3-Day Dissertation Writing Retreat

Nov 10, 11, and 12; 9am-4pm

Need to carve out dedicated time to stay on track with your dissertation?  Struggling with writing blocks?  Think you might benefit from consults with writing tutors, librarians and others to help you reflect on and strengthen your work?  Apply now for a 3-day dissertation writing retreat.  Limited spaces available!

And the winning CCOM 206 paper is…

I could not be more excited to be a member of the CCOM 206: Communication in Engineering Writing Recognition Committee, alongside some of the fantastic course lecturers. One of the assignments in CCOM 206 is to write a research paper and the committee had the difficult task of awarding the best paper to one student in the fall term. There were 337 students enrolled in the course and 12 papers were shortlisted for the award by instructors. We carefully considered the originality and practicality of the research question and proposed solutions in each paper, along with the depth of research and academic sources referenced, argument coherency and consistency, and overall clarity and quality of the writing.

The best paper among all those excellent research papers chosen for consideration is “Recycling Carbon Fibre Reinforced Composites: A Market and Environmental Assessment” by Maxime Lauzé.

McGill Library is hosting the winning paper in eScholarship, a digital repository which stores and showcases the publications and theses of McGill University faculty and students. Maxime will also receive a formal certificate from the McGill Writing Centre and a $50 gift certificate for the McGill Bookstore.

Here is the abstract of the winning paper:

Both environmental and economic factors have driven the development of carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) waste recycling processes. This paper will present the causes of increased use of carbon fibre composites as well as the consequences of such growth. As well, the advantages and disadvantages of three current recycling technologies available are discussed, focusing on fibre quality, commercial flexibility, and environmental impact. Chemical recycling produces best quality fibre with negative environmental impact while mechanical recycling produces bad quality fibre with good environmental impact. As a result, this paper argues that the best recycling method available today is a thermal process called conventional pyrolysis, because it produces good quality recyclate while being very energy efficient, tolerant to contamination and therefore also the best commercial candidate.

On behalf of the Writing Recognition Committee, congratulations to all those who were shortlisted for the award!

New Bloggers to the Turret


We would like to welcome Umma Tamima as a new student blogger to the Turret. Umma is a PhD student in Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics whose research interests include natural hazard and disaster management planning. She also works for the McGill Library as a Graduate Student Facilitator for the MyResearch Graduate Seminar Series . Welcome Umma! We look forward to lots of posts on student life and your research in Civil Engineering at McGill.

Let me also take a moment to introduce myself as another new blogger to the Turret. My name is Tara Mawhinney and I have recently returned from maternity leave to resume my duties as Liaison Librarian for Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Schulich Library. Glad to be back!

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor: using only the ten hundred most used words

Detail from Up Goer Five http://xkcd.com/1133/ from xkcd.com by Randall MunroeThis past weekend I came across the Up-Goer Five Text Editor, created by Theo Sanderson, that was inspired by the Up Goer Five XKCD comic. The editor checks a block of text and indicates if any of the words you have used are not included in the one thousand – or ten hundred because “thousand” is not one of them – most frequently used words in English (contemporary fiction).

People seem to be embracing the challenge posed by the ten-hundred piece vocabulary. There is now a Ten Hundred Words of Science Tumblr for scientific explanations that satisfy the ten-hundred words rule (though “science” is also not one of the top ten hundred) and the #UpGoerFive hashtag on Twitter, which provide some pretty interesting reading. And Jason B. Jones suggests using the editor can offer new perspective for your writing over at Prof Hacker.

What does your research sound like using only the most common words? Why not give it a try? Let us know if you do!

The Up-Goer Five – a thing you can find on a computer

Image: Detail from Up Goer Five (from xkcd.com) by Randall Munroe

Scientific and technical writing

I recently attended an information session for civil engineering students enrolled in a one credit technical writing course. The students must write a fifteen page technical paper on a civil engineering topic of their choice. They will be graded on content, organization, paper presentation, and quality of writing. The benefits of being able to write well cannot be overstated. Students who are preparing for a career in a technical profession might not appreciate how important writing skills are. Without strong writing skills, it will be difficult to advance in your career. McGill Library has a great selection of writing and style guides, specifically for science and engineering students. Below are some examples:

1. The ACS style guide: effective communication of scientific information 

2. Making sense: a student’s guide to research and writing : engineering and the technical sciences

3. Pocket book of technical writing for engineers and scientists

4. Style and ethics of communication in science and engineering (eBook)

And be sure to visit the McGill Library webpage, Writing tools, where you will find links to resources on topics ranging from grammar to academic integrity.

Image from www.blogs.discovermagazine.com

To cite or not to cite?

I take the BMW (bus, metro, walk) to work each morning and, on the way, I read the newspaper back to front, i.e., I start with the comics’ page.  My favorite comic strip is Zits, which is about the daily adventures of a teenager named Jeremy Duncan.  Last week, there was an amusing episode involving a bibliography.  Read the episode here.

This reminded me of a question that I am frequently asked by students.  When should I cite a source in my paper?

You would cite a source when the idea is not yours, i.e., when you obtained the information from elsewhere.  The source could be a book, journal article, website, etc.  Whether you quote the source or paraphrase it, you need to cite it within the text of your paper and include the reference in your bibliography.  The only cases in which you would not cite a source are when the idea is yours or when you state a common fact, such as “the earth is round” or “Stephen Harper is the prime minister of Canada.”

Image from Microsoft Office Clipart

Writing in the Sciences

Writing is not only a duty for the students in humanities and social science majors, students in sciences at different levels all face the challenge of good writing. As a librarian in a science and engineering library, I often receive questions on this matter. A hands-on course with quality examples and practice may address this need.

Starting tomorrow, Sep 24th 2012, Kristin Sainani, a professor at Stanford University and also a health and science writer, will offer an online open access course on Coursera, Writing in the Sciences.  As the introduction says, “this is a hands-on course that focuses on examples and practice. In the first four weeks, we will review principles of effective writing, examples of good and bad writing, and tips for making the writing process easier. In the second four weeks, we will examine issues specific to scientific writing.”  Read more at Writing in the Sciences.


Have you Wordled yet?

Wordle is useful in helping you quickly find themes in any text that you need to read.  For example, you can use it to find themes in:

  • reports,
  • Web pages,
  • books,
  • dissertations,
  • journal articles,
  • database search results, etc.

You just copy your text and paste it in Wordle to generate a word cloud that shows you, by default, the 150 most frequently mentioned words in your text.  The bigger the word, the more often it has been mentioned.

You can also use Wordle to visually summarize anything that you have written.  Visit Wordle and give it a try!

Image of a Wordle created from the text of this blog

Eating cereal out of the box

Puffed MilletWe couldn’t be more thrilled to bring you this blog. We at Schulich Library have been thinking about it for some time, bookmarking interesting sites and writing little notes with “idea for the blog?” on post-its. We get excited about science and technology and how it intersects with popular and scholarly communication. We hope to fill The Turret up with entries that are timely and topical and now that it is up and running there will be no more procrastinating.

I’m sure that everyone knows a thing or two about procrastination but one great tip for getting those projects off the ground is to write a little every day. A quote from Paul Rudnick that someone shared recently resonated with me:

As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.

Writing a little each day can seem like a chore but here is a tool that was recommended to my librarian colleagues and me: 750words.com. It will remind you to get that writing done whenever you have some time. No one has to ever see it and it doesn’t have to be stellar – you just have to start writing. I promised myself to give it a few weeks to see if it will become habit forming. Wish me luck.

I would be remiss if I did not include at least one procrastination aid. Here is some fun with Google that got me through a patch: type ‘askew’ or ’tilt’ into the search engine or ‘do a barrel roll’ and watch it go, check out the “did you mean” options for ‘recursion’ or ‘anagram’, or just play around with Google Gravity.

If you are wondering what 750 words looks like – it is almost twice this length. I used 750words.com to inaugurate The Turret and made it as far as 397 words. It is my first time after all. It wasn’t at all painful so I’m not sure why I had put it off for so long, although I did shamelessly fill up space with a block quote and pause twice for cereal.

Welcome to the blog. Happy reading (and writing)!

Image by Jimmy Coupe