Monday, 30 March 2009

Creativity and Cognition conference 2009, Berkeley, California

I've been really thinking about going to this conference, the Creativity and Cognition conference in California. It looks really interesting and the proceedings of the previous conferences have had a lot of useful things in for me. So I'm preparing a paper on the recent developments I've made in my research, namely devising a framework for evaluating creativity from many different perspectives. There's a graduate symposium which looks quite interesting, and I think it might be more appropriate for me at the moment given that I'm still in the middle of active work rather than trying to report finished work.

I need to submit:
  • A summary page (basically an abstract and a biography),
  • Four pages describing the work I am currently doing, including what I would get from participating in this graduate symposium.
  • Also I need to send in "a letter of recommendation from a faculty member indicating their approval that the work has reached the appropriate level of maturity for presentation in this venue. " Shouldn't be too hard to get that - either Nick or Chris, my two supervisors, would be happy to provide that, I'm sure.
Looks like the research proposals and summaries I've just been writing should come in very handy indeed... :) Suddenly I feel better about all these applications.

Money is going to be a real issue - there might be funding for this if I get accepted to the graduate symposium, and additionally I might be able to get a student travel award again from the AISB which would be really great - but I have to work on the basis that I don't get any funding and then anything else will be a bonus.

This might mean that I don't get to go to ESCOM (even though I've had two posters accepted) as I really don't think I can afford both. Shame, as the ESCOM conference looks fascinating, with some amazing keynote speakers, but I'll just have to work on what I can afford.

Friday, 27 March 2009

FundingApplications = HowToDescribeYourResearchInAMillionDifferentWays() + BeggingForMoney()

Just finished the last of the funding applications I'm going to make for now.

Lets get the pessimistic moaning out of the way - already had one rejected (the Sir Richard Stapley trust: mine wasn't one of the first 350 applications received so they don't consider it). Plus AHRC funding is looking highly unlikely, given that my degree is in Music Informatics, and that neither Music nor Informatics get a mention on the list of departments being funded by AHRC...

Grumbling over. I've still made some good (I hope) applications to the British Federation of Women Graduates, Funds for Women Graduates, Hilda Martindale Trust, Reid Trust and the Google scholarship. Plus I will now be considered again by the department for their EPSRC funding.

The whole process has made me write up my research project in so many different ways, from a variety of perspectives, which has really helped me firm up what I'm doing and why its good. One form has even resulted in me drawing up a tentative abstract for my thesis, which could be very useful preparation.

I've had some amazing support, not just from the four academics who ended up giving me references but also from some friends who offered some great advice. By the way, thanks Leon for the offer of help with reading my funding applications - as it turns out, I turn into a right grumpy thing when I'm writing these proposals, so didn't want to inflict that on you - maybe its something to do with the fact that I'm compensating for having to be so positive about my work and myself in the proposals!

So lets leave all these funding problems behind for a short while - I can now throw myself into the good stuff (the research, believe it or not!) without the guilty feelings that I should be sorting out money worries instead.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

workshop - writing up your DPhil or PhD thesis

My officemate persuaded me to go to this workshop, as we are both starting to think about the reality of the looming PhD thesis write up. This was the experiences of a post-doc researcher, on her writing up stage of her doctoral research.
Well worth going to this, even though we are both in our second year - I think that is the ideal time to go to a workshop like this as there is enough time to plan and consider, with the luxury of time still. Here's a summary of what was mentioned in the workshop, along with extra thoughts I had during the workshop.

General observations / motivation
  • Keep the end goal in mind
  • Whole process of writing up can maybe take 3 or 4 months or more, but if you do little bits as you go then it gets easier, and you can break it down a bit.
  • Enjoy the process of becoming an expert in your field!
  • Track progress to keep motivated, remember the bigger picture. Zoe suggested keeping a chart of progress on your desk as a visual representation of progress.
Planning and Organising the write-up
  • Always keep in mind the thread of your thesis, what story are you telling? Keep this prominent throughout.
  • Keep on looking for gaps in the story and aim for continuity
  • Keep records of what you do so you don't have to redo that work later
  • A useful software for graphs might be CollidaGraph (for mac) or Prism (for PC) (although Matlab seems pretty ok for my stuff so far)
  • Make a timetable, especially by working backwards from a deadline to make the time left seem more real. Factor in LOTS of extra time like printing time, admin, time for supervisors to give feedback, plus 'timeout' time in between reviews
  • For my two supervisors, is it worth giving them a chapter at a time or the thesis all in one go - closer to the time, double check what they prefer
  • Regular meetings with supervisors help to keep you on track, especially if you give them a piece of work each time and ask them to return the last piece of work at the same time?
  • Examiners - who do I want (I have some ideas for external examiners, not a clue for internal examiners)
  • Introduction chapter should be an introduction to this thesis, rather than a literature review, for example. Say what you're writing about, what's the story you're telling, your motivation for this study and summarise what's in the thesis.
  • Latex/Bibtex looks to be likely to save a LOT of hassle with formatting etc, especially if I can find a template for Sussex DPhil theses, which someone said might exist... (I've just spent a bit of time sorting out papers I've saved on my computer, and sorting out/updating a references bibtex page for these - at the time it felt like procrastination but actually now I think I'll find papers a lot easier)
  • Get started with whatever chapter seems easiest. Break everything down into chunks
  • The thesis isn't a descriptive account of the last three years' work, its a coherent description of a fully mature research project
  • Save each chapter separately with an annotation of date for that version and probably the filename its stored under as well - as a footer for each page, perhaps?
  • Check university formatting rules (so that template for latex would be amazing, if it exists?)
  • Before the first draft, make a VERY detailed chapter plan. Break it down into chunks that are clearly defined in scope. Max 3 levels of subheadings was recommended.
  • Concentrate the initial effort on thesis structure rather than on the detail in the text of the first draft - as the text is likely to be revised considerably in later drafts. Just write a draft and get it onto paper
  • Writing style: Keep It Simple Stupid! Be concise and don't talk a load of circular woffle. Don't try to sound clever... Active voice is often better than passive voice.
  • For a bit of variety in the writing, vary the length of the sentences (particularly if this tends to be quite uniform).
  • How can I use pictures/graphs/tables/other visuals most effectively? The whole 'picture paints a thousand words' thing comes into mind here...
  • Pay attention to little details - it suggests the work being described has been approached in a similar vein
  • Lengthwise - about 200 pages is a ballpark figure. Decent chunk of words (maybe 10,000) for the introduction, similar for the discussion (maybe 7000)
  • Make sure each part fits together as a story, refer between sections as necessary (without making the reader flit back and forth constantly
  • Worth talking to previous DPhil students about the process - not well documented
  • At least 2 months before submission, hand an 'intention to submit' form in with an abstract (to allow the university to contact potential examiners and sort out any difficulties)
  • Useful contact at Sussex House: Penny King
  • Initially hand in 3 soft bound copies and make a further copy for yourself for the viva.
  • Then if the viva is successful, after corrections, hard bound copies get done.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

statistics in corpus linguistics - Sandra's discussion - and how it relates to my work

Nice clear article on Sandra's blog here, spelling out exactly how she's using statistics in her research on how word usage in bilingual people is influenced by their native language. She defines quite a few core statistical terms in a way that is easy to understand.
Statistical testing is likely to form one or more of my evaluative tests for creativity, as I will want to measure novelty and variance of the new piece of work, both within itself and compared to other comparable works.
This also links in to a previous post of Sandra's on variability and homogeneity assessment between corpora and inside an individual corpus of documents. Where she uses 2 corpora: essays written by native speakers of English and then native speakesr of French, I could be using corpora of pieces of a specific musical genre?
Summary of Sandra's post and how the content relates to my research
So as I understand it, you can use t tests to measure the difference between what you expect to see (based on what you have in the existing corpus) and what you actually see. I wonder what criteria is best for measuring this (probably more than one) - a topic for a later post I think!
T tests are most effective with a small corpus (less than 30 items). They also rely on the assumption that the data is normally distributed and representative of the source population (i.e. in my case, that musical genre). [NB How could I check this, in real terms?]
Z scores can be useful for corpora of a larger sample size than 30 (still assuming the data in the corpus is normally distributed). A z score represents the number of standard deviations a sample piece is away from the mean of the corpus (in other words, how different one piece is from the standard set by the corpus, in comparison to other pieces also being tested).
Taking away the assumption that the data is normally distributed and representative of the larger population (that specific musical genre), chi-squared tests come into play. X2 tests take two sets of frequencies/variables and measure how much these two sets vary from each other. So for example taking pitch distribution (how many times does e.g. middle C appear in pieces from a specified genre) - I could use X2 to measure how statistically different two sets of pieces are from each other on the basis of how notes are used.
I'm sure I'll return to this discussion when I get a bit more into the statistical testing, and how to establish significant results to measure creativity statistically.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Now I stop and think about marking...

In the last week or so I have worked out that I have marked assignments or presentations from close to 200 students. When I stop and think about it, that seems slightly worrying to me - is it right that I, as a doctoral student, have influence on so many people's degrees?

In my undergraduate degree I got a 2.1. It was a high 2.1 but a 2.1 nonetheless. I've found during my later academic pursuits that sometimes I have been restricted by not having achieved a first during my time at undergraduate level. Realising now how much marking and extra tutoring is taken on by postgraduate students, I really hope that my decisions to give someone 68 rather than 71 don't have such consequences?

Just to clarify, I don't think like that when I'm actually marking; I don't think you can afford to otherwise allocating each grade would be an incredibly long process...

On reflection of my undergraduate times, I think maybe I did deserve that 2.1 - I could definitely have applied myself better to my work, especially when I didn't engage with a particular subject so much and wasn't so interested in it (computer architecture springs to mind!) If I'd carried on study straight after finishing undergraduate, I wouldn't have the motivation and drive that I have now, so its funny how it all works out. And that 2.1 does help push me when I'm flagging a bit - just a bit more effort then and I could have done better, to get a first? Definitely helped me in my masters - just a bit more effort...!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A way past the deadlock...

Finally some good feeling of progress and movement in my PhD!

Just had a meeting with my supervisor where I showed him some ideas I had about exactly what I want my PhD thesis to cover. This set of ideas is the result of some brainstorming I did on the scope of my PhD, focussing on evaluation of creativity.

It's the first time for a while that I've felt like I really knew what I was talking about and could justify and expand upon what I was proposing, when I was being questioned, and also see the boundaries of what my project is going to cover. While I think I've got a lot of work ahead of me..., these are exciting times!

Monday, 2 March 2009

tidy up of funding applications

Since I last listed all my funding options, lots have been eliminated or done, so lets update my list and get it into a date order so its easier to see what deadlines I'm about to miss...

Listed as: Name of award/funder, Deadline, How much I can ask for, What they're after

  • AHRC: DEADLINE: 10/3/09? I'm sort of eligible to apply (more so if I wasn't in informatics) Full funding, fees and living. Need to submit a 500 word max research proposal, three references and transcripts.
  • British Federation of Women's Graduates - BFWG Scholarships DEADLINE 27/3/09. 2,500-6000 pounds. For final year female PG students.
  • FFWG Charitable Foundation Grants DEADLINE 31/3/09. ??? pounds. For final year female PG students.
  • Richard Stapley Trust: DEADLINE: 31/03/09. 300-1000 pounds per year. Mature PG students.
  • Microsoft European PhD Scholarship Programme - very interesting that the first page on their main research site is for their Songsmith project... a good omen maybe? They are looking to fund people who work at the 'intersection of computing and the sciences including biology, chemistry and physics'. Closing date april according to Grants register but according to the microsoft site, applications don't even open till march - I'll keep checking..
  • Reid trust for the higher education of women - Deadline 31/5/09 Up to 1000 pounds grant. To promote the education of women in the UK. Open to women educated in the UK with appropriate qualifications who wish to undertake further training or research. - 1 in 5 chance of success. Administered by a small voluntary committee. No online presence except this PDF.
  • Lindbergh Grants - Deadline: 2nd Thursday in June. Maximum of $10580. Intended for research projects that imporve the quality of life through balance between nature and technology. Aimed at research and education rather than tuition

  • ESRC (the open competition) DEADLINE: Internal deadline - March. Full funding. The only research council I've looked at that is actively encouraging interdisciplinary work but as luck would have it, I'm really not sure whether I'm eligible for this, given that Informatics isn't mentioned on the ESRC page at Sussex.
  • SEMPRE: Arnold Bentley New Initiatives fund deadline 1st May (max about £500) for interdisciplinary music psychology projects
  • SEMPRE: Conference awards for attending one of SEMPRE's supported conferences - it has to be said that the online list of conferences supported by Sempre is not the most extensive at present... :(
  • Intellectual Property Office Bursary scheme - for women who have had previous arts experience and who then go on to do a science/engineering course - THIS PAGE SEEMS TO HAVE VANISHED??
  • The Hinrichsen Foundation (L E Adamson: The Hinrichsen Foundation Awards, The Hinrichsen Foundation, PO Box 309, KT22 2AT) To promote the written areas of music - contemporary music composition, performance and research. UK applicants given preference. Not taking applications till at least June due to financial problems. NB: "The Trustees are not as a general rule prepared to finance degree courses. Their aim is to encourage composition and research, but not to finance the acquisition of basic skills in these subjects."
  • Leverhulme Trust - can I apply as a person pursuing a research project? Prob not...

  • Departmental Funding: Full funding. ~Need to hand in form.~
  • Google Anita Borg Scholarship: 5000EUR/1000EUR
  • Hilda Martindale Educational Trust - Up to 1000 pounds. They are interested in supporting women who aren't eligible for grants from research councils (which I can definitely put a case for, seeing how my research really doesn't neatly fit into research council boundaries).