the Electronic Library that would probably be more use than my efforts to explain – there’s a webcast option or a standard PDF guide. I think there is a limit to the number of databases that can be searched at once or it would just take far too long to get any results.
Hope this helps, feel free to send anybody my way if they have any more questions!
So there you go 🙂 If you’d like to ask further questions of Helen, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re anything like me, the prospect of having to sit down and write a chunk of thesis usually causes an outbreak of entirely uncharacteristic housework, or a lengthy (and rather one-sided) conversation with the cat. However, I am now a reformed character, thanks to the Pomodoro Technique. Named after those novelty tomato-shaped timers (pomodoro is Italian for tomato), this time management technique improves focus and productivity by breaking your tasks down into 25 minute sessions.
The technique is beautifully simple, and the creators haven’t tried to make it appear far more complicated in order to sell you a book, and you don’t need to buy any equipment. I’ve included links at the end to a number of online timers and downloadable widgets.
Here’s what you do:
1) Make a list of your tasks
2) Choose a task to be accomplished
3) Start the timer (set to 25 minutes)
4) Work on the task until the timer rings (or otherwise attracts your attention).
5) Give yourself a big tick and then take a 5-minute break
6) Start again, giving yourself a longer break for every 4 pomodoros (or pomodori, for pedants) completed
Defining your task can take a little bit of practice. If a task takes more than 5-7 pomodoros, break it down further; if a task is likely to take less than 25 minutes, combine it with another related activity.
Be as specific as possible with your tasks: eg “Write concluding paragraph to chapter one” or “check references for introduction” rather than “write thesis”. This gets easier after a couple of days and you’ll become much more accomplished at estimating how long certain tasks take, and breaking your work down into bite-sized morsels.
The key part is to keep focused on your task during the 25 minutes: don’t check your email, don’t fiddle about on Facebook, and don’t talk to the cat. If something urgent suddenly pops into your head, quickly write it down and return to the task. Use your 5 minutes breaks for having a stretch and pootling about in cyberspace.
Once you get the hang of it, the Pomodoro Technique is an incredibly powerful tool in your Doctoral Toolkit. I can honestly say that it boosted my productivity by about 300%, and my partner (also studying for a DPhil) has seen a similar improvement. We are now terrifying models of efficiency and the studious silence of our house is punctuated by the sound of clockwork tomatoes. The technique:
1) Improves focus and concentration by minimising interruptions
2) Boosts motivation by recording your activity
3) Give you more free time – 25 minutes of focused activity is often more productive than several hours staring at the screen.
The Pomodoro Technique website includes a wealth of information, along with a free eBook and worksheets for recording your progress. Personally, I like mytomatoes.com, which acts as both a timer and an activity log. Other timers are available:
- Cross-platform timer Windows/Mac/Linux
- Timer for Mac
- Timer for Windows
- Timer for Windows
- Chromodoro – Timer for Google Chrome
- Timer for Linux
- Timer applet for Linux, Gnome desktop (Debian, Ubuntu etc.)
- Timer for iPhone
- Timer for Android
- Timer for Android
- Online Timer
Like any other tool, the Pomodoro Technique won’t work for everyone, but please let us know how you get on if you do decide to give it a go.