Moving the discussion abroad

As I’ve been working on my Master’s degree here in Taiwan, I’ve gone out and looked for resources, tips, strategies and more for doing a dissertation and handling pressure during graduate school. I’ve found that, while there is plenty of websites/blogs/etc. talking about getting through the dissertation at home, very few discuss going through the process abroad–and not just in the sense of “from the US to the UK” but going to a country with a completely different language, where the degree requires you to write your paper and do your research in that native language.

It’s something I have recently been wanting to really emphasize in this blog. As I said, though, the focus will be on Asian languages as that’s where I’m located, but I believe it can be applied to any similar situation.

Some things I’d like to touch on include tools of the trade. Often it’s recommended to use Mendley, Sente, EndNote, etc. as the primary way to collect and organize resources and citations. However, these don’t really work well when dealing with Asian languages, and the citation systems don’t have options that fit citation styles used in different countries. So what do you do? As a result, I hope to bring to the table some suggestions on how to streamline this process as well as offer tips for what tools you can use to help you through organizing sources.

A lot of this really seems to hit a very niche market, and while there’s probably only a few people that may benefit from this, what I hope to show is that doing a degree abroad in a language you’re interested in is very achievable and if you have the opportunity, you should totally go for it!

Anyway keep an eye out for future posts on this and related topics! If there’s any specific questions or something you’d like to see in a post, please leave a comment below!

GNDN and the Pomodoro Technique

GNDN is a favorite acronym of mine which stands for “Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing”. That’s kind of how I feel when I don’t have any specific set goals or timeboxing set in place. Instead, I wander around the internet for a bit and effectively don’t get anything done until I hit crisis time. I’m someone that really needs a set time to work on things, otherwise I often wander about without accomplishing anything useful.

Enter the pomodoro technique and Focus Booster.

What is the pomodoro technique? Well, simply stated, it is a technique in time management where periods of work are broken down to 25 minute chunks, with a short break in between.1 There’s more on Wikipedia here. There’s also an entire website devoted to the technique, including their own timer, but I don’t think there’s any need to get that complicated. Just find a cheap (free!) and simple timer and get to work. The less complicated the better the process works, as you’re not wasting so much time setting things up and planning your time.

My preferred pomodoro tool is Focus Booster.2 The time is set into nice default chunks of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break time. I find this to be the most suitable for my needs, and haven’t adjusted the time. The 25 minutes actually goes by pretty quick–and it’s hard to believe I’ve been working straight for so long with no distractions! The only downside is I often end up working into my break time, and sometimes need to make up for it (I feel this break time is important to keep your energy up for another 25 minute session).

When I first heard about the pomodoro technique, I figured it wouldn’t really work, and if I’m dedicated enough I should be able to focus on getting the task at hand done. Turns out I was quite wrong, and with a very busy schedule, this technique keeps me focused.

Has anyone else tried it? Does it work out well for them? Any other methods you’d recommend instead? Let me know in the comments below!

Footnotes

1. You’re also supposed to take a longer break after four or so sessions, but I end up continuing through as usual, oftentimes because I rarely have four hours to devote to pure focused work.
2. Focus Booster has recently had an update. I still prefer the older version, and while the new version is shiner, it still gets the job done. There’s also a huge slew of browser add-ons and websites. Of course, any old fashioned egg timer works just as well.

Doing things bass-aackwards

I wonder if that’s actually the proper way to type that?

Anyway.

As part of the program (Master’s in History; 歷史所,碩士班) and the topic (Japanese Occupation Period in Taiwan; 日治時代) that I am currently studying, I am currently and will have to deal with many Japanese academic articles as well as contemporary pieces (government documents, newspapers, etc). Recently, I had to read and present an article for my seminar class (殖民政策研究) that was completely in Japanese( 近藤正己《総力戦と台湾‧日本植民地崩壊の硏究》1996,東京都,刀水書房。弟228-252頁。 )which was quite a challenge.

My current level of Japanese is still very basic; what I know is from my three years in high school and college of Japanese study. Even that has waned since I stopped studying in 2006. To get through this article in the one week I had to prepare, I was left with just cruising through as much of the kanji I knew from Chinese, with some minor look-ups in my Nintendo DS dictionary. I got through it, and fairly well it seems as the professor noted I caught the core of the article.

So I’m in an interesting situation. I’ve starting learning Japanese almost entirely backwards. Often people start with the kana systems, break into kanji, then more onto sentences (such as put forth by Katz at AJATT). Due to the requirements of my major, I’m working entirely opposite. I wonder what the results will be?

At any rate, in order to combat this, I’m currently going through Tae Kim’s Japanese Guide To Learning Japanese and I picked up a Japanese grammar book explained through Chinese.

My presentation is below the break, complete with mistyped characters as well!

Continue reading “Doing things bass-aackwards”