(Last updated: December 21, 2011)
- Download and read this article written by Prof. Steven Weinberg.
- Understanding the results is as important as getting the results. In fact, do not even believe the results of your calculations/analyses until you understand them. You are not a calculator - you are a scientist.
- "Finding a good problem is a part of being a good physicist." -- Steven Weinberg
- Ask yourself the following question, "am I deriving new equations, or simply solving/modifying equations which were derived by someone else?" If you are doing the latter for too long, reconsider your research project. Only the former will have a true impact in your research field. The same thing applies to experimentalists: "am I designing new experiments, or simply improving/modifying experiments which were designed by someone else?"
- Are you making predictions, or are you making postdictions? The latter is usually known as "explanations." Do not spend too much time explaining things. Rather, spend more time predicting new phenomena before measurements are done. An important task of scientists is to motivate new experiments/measurements, by making new predictions. "Put your predictions on the table before measurements are done!"
- Buy and read "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White.
- Avoid using past tense unless it is absolutely necessary. Present/perfect tense usually does a better job for scientific writing.
- Avoid using passive tense as much as possible. Passive tense usually makes sentences longer and sound awkward. E.g. It is shown... -> We show; These results were obtained from -> We have obtained these results from ...
- Don't be afraid of repeating the same expressions, such as "we show". Since what you are writing is not a poem but a scientific article, clarity comes first. Readers may get confused when you say the same things with different expressions.
- Don't ever write unnecessary sentences. Always try to make the paper shorter!
- Avoid having long paragraphs -> break them up into smaller pieces. As soon as complete one paragraph, read it again at least twice, and ask yourself:
- "how can it be made shorter?"
- "Is this paragraph necessary?"
- "Is this paragraph easy to understand?"
- "Are there spelling and grammatical errors?"
- Try to make it shorter as much as possible, using less words, and using shorter words. (represent -> show, etc)
- Spend enough time on every single paragraph. Each word counts.
- Buy and read "The Personal Efficiency Program: How to Get Organized to Do More Work in Less Time" by Kerry Gleeson. Japanese translation also available.
- Always keep track of your to-do's, but split it into research-related and
- Put the to-do's in the list as soon as you have them: putting it off until later will most likely let you forget about the tasks.
- For non-research-related to-do's: order them such that the easiest item
(i.e., can be done with the shortest amount of time and the least effort) comes first. Most important: COMPLETE TASKS FROM THE EASIEST ONES.
- For research-related to-do's: make them as concrete as possible. For example, don't have anything like "solve dark energy problem" in to-do's - it's much too vague.
- If your advisor asked you to look into certain things, make them on the top of the list, and do it as soon as possible. It really helps move the project forward if you do it within a few days. Speed is important - in fact, much more important than you might think - being smart is not enough, but it is being smart AND fast that counts. If you try it for two days and still cannot complete the task asked by your advisor, it is likely that you will never be able to do it by yourself (unless you know exactly what you are doing and how long it will take to complete it). In that case, ask your advisor for help.
- Organize your e-mail box as follows:
- In "INBOX" (where you receive new mails), keep only the emails that ask you to do something.
- As you complete the tasks in the email, move those emails into separate mail boxes, or simply delete them.
- In this way, you can keep track of your to-do's in mailbox, too.
- Try to empty INBOX everyday, i.e., try to complete the tasks asked by emails everyday.
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