FYP Tip #3 || Annotated Bibliography

This is the second week into the school term. Ideally, you should already know what you want aspect of your text you want to work on, which sources you will need and have already started gathering them (if you can’t get some of the texts you need for your Final Year Project, refer to my post on how to use NTU’s document delivery to get them for free.) Books can take up to 8 weeks to arrive, so you are very close to the deadline that you can order books and reasonably expect them to arrive on time, with enough time for you to read the information. In other words, its right about the time when you should be starting on your annotated bibliography for the sources you already have.

But what on earth is an annotated bibliography and what can it do for me?

Simply put, its a bibliography with a summary of important points/ points of interest within your source. While you are not required to hand in an annotated bibliography for your Final Year Project (for the English department at the time of writing), it is quite useful for your own reference, especially when you start to have an increasing number of sources to review. Most advisors will probably, at one point of time or another, also ask you to start something like this to help you keep track of sources.

How do I start the annotated bibliography?

Purdue has some examples which you can make use of, but I’ve seen people just making written notes in a notebook or notes within the document itself. (While I do encourage some sort of order, I know my annotated bibliography was mainly notes in margins, lots of sticky tabs courtesy of A*Star and time numbers scribbled onto my working drafts.)

Module Review || Forensic Science

As promised, here’s the forensic science module review.

Normally I just dump all my module reviews into the semester post. This one is different only because 1) it was offered in 2 parts: the first part being on Coursera and the second part in traditional lecture style and 2) because the parts were offered not in tandem but in different parts of the term. So I thought this calls for a more comprehensive review that deserves its post.

** I have tried to make this review applicable for both editions of the Forensic Science course. However, this may not be necessarily true or representative of CM8022 as taking the full course in one semester is different (perhaps even drastically so) from breaking up into 2 parts that are done in different semesters.

CM8002/CM8022: Forensic Science || Professor Roderick Bates

Online Segment of the course- Signature Track

I thought that the online segment of the course was actually very good, with some of the experiments that were mentioned in the notes being done in front of the camera (a far better method of delivery than in the lecture theater, if you asked me). Additionally, the videos were not overly lengthy as they were split into parts, which is another positive in my opinion.

That said, I could see how this mandatory online segment of the course would be hard for people who need a fixed schedule for learning better. I know even I struggled a little bit because self-discipline can be hard. This is especially true if you have other things that require your attention (like a word count to hit…). Nonetheless, it still is worth doing just to prove yourself that you can do it. At worst, you’ll just end up taking longer on the things than you needed to do anyway.

Also, another piece of advice: do try to take the signature track. Like, NTU gives it out for free, so might as well.

Why? Simple. While I kind of hated marking people’s stuff (and may have shirked my duties on occasion *coughs*), it really does help to see what kind of mistakes others have made in the case study/ let you know where you’re lacking in the case study. It is also nice to get feedback on your work and see what other people think of it (even if you think their feedback is utter nonsense).

Expert Lecture Segment of the course

I thought I would like this segment of the course more than the online segment (I really did). Turns out that I preferred the online segment of the course, which was strange to me.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, this segment is interesting. I loved hearing about the cases the experts worked on, I enjoyed listening about tales in a forensic science laboratory etc. I guess it just wasn’t as interesting because due to privacy issues, the lecturers were only able to reveal what was publicly available (which I can understand) but I found myself wanting to know more (which could not have been revealed).

Also, Nanyang Audi is not especially conducive for lectures, especially for those with laptops. I don’t believe there were very many power points in the lecture theatre and while that was not an issue for me (I arrived early to get a seat near a power point), it could prove problematic for others. Additionally, the lack of tables just made me sad because it was hard to write/ type. While I can understand why they used Nanyang Audi as the lecture theatre (it has to be, with that many people taking the course), I didn’t find it particularly conducive.

FYP Tip #2: Ordering Materials via Document Delivery

Hopefully you’re already reading up on the topic that you want to research on…except oh wait. There’s just that paper that isn’t on any of the databases :l

If you’ve worked on URECA or any research projects at all, you might have come across the document delivery service, but for some of us this service is in some obscure corner the FYP might be the only time you need this service. Still, there’s no reason to not make good use of it.

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FYP Tip #1: Backup

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”

Ok well, Murphy’s law might be nonsense. But do you really want to take the chance (with FYP already being a generally stressful affair?) I thought so. At least, I hope you thought that you’d want to reduce your workload. So. I’ll be releasing the things I wish people had told me (or repeated to me).

#1: TRIPLE. BACKUP. EVERY. THING.

And by that, I don’t mean just your drafts and your biblography. I mean like all your primary texts (yes, even the stuff accessible by Youtube or Google search), your (important) secondary texts and your readings. Have copies in your laptop, on Google Drive, Dropbox, your thumb drive. Make sure you can remotely access it, with or without a network connection.

Why do I recommend this? Primarily technological failure.

Over the course of FYP, my laptop’s fan broke down on me. To prevent loss of information, I had to send it to repairs which took like 4 days. Well. At least everything was backuped. Though it set back progress by a couple of hours as I lost one update while transferring my drafts back, in general, it was not that big of a deal.

But this almost gave me a heart attack: a series of videos which was one of my primary texts got deleted off Youtube and I merrily forgot to create a backup (that was not my smartest moment in life). I cursed and swore, going to search for that particular user’s Twitter account to beg for my text if I had to. Thank god the uploader reuploaded everything the day it was deleted (and I backed up the videos because nope, I am not going through that again) but I would have been screwed if that did not happen.

A Small Defence of Fanfic || Thoughts

I have a confession to make.

While I was writing my thesis, I wrote piles of fanfic. Some of them were decent (if macabre- it seems to be my speciality these days). Most of them were very bad by any literary standards.

This is a strange output coming from someone with a formal literary background, someone whose internship centered about writing and who is known for writing formal fiction before this.

Part of it might have been laziness on my part- I was too tired to create characters, plan a world then write about it. It was far easier to just grab a preexisting world, put myself in a character’s shoes and then write. But this served a very important purpose for me: it helped me maintain my creative skills while not having to expend as much energy doing the prerequisite work.

But I rarely write to merely indulge myself**. And this is when I started combining certain concerns that I have had over the years and then merging it with fanfic. And something jumped out at me. By using the genre of fanfiction, I could highlight those absurdities better than I could with an original world. See, the worlds in fanfiction are ones that everyone (in the fandom) is familiar with. So by playing around by that which is assumed, the absurdities of the world/reality is highlighted easily, perhaps even more so than creating characters.

So sure, part of it is indulgence (not to say that indulgence is inherently bad- who is to say pleasure isn’t an end in itself?), but sometimes fanfic can also be used for more than indulgence. After all, many great works are fanfic themselves. And I think some (well, a few pieces) of the fanfic I write can stand alone. At least in creative writing class.

(Also if you’re trying to find my fanfic, don’t. They only exist on Google Docs and in the minds of a select few friends. See, I don’t try to make people suffer through my fic. In general. Also, you’re interrupting my being sick- just saying.)

**-this isn’t me hating on indulgent fic, this is just my own aim in writing/ reason for writing.

The Valley of Shit

Though this is for a PhD, I think it is particularly applicable to the stage which I’m in right now (writing my undergraduate thesis).

The Thesis Whisperer

I have a friend, let’s call him Dave, who is doing his PhD at the moment.

I admire Dave for several reasons. Although he is a full time academic with a young family, Dave talks about his PhD as just one job among many. Rather than moan about not having enough time, Dave looks for creative time management solutions. Despite the numerous demands on him, Dave is a generous colleague. He willingly listens to my work problems over coffee and always has an interesting suggestion or two. His resolute cheerfulness and ‘can do’ attitude is an antidote to the culture of complaint which seems, at times, to pervade academia.

I was therefore surprised when, for no apparent reason, Dave started talking negatively about his PhD and his ability to finish on time. All of a sudden he seemed to lose confidencein himself, his topic and the quality of…

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