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(13) Writing and RSI (my story)

Ah, PhD life…  So, that’s me and another PhD going to Spain, Palma-de-Majorca. Tasty food, beautiful beach, warm sand and refreshing breeze from the sea.

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This is me and my sister going few months later to Japan, in Tokyo & Yokohama, where I attended a world congress; thousands of researchers gathered there.

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Not too bad.. indeed, I could not complain. The only difficult thing to show in these pictures is that I was not able to do much with my hands. My arms were just hanging attached to my shoulders, but were not very helpful.

It was my last year of PhD. I was so exhausted that I had to take this trip to Spain if I wanted to finish my PhD thesis. My friend was helping me out so that all I had to do, was to relax and restore. Whereas in Japan, I planned to go months beforehand, it was a World Congress which I simply could not miss. Maybe I would have met my future employers there, such events are valuable for future perspectives. My sister was my personal little helper and tourist guide, has been a long trip.

I was fortunate to be able to get away and get better, but there are many PhD students who are not that fortunate, also they or/and are not aware that they struggle with RSI. A PhD, a Post-doc or a Researcher in general is doing a lot of writing (and editing, editing, editing, editing) which in its turn could cause…

Repetitive strain injury  – an injury caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, or sustained or awkward positions.

2Repetitive Strain Injury


What happened next? What is all the fuss about it?… to be continued next Monday!

p.s. Big thanks to all my friends and family who were there for me when needed.







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(11) Writing and Research Design

The question is what is the question.

Should I conduct semi-structured interviews? Do we need an experiment? Would a mixed-methods approach be more appropriate than a (mainly) qualitative or quantitative approach? How to analyze the data once obtained? These and other questions come to mind when thinking about a new study, and the answer to each of these questions boils down to the purpose or core question of the study.


Whether it comes to interviews, experiments, mixed-methods approaches, or other issues, there is no point of doing something if there is no question that calls for it. Doing interviews for the sake of doing interviews – or because we have been doing so for years – is unlikely to serve your purpose if your main question calls for an experiment. Likewise, experiments can provide a means for questions concerning causal relations between particular variables of interest and may have little added value if there is no such question to begin with.

Some may argue that in for instance a social science context, a mixed-methods approach is always better than a (mainly) qualitative or quantitative approach. However, mixed-methods research only makes sense when an integration of quantitative and qualitative findings responds to a research question or set of research questions in such a way that it tells more than two separated (one quantitative, one qualitative) studies, or: 1 + 1 = 3.

Whichever method, design or combinations thereof you are considering, there is a metaphorical bridge between question (purpose), data collection, and analysis; it is good to keep that bridge in mind throughout the entire journey from core question to reporting the study in an article.

by Jimmie Leppink

To read more, see here:



PhD I. asks: “I don’t know what to do after my PhD which ends 1 year from now. I would like to stay in academia pr research institutes that do high quality research, but there are no so many offers out there. Please advice”

Jimmie answers:  “This is a question I receive quite frequently, as it is a question that many PhD candidates at this stage deal with (it was certainly a question on my mind back then). Given that a change you may have in mind will probably take some time (application, paperwork, move, etc.), it is good that you are having this question now, about one year before the finish of your PhD project. If you know you would like to continue doing research at an academic institute, the next question is what institutes attract you and why. Three things to consider in this why question: (1) Topics; (2) Culture; (3) Geography.

(1) Topics. In many cases, specific institutes come to mind because they are working on topics that are of interest to the PhD candidate. Read more about the topics of research that the institutes you wish to consider are known for. What defines each of these institutes topic-wise and how does that align with your own interests and, to some extent, with your current activities?

(2) Culture. I have learned that writing style (articles) and presentation style (conferences) can tell quite a bit about the culture and mindset of people from a particular institute. Moreover, formal collaboration with other institutes as in joint authorship on articles and presentations can serve as an indicator of the extent to which an institute under consideration is open to collaboration and idea exchange with other places.

(3) Geography. If you have a partner and/or (young) kids, you or your loved one(s) may be less willing to move. It is then very important to discuss this factor in an early stage and see what the outcome of that discussion means for your options. Even if you are currently not in a relationship and have no kids, it is recommendable to reflect on this factor early on. If an institute that interests you is in a different country, are you willing to make the move, and if so, what investments – emotional, financial, other – are you willing to make for that move to happen?

Once you have reflected on these factors, it is important to start making connections with one or two of the institutes you still have in mind. Is there some project or perhaps article you can work on with some people from that institute? Is there a conference where you may meet some of the (key) people from that institute? Do your supervisors have connections with that institute? Especially if continuing in your current institute – for instance due to funding issues – is not an option, your supervisors may actually be willing to help you connect with people in the institute you have in mind.

There is a lot more to say about this question, but the issues I have addressed here can be of help in your stage – one year before the end of the PhD – as well as in subsequent stages of your career.”


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(8) Hello dear PhDs, how are you?

We hope that our post finds you well. Nobody knows better than yourself what is the best way to advance in your PhD. You are the boss of your life, of your time and the master of your skills. We trust you are making the best of it and hope that the posts to come in April will help and inspire you with new ideas or different approaches to solve your challenges and concerns. Isn’t it more joyful to have a companion on the road, at least for a while?

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(6) Knowledge is Happiness? II

This is the 2-nd post out of the trilogy on: how knowing more can make us more happy & how to find the right balance (because knowing more can also make us very unhappy)

Is knowledge happiness? Of course it is, Researchers might say. All we do is dealing with knowledge. This is basically our source of happiness, the daily motivator and driver, the joy and glory.  Well, that’s it then, the question is sorted out.

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(4) Are Researchers boring?

Considering that the number of Researchers (PhDs included) in Europe and across the world is high and that it is only in recent years  when research has become a ‘paid job’, I find it important to clarify some things:

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(3) How many Researchers there are?

Have you sometimes wondered how many Researchers in fact exist in Europe? or in the US? How about the worldwide scenery? Would you like to know the answer to these questions? Me too, but some recent comparable data is apparently difficult to find. Apart from the comparative challenge (since Researchers might be defined slightly different in the EU than in China for example), the data is usually segregated by types of Researchers (faculty members, graduate students, full-time/part-time, professors, doctoral students, post-doctoral, etc.) which makes it challenging to give one final single answer.

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(2) Who is a Researcher?

Researchers are: “Professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems, and in the management of the projects concerned.” (European Commission’s definition).


If you are doing this kind of work and not sure if qualify as a researcher or how advanced you are as a researcher, this might help:

  • You are an “Early-Stage Researcher”in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of your research activity, including the period of research training.
  • You are an “Experienced Researcher” if you have accumulated at least four years of research experience (full-time equivalent) since gaining a university diploma that gives access to doctoral studies, in the country in which the degree/diploma was obtained or ifthe doctoral degree has already been obtained, regardless of the time taken to acquire it.

A remark: if we talk about academic research (the focus of this blog), clearly a freshly graduated PhD (an “Experienced Researcher”) can not be equal in experience and publications to a “More Experienced” Researcher, such as a Professor. The picture below shows an approximate difference between these two types of both Experienced Researchers, so maybe we need one more definition to make a fully-fledged distinction 🙂 How much experience does an Experienced Researcher need to become “more experienced” if both a PhD and a Professor are Experienced Researchers?

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(1) The Origins of Research (as we know it).

It was in the German universities of the early 19th century that the “institutionalization of discovery” was integrated with teaching for the first time, after which it extended to England and the United States.


“An ideological change took place in the first half of XIX-th century, so that by 1850 German universities had almost entirely been converted into research institutes. (…) This involves four innovations:

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Love during PhD

Love during PhD

Inspired by the Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book “Love during Cholera”, the title suggests that love during PhD exists 🙂  Without further drama, I would like to share with you some Valentine’s Day confessions that were cordially sent by friends and colleagues, who during their PhD happen to find their love on the way and the stories go like that…