PPLS Computer Programming Courses

Happy New Year!

If one of your resolutions is to improve your computer skills, you should check out the 2-hour courses on offer from Alisdair Tullo and Chris Gillespie.

Knowing how to program is an important tool to have in your belt. Even if you aren’t currently engaged in a project that requires programming, I’d still recommend having a look. Once you know how to get a computer to help you solve problems, you’ll start finding many ways to use that power. You might even stumble upon ideas for research that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise.

Most of these courses are already full, but you should make sure to join the waiting list of any event that you’re interested in. These waiting lists let event organisers know when there’s enough interest to warrant repeating a course.

Intermediate Programming with Python
(Jan 15, 11:10-13:00)

Online Experiments
(Jan 15, 14:10-16:00)

Basics of Coding in Java — Creating Stimuli Using Processing
(Jan 18, 10:10-12:00)

Workshop: Using the library with Anne Donnelly

library books
Photo by Paul Dodds

Do you really know how to use the library?  Or do you only seem to use a fraction of the resources that are available?  Anne Donnelly, the Academic Support Librarian for PPLS, will help you develop better research strategies.  This workshop is available to students taking PPLS courses at all levels — while many of the techniques covered are suited to larger research projects, it is best to learn about them as early in your career as possible.

You will find out how to…

The following topics will also be covered: the Centre for Research Collections, the Society of College, National and University Libraries, & Digital Skills and Training.

If you are interested, please book now to reserve a seat on November 26th at 14:10 (location tba) and fill out the pre-session questionnaire to let us know which topics are most interesting for you.

An interview with Anne Donnelly

Anne Donnelly, PPLS Academic Librarian
Anne Donnelly, PPLS Academic Librarian

Starting this month, we’ll be hosting a series of workshops developed and delivered by Anne Donnelly, the Academic Support Librarian for the School of PPLS.  Her job is to support both staff and students with everything related to the library.  I sat down with her last week to talk about her role within PPLS and some of the ways in which she can help students to do their research more effectively.

Could you tell me a bit about what Academic Support Librarians do?

Essentially, I try to make sure that the library does what it says on the tin for the School I support, namely PPLS. My role is really just about trying to resolve any issues with library services for students or staff. I also act as the School’s advocate in that I will represent any issues they have to the library on their behalf. I’ll also certainly explain to the School any library policies regarding the services and resources we provide for them.

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LEL Workshop: Writing Linguistics Funding Applications

This afternoon, there will be a workshop on how to write funding applications in linguistics.  It has been organised by a group of PhD students in LEL with mentoring from teaching staff, and will run from 14:00 to 16:00 in Seminar Room 6 in the Chrystal MacMillan Building.  Reservations are not necessary — simply show up if you are interested.

The PPLS Writing Centre isn’t directly involved with this workshop, but we can redirect your questions to the right people.

Pre-honours workshops now available

Here’s another announcement I’m happy to make:  our pre-honours workshops have been finalised and we are now accepting bookings.  These workshops will involve large groups but we’ll keep things interactive through the use of live electronic polling.  You’ll look closely at excerpts from real student essays to see which approaches work and which do not.

Visit our workshop page now to see what’s on offer.  Don’t wait to book.

Two appointments per month

The PPLS Writing Centre is happy to announce that students are now allotted two appointments per calendar month, effective immediately.

Previously, we allowed two appointments per semester.  This has been changed so that students don’t feel the need to save up their hours.

There will be an announcement concerning workshops within the next day or two.   These are due to be held on the week of October 22nd.

Don’t be afraid to be clear

Students often try to give their writing an academic air by making it more difficult to read. They’ll turn a straightforward sentence like “the puppet popped out and scared the children” into “the puppet’s sudden emergence caused fear in the children”. Or write sentences like “an experiment to test this theory was carried out”, in which all instances of “I” or “we” are scrubbed out in an effort to make things less personal.

But fewer professional researchers feel this shyness about being direct and personal in their writing. To illustrate this, I’ve taken extracts written by PPLS researchers and degraded them into the sort of writing that’s more typical of undergraduates. Take a look at the transformed sentences below and consider how they could be made less obscure.

Animals setting off to their usual foraging grounds can be seen to be in possession of knowledge of their destination based on the fact that different starting places and different routes exist.

An experiment in which eight- to ten-year-old children played a tangram description and matching task with a partner, as in Wilkes-Gibbs and Clark (1992), was carried out to distinguish these alternatives.

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Words to use carefully

Today I found myself talking about the writing centre to a group of postgraduate students. In the interest of being direct, I decided not to use speaking notes. An odd word choice here or there, I thought, was worth it if I could maintain eye contact throughout. Usually that would be the right choice, but today I had the unpleasant experience of catching myself saying something I definitely didn’t want to be saying. See if you can spot the moment when my nose started to wrinkle:
You shouldn’t see the writing centre as remedial. Even the strongest writer in this room can benefit from listening to what someone else has to say about their essay. As proof, consider the academics in our department. Even those who have been publishing for decades are glad to get outside opinions. Nearly every journal article they write includes a long list of people who helped make the writing better.
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Extra proofreading for non-native MSc students

At the PPLS Writing Centre, we concentrate on improving your ability to write clearly and put forward coherent arguments.   We try to avoid getting into proofreading or giving advice on your essay’s content.   After all, we don’t want to duplicate the help that is available from elsewhere within the University of Edinburgh.   I have already written a blog post about some of the options that are available (eligibility varies).

It was a nice surprise today to see an announcement that EUSA’s peer proofreading service, which normally closes over the summer, has been made available until August 10th.  Eligibility is limited to current MSc students who are non-native speakers of English.   You are welcome to access this help in addition to any appointments you book with us.