The Research Toolkit

CURIE's open research platform

A personal experience of Compass 2018

26/10/2018 – Post by CURIE Research Fellow Magdalini Maligali 

Interdisciplinary teams

Compass brings together interdisciplinary students to work collaboratively on their individual research projects along with a supportive mentor.  The program encourages us to openly discuss our research interests and ideas on future or current tasks. It was a safe place where feedback was welcomed in order to enhance everyone’s research skills and is an ideal place for everyone who thinks they might have a passion for research but don’t know where to begin!

The interdisciplinary nature of the team allows the spread of different viewpoints and beliefs. For example, my group consists of members from Biomedical, Psychological, IT and Science background. Being exposed to their interests helped me think about important multidisciplinary issues I never thought I would be interested in. Even though we came from a diverse background of knowledge, it was great to see that we had common interests. Our mentor also encouraged us to give feedback to each other to develop our individual research projects. Through our weekly meetings, we worked as a team to deepen our understanding of research, develop our own research projects and brainstorm ideas for current assignments. In the process, we developed social, presentation, writing, and communication skills, as well as a long-lasting friendships.

Personal gains

For me, compass was an opportunity to take the first step into research. Compass has equipped me with information about the importance of research, how it is conducted and how the results are reported in a scientific way. Coming into the program, my understanding of research was limited and only on a theoretical level. Compass not only helped me to build these skills but also helped me design my own project with the help of my mentor, as well as my group members. Within the group, I identified my weaknesses and set new goals to address them. It was also enlightening to listen to other people’s experiences and explore other potential undergraduate pathways for research through networking.  It was a really incredible experience and opportunity to learn from my mentor and everyone else around me. I can’t wait to be involved again next year!

 

ICUR & Employability

4/10/2018 – Post by Monash ICUR Student Director Ruby Ballantyne 

ICUR is over for another year… A big congratulations to everyone who took part, you were part of a really special conference and made it a wonderful, exciting experience for everyone! Even though we all had a lot of fun and got to practice our presentation skills, you probably also got a lot of other skills you might not even be aware of.

Cultivating your employability with ICUR

ICUR offers you many benefits beyond a purely academic perspective. Alongside being a highly valuable opportunity for anyone interested in becoming an academic, it provides students with the unique opportunity to develop transferable skills.

Transferable skills are abilities that you develop in one situation which can then be applied to other scenarios. Why should you care about them? Well, having transferable skills increases your versatility to work in different industries. This adaptability is attractive to employers and helps you ‘future-proof’ yourself!

ICUR’s transferable skills

The development of these skills does not come from only rocking up to ICUR on the day. In the lead up to the conference, many of you got involved in CURIE’s research toolkit series. This program consisted of a variety of workshops targeting different skills associated with ICUR, so that they can participate more confidently in the conference itself.

The top three transferable skills that you have probably gained by being involved with ICUR are:

1. Communication

Verbal and written communication is an essential skill for all industries – ICUR helps you gain both! When submitting the abstract, preparing the research and developing your presentation slides or poster, you are refining your written communication abilities. You are also practicing verbal communication through public speaking by presenting your research and interacting with the audience at the conference.

ICUR’s international and interdisciplinary nature further enables you to improve your communication skills. Participants are presenting to students from many faculties and to an international audience. This diversity means that the presenter has to make sure their research is understandable and engaging for someone who may have no background knowledge about the presentation’s content or who may not speak English as their first language.

2. Analytical skills

Employers look for individuals with the ability to examine and assess an issue then provide an appropriate solution. ICUR requires students to investigate and formulate an argument on a specific topic. Whilst it may not be instantly apparent that undertaking research is a skill that can be transferred beyond academia, the research process itself helps develop your critical thinking through identifying patterns, interpreting data and theorising.

3. Technical abilities

All industries have some engagement with technology. ICUR is unique and through using video conferencing technology, you had the opportunity to gain experience using a commonly used industry technology. Speaking to a global audience at a video conference may sound simple but it takes practice to perfect using a microphone, cameras and screen to ensure that the digital experience is engaging to an audience hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.

Articulating these skills

However, gaining these skills is only half the battle. Employers want you to explain to them why you are the ideal candidate for a job. This means how you describe your skills is very important. Below we will show two examples of how you could articulate the employability you’ve gained from ICUR in a resume. The example sentences are brief because it is better to have less detail in a resume so that you can expand on your experiences more in an interview.

If you want to highlight one particular skill you’ve gained from ICUR you might include a sentence like this:

“International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR) – speaking to an international and interdisciplinary audience at ICUR has developed my communication skills; particularly my ability to articulate complex concepts using concise, clear language.”

Alternatively, if you want to emphasise multiple skills you could say this:

“International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR) – ICUR is a two-day academic conference where undergraduate students present their research to an international, interdisciplinary audience. Key skills gained: improved critical thinking, adeptness with video-conferencing technology and succinct communication with a global and local audience.”

We wish you all the best in your endevours and congratulations on everyone who participated ICUR and good luck with the future job searching!

Staying calm pre-ICUR 2018

19/09/2018 – Post by Monash ICUR Student Director Peter Halat

ICUR is now less than 1 week away! Are you starting to feel nervous about your presentation?  Don’t worry,  this is the chance to reveal your hard work to the world! There is still plenty of time to prepare and revise your presentation, and it’s completely understandable to be anxious and nervous leading into the event. Firstly, it is a great achievement to present your research at a conference, whether it be by a poster or through a spoken presentation.

You should keep in mind is that ICUR is designed as a showcase for international, interdisciplinary undergraduate research. This means that ICUR is supportive of any research performed by undergraduate students and this motivation will trickle down to every panel. Every presenter will be welcomed with a round of applause and every presentation will finish with a round of applause. The session chair for your panel will make sure you feel comfortable and included in your panel. Furthermore, ICUR solely features undergraduate research, meaning that there are many other undergraduate students who are also feeling just as nervous as yourself. However, you can play a part in the collective audience at ICUR, be supportive of everyone, and expect everyone to be supportive of you.

It goes without saying that practising your presentation will help you feel prepared. You could even anticipate possible questions in your practice. Walking up to present your research feels a lot better when you have a few great rehearsals under your belt. If you’ve proven to yourself that you can speak well by yourself, or in front of your friends, family or pets, then you can prove to yourself that you’re capable of presenting in front in an ICUR audience.

My last piece of advice is to separate your research from your emotions. Your research represents a body of work performed by you and is not a direct representation of yourself. Research is all about learning new things and everyone is on their own journey. Many things may have become clearer to you in hindsight. Questions that might come across as tricky could just represent new avenues of learning and you should treat them as such. In fact, you could take any questions as compliments towards how interesting your research is!

Happy rehearsing! I look forward to seeing your research.

What makes a good poster presentation?

17/09/2018 – Post by CURIE Policy and Project Officer, Hannah Skipworth

Last Wednesday, Ros Haliday (Matheson Library Learning Skills Advisor) put this question to a room of undergraduate researchers at the Poster Preparation and Presentation workshop. With a little bit of head scratching, some answers emerged. A good poster doesn’t have too much text, uses contrasting colours and represents data using graphs.

When asked ‘what are the challenges when starting a poster?’ The conversation was much more animated. I leaned over to my partner, whose immediate (and relatable!) fear was getting the font size incorrect. What is a good font size anyway? We’ll get to that.

Ros took us through a collection of example posters, each time asking us to point out what was good and what could be done better. For example, oftentimes the title could be snappier, the information could be presented in a more logical order, or dot points could be used to break up dense text.

Taking all this on board, the students received an A3 piece of paper each and some markers, and were set to the task of mapping out a poster. Every student organised their poster differently, depending on their methodologies, graphs, images, and conclusions. It was great to see many different approaches.  

And with the library’s walls covered in undergraduate research posters, it was time to practice ad-lib presenting with a partner. This was great fun and it was tough to wrap it up once the workshop ended! We left the session with these key pieces of advice:

On creating the poster:

  • Create a snappy title and use sentence case (do not Capitalise Each Word)
  • Use academic language that doesn’t alienate the audience
  • Have a main point
  • Clearly define your research questions
  • Make it accessible to audience members from all disciplines
  • Make the best use of the page
  • Use an attractive colour scheme (blue writing on a green background is not going to work!)
  • Have photos that invite the audience in
  • Use graphs that represent the data
  • Consider using dot points
  • Don’t forget your references

On presenting the poster:

  • The poster should be able to stand-alone
  • The presenter shouldn’t need to explain the vital information, it should be on the poster
  • It should be presented like a PowerPoint presentation; you can’t be looking back at it!

Still wondering what the right font size might be? Well, anything that can be read from 1 meter away will work!

Good luck with your posters and look forward to seeing you at ICUR next week!

A personal experience of ICUR 2017

10/09/2018 – Post by ICUR Presenter Alice Kim

Not sure what to expect at ICUR 2018? Don’t worry, last year I was in your exact position.

ICUR’17 was the first conference I had ever attended, and it was a great experience. The idea of attending and presenting at a conference seems intimidating (I know I find public speaking scary) but ICUR was a great opportunity to help conquer this preconception whilst developing important transferable skills.

Attending the two-day conference felt very official. As it was held in New Horizons, it felt like going to new place, as a science student, it was a building that I rarely frequented. There was registration, a welcome speech, and lots of coffee to help us stay fuelled.  

Presenting at ICUR was a totally different experience when comparing it to presentations I had done in my course. First off, it was live-streamed internationally – that was a first experience! Secondly as my panel had presenters from Monash Australia and Monash Malaysia, my audience was interdisciplinary and international. I was asked a variety of questions that came from people from different backgrounds – both culturally and disciplinary. Thirdly, as your presentation is unique (no one is presenting the same thing as you) it was up to you to capture the audience’s interest and teach them something new. Thus, it was a great opportunity to practice your oral communication skills, publicize your research and teach others.

Being part of the audience was a great learning experience. In addition to supporting my fellow Compass members, I attended other panel and poster sessions where I learned about things that I had never knew before. Some things I learned included using forum theatre to treat psychological trauma, the role of diet and gut bacteria on asthma, the use of Japanese language in English-speaking online forums and its impact on social inclusion, and the media’s role in the rise of Islamophobia. Hearing people speak about their research was great as you could see their genuine passion for their research

Another thing that stood out from my ICUR’17 experience was interacting and learning from people from other faculties and disciplines.  During our university life, we are often in silos – we interact with people from our discipline and we don’t get much opportunity to interact with people outside of it.  The word “networking” can send shivers down your spine but at ICUR, we got great practice as we easily mingled with other students to chat about our research.

All in all, I am looking forward to ICUR’18 and I hope you are too!

 

Tips & opportunities for presenting original research at ICUR

03/09/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Jenna Barker

ICUR is an event that provides students with an assortment of challenges and possibilities when presenting their original research. While the prospect of presenting your own research to an interdisciplinary audience can be a bit daunting, the benefits outweighs the challenges. 

To begin, it can be challenging to know how much depth to go into to, while still making sure your audience understands, can engage with, and will enjoy your presentation.

What will make your audience curious?

What is unique about your research it? What got you interested in the first place? Try incorporating some of these elements into your presentation to engage your audience. Think about it from their perspective. What’s really special about your research? Practice explaining it in front of your parents, housemates, partners, friends, peers and your Compass group!

Each time you practice you will know your presentation better, and the feedback they provide will help polish it to a point where it’s enjoyable and understandable for the ICUR audience. The process of constructing a presentation suited for an interdisciplinary audience also involves critical thinking about your own research topic. Consider what are the most important messages to get across and why. 

It’s all about skill building!

Presenting original research is also fantastic for practising critical thinking and developing a persuasive and interesting presentation. Thinking about a research topic in a new way or addressing gaps in the literature show that you are able to think independently which is useful for both work and university. As you work on your presentation you are honing your communication skills, overcoming personal challenges, the fear of public speaking and employing time management skills. 

You will be able to demonstrate to future employers that you have these skills, and having had the experience of presenting at an international conference also shows that your research was of a certain quality to be accepted.

Be on the lookout for possible collaborators.

ICUR also provides you with the possibility of getting new people interested in your research topic, and to make them care! This could be around a particular issue, new approaches to old questions, or simply something you find intriguing. Often students at university can feel siloed into their discipline and rarely have the opportunity to learn about what others are doing in different disciplines. More often than not, people are really enthusiastic to learn about new things, and may even draw links with their own areas of study. Who knows, you could meet future colleagues at ICUR this year!

So remember, go out and make friends! Remember to enjoy yourself and be proud that you are presenting your original research!

 

The dos and don’ts of intercultural communication and presenting to international audiences

27/08/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Darcy Whitworth

Second Language learning & ICUR 2017

Presenting for the first time at ICUR in 2017 was an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience where I was exposed to an entirely new form of research communication.

As a Japanese studies student with advanced proficiency in the Japanese language, I was tactically paired in a panel with Kyushu University. Approaching my presentation with the understanding that I would be talking to an international audience, I specifically designed my speech and content to include simple language. This meant I could communicate my message effectively to all members, no matter their level of English language. Moreover, I utilised my language skills to present a short introduction of my topic in Japanese; thus, I was able to foster a sense of inclusion between myself and the Kyushu audience from the very beginning of my presentation.

Overall, my involvement in ICUR 2017 taught me the importance of speaking slowly, using well-known graphics in my slides, body language and eye contact within my presentation. Looking toward the future, I have devised a checklist of ‘must-do’s’ for presenting to an international audience which can be a used by anyone wishing to boost their intercultural competency skills.  

Must do #1: Think of language as a tool to bridge the gap between cultures

Firstly, language plays a vital role in how well the audience can understand the crux of your research and if used correctly, your words can be a powerful tool to bridge the gap between cultures. For this reason, it is essential that you choose your words wisely, and if you know that you will be presenting to an audience whose first language is not English, I would consider simplifying your content. Furthermore, always remember to speak slowly with a measured pitch, so as the audience will be able to easily process information. In this way, you can be sure that everyone will know what you are talking about and that your research message will be effectively conveyed to all.

Must do #2: Body Language is your superpower

Secondly, I cannot stress enough the importance of using body language, gestures and stance when presenting and communicating. This is a skill which is valuable to not only for your ICUR experience, but also in your everyday life as well. I would like to think of you as Superheros, with body language as your superpower which you can use to connect with every member of the audience. Communication with your audience begins before you open your mouth. The audience’s first impression of you is your posture and presentation, so it’s very important to know how to stand, as well as, how to act.

Tips for how to present yourself: (Don’ts)
  • Don’t stand facing your visuals and turning your back to your audience.
  • Don’t stand with your hands in your pockets, with your shoulders slumped forwards. It’s very difficult to convey a strong message through this posture.
  • No hands-on hips; when your hands are on your hips you tend to look too powerful.
  • Lastly, hands clasped in front of your body. While it makes you look somewhat timid or scared it is very bad when you would like to use your hands to gesture from this stance. (“I want to show you something.”)
Tips for how to present yourself: (Do’s)  
  • Stand face on to the people you are talking to with your hands by your sides. Move your hands forward to emphasis main points, with palms up, not down.
  • Gesture toward your body by opening your arms, using both at the same time to demonstrate positive facts.
  • Move your hands down in a ‘chop’ motion, one or both, to deliver strong opinions.
  • Eye contact, look at how your audience members are sitting, are they paying attention or are they zoning out? You can alter your movements and actions to reconnect with the audience. For example; try adding a little bit of humour to your presentation to lighten the mood!

Must do #3: Slide graphics, the simpler the better!

Finally, the content of your slides can dramatically affect how well you are able to communicate your message across cultures. For this reason, I would recommend using simple English, with a minimum of two to three dot-points per slide. For your presentation, you do not want to overwhelm the audience with textual information in your slides, as they will already be working very hard to understand the English within your speech. To ensure effective intercommunication, include well-known graphics and analogies to simplify your main points. This approach can be useful to bridge the gap between multiple nations and reconnect with the audience through common interests. Furthermore, by including well-known ideas and graphics such as images from pop-culture, you can increase the likelihood of the audience understanding the main message of your research; thus, improving their engagement and experience of your presentation.

So, best of luck on your journey into presenting to an intercultural audience! If you take on even a few of these points you will be well ahead of many in the field. Good luck to those of you presenting at ICUR 2018 and enjoy the experience, it’s really special when you are able to connect with an international audience.

How to manage your GLARP project during Semester 2

20/08/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Jenna Barker

So, you’ve been funded… now what? Maybe you’ve started your Master To Do List, maybe you haven’t. If not, start reading here to get ahead and kickstart your GLARP project!

But, if you’ve already started, you’re probably facing the challenge of balancing your GLARP commitments with all the assignments that are pouring in (Week 5 already, yikes!). But even though each GLARP project will be different, it’s important that you dedicate enough time towards your project to get the most out of the experience and support your team mates.

Each GLARP project will have different aims, objectives and dissemination, however, whether your project involves a symposium, an ICUR presentation, or other events, effectively managing any GLARP project beyond the funding application deadline is crucial. As you can see below, it requires planning, being realistic and communication.

1. Identify checkpoints.

Use your Master To Do List to break down your project into small chunks that you consistently chip away at. This makes it more manageable and less stressful. You also feel like you are constantly making progress, rather trying to spend a few huge chunks of times while also stressing about that assignment that’s due in a few days!

2. Be Realistic.

Being realistic about the deadlines you set yourself will help keep stress levels down. Look ahead and incorporate upcoming assignments, social events, work and other commitments so you can plan around them. Discuss your commitments openly with your group and plan around everyone’s commitments. This brings us to our final, and possibly the most important point… Don’t forget to communicate!

3. Communicate!

The success of your GLARP project really relies on your ability to communicate effectively with your team. Be honest with your team about your commitments and what you can realistically get done for the project. Make sure you stay in regular contact and be there to support each other when things go wrong. Try to communicate both positive outcomes as well as frustrations. You should all be equally contributing to the research project so be willing to speak up if you feel someone isn’t pulling their weight. HOWEVER, treat them with care, there may be other reasons that they have stopped contributing to the extent they said they would. Try to understand why they are acting like they are but don’t be afraid to clearly and calmly state your own needs. Remember, you’re all in this together! When things get difficult, clear communication is key!

It will be hard, it will probably be stressful, but what you will learn throughout the process will be priceless!

This also gives you a real taste of what it’s like to go down the research path and whether you would like to pursue a career in research or whether it’s just not for you. Navigating interdisciplinary research as an undergraduate is a feat within itself, so congratulations on taking on this task! After your project is complete, you will be better prepared for the future, whether it be pursing a career in research, academia or in industry.

So, as the November 30th deadline looms, make sure you set aside the time to tick off all the tasks in the Master To Do List and don’t forget to enjoy the process. This may be the first of many successful research projects you undertake!

Writing an Abstract: The “blurb” of your research

13/08/2018 – Post by Compass Mentor Alice Kim

Writing an abstract is an important skill in academic writing. It is probably one of the most common pieces of writing that researchers do – for journal submissions and conference proceedings. Once you master the art of writing an abstract, you have acquired a skill that can be used in a myriad of ways.  

I like to think of the abstract as the “blurb” of your research. It’s usually the first thing people read so it should give them enough information to understand your research journey.

Coming from a science background, I was taught the “formula” but this can be applied to all disciplines. An abstract usually has five components:

  1. Introduction: Starting your abstract with a bit of background information helps sets the stage for your research. Introduce the key concepts or terms that are critical to your research to help the reader contextualise your research.
  2. Aim/hypothesis: Briefly state your aim (what you want to find out) or hypothesis (what you think you will find out) of your research.

  3. Methodology: How did you conduct your research (ie. literature search, experiments)? How did you analyse your data (ie. statistical tests, thematic analysis)?

  4. Results: What did you find out? Or if you do not have results yet, what are your preliminary results and/or what do you expect to find?

  5. Conclusion/significance: What do your results mean? What do they mean in the context of the field?

Altogether, this should give the reader the information to get a general understanding of your research. Some tips that I discovered through writing abstracts include:

  • Use bullet points to plan your abstract. I extract the main points from each section and compile a list. By doing this, you can see all the critical points of your research, making it easier to link all the main points together.

  • Keep it concise. An abstract is usually between 250-300 words, so it should be concise. Concise means brief but informative – you should be able to convey all the information you need using the minimum number of words. Writing concisely is a skill – the more you write, the better you will become.

  • Avoid jargon. Your abstract could be read by anyone. In the case of ICUR, your audience is inter-disciplinary. To ensure that your audience understands your research, avoid using discipline-specific terms. If you need to use them, make sure to define them.

  • Do the “mum test” – get someone from outside of your discipline to read your abstract. If they can understand it, that’s a good sign your abstract is fit for an interdisciplinary audience.

I hope these tips were helpful and happy abstract writing everyone!

Kickstart Your GLARP Research Project

6/08/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Renee Aharon

Congratulations!

Your hard work has paid off and now you’re about to start your research journey! This can be a little daunting at first, but don’t worry, you’ll find you have exactly what it takes.

Last year, our GLARP team was in your exact position, we had just gotten funding and were feeling excited but also a little overwhelmed. After going through the whole research process, we want to share our three top tips to kickstart your GLARP project and get you well on the way to starting your research journey.

Tip 1: Write down every task you need to do

And I mean every task – from writing hypotheses and getting ethics approval to printing flyers, writing reports, booking venues, hiring speakers, inviting guests, setting up team meetings, everything! Have all your team members brainstorm every small task that will need to be done for the project. Our team did this in an excel spreadsheet we called the ‘Master To Do List’.

This Master List will show you which tasks you’ve already completed, what still needs to be done and who is responsible for it. This document keeps everyone on the same page and you can use it to track your progress.

We broke our project into different sections and wrote out every task that needed to be done in order to complete that section. The image below shows a version of our Master To Do List about ¾ the way through our project.

As you can see, our project had 7 sections and we used colours to help track our progress. Green meant complete, yellow showed what we needed to focus on next and white meant we could leave that task until a later date.

We had weekly meetings to update each other on how we were going on each task and decide which tasks we should focus on next. You don’t need to meet every week, but decide with your team in advance how often you want to meet and bring the Master To Do List so everyone knows what needs to be done next.

Take time to create this list together and list every task you can think of. And don’t forgot to celebrate when you complete a task! You’re one step closer to completing your research project!

Tip 2: Start right away

The earlier you can start, the better. Be prepared for tasks to take longer than expected. We found tasks we thought would take 1 week actually took us 2 ½ weeks and sometimes tasks we thought would take 3 days only took 20 minutes between all 4 of our team members. 

Be flexible with your task and project timeline, but also have clear deadlines to aim for. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish and the less stress you’ll feel. You will be working under tight deadlines and balancing study and other responsibilities so the earlier you can start the better. 

So go set up that first team meeting right away and get started on that Master To Do List! 

And last note, make sure you celebrate and congratulate each in that first meeting. Your grant proposal was in the top 30% and this is a fantastic achievement!

Tip 3: Go easy on yourself and be prepared to make mistakes

You are going to make mistakes in your project. ALL of our team members made at least one quite major mistake over the course of the project (I made about 3), but each time, we banded together and found a solution.

Be determined to overcome any challenge that occurs over the course of the project and be there to support your teammates when they make a mistake. There is ALWAYS a solution to a problem or mistake and you will grow dramatically from learning how to overcome these types of challenges.

The other tip is to go easy on yourself when it’s you who makes the mistake. You will all be working under extremely tight time frames along with study and other responsibilities so don’t beat yourself up (as high achieving students often do) when you make a mistake. Instead, think of a solution. In fact, think of every possible solution, even if it sounds unrealistic or silly.

Listing many possible solutions will help give you perspective on the problem and help you find the most creative solution. Enlist the help of your teammates as well, you’re common goal is to make this research project the best that it can possibly be. You can do this!

I hope these top three tips will help you kickstart your GLARP project and get you excited to start. Remember the CURIE team is always here to provide support as you tackle the research process for the first time. Just come see us in the office (W616 in Menzies) if you have any queries, problems, questions, or concerns.

We look forward to hearing about your projects and best of luck on your research journey!

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