Author Archives: Liz Norman

About Liz Norman

Director of the Master of Veterinary Medicine programme, Massey University

Threading in your research journal


Gossamer threads 2 by Darren Pearce, Attribution-NonCommercial License


You will find this post on the new Research Pointers site: Click here to go to the post. Don’t forget to subscribe to the new site once you are there so you don’t miss out on postings in future.

MVM Learning is moving

MVM Learning is moving to a new site called Research Pointers.

The new site more clearly reflects the purpose of this blog: to give research students pointers for their research journey. At the new site you will find an updated look which should make it easier to find older posts. All the previous posts from MVM Learning have been moved over to Research Pointers. Check out the new site and be sure to follow the new site by email to make sure you don’t miss postings.

I hope you like Sam, our new Pointer logo, care of Harold Meerveld, Attribution License


Enjoying writing


Weezy can’t hide her enjoyment by Bobo Uzala, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

In this post Michelle Bastian discusses how putting into practice advice from Robert Boice’s book on writing has worked for her. She explains her use of spontaneous writing first, to get ideas down, followed by outlining based on what you wrote spontaneously and then restructuring. This process, which she explains in more detail made writing quicker but also more fun.



Argument ! by Rob D, Attribution-NonCommercial License

This article from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina explains what argument is in academic writing, why you need it, and how to go about it. It covers making claims, providing evidence for your claims, and using counter-argument. There is also a very helpful section on critical reading. It talks about techniques to help you see the arguments that other authors are making instead of taking what they say as statements of fact. This helps in critically evaluating the evidence they present and helps you learn techniques for making effective arguments yourself.

how to do a literature review


Review by Hernán Piñera, Attribution-ShareAlike Licence

This article by Will Hopkins gives some very practical advice about structuring a literature review. Although some parts of it refer to specific requirements of the journal he is writing for, there is a lot of good advice here that you won’t go wrong following. There is a very good section on assessing the quality of the published work and one on interpreting effects.

Hopkins WG (1999) How to write a literature review, Sportscience 3(1),

Some tips for using OneNote as a research journal


Tips by Joanna Paterson, Attribution-NonCommercial License

As I have mentioned before I use Endnote a lot, including for keeping a research journal. I like it a lot because it is flexible, searchable, automatically backed up on the cloud, and I can access it from my computer, ipad and phone so its always with me. OneNote can take a bit of getting used to, because it does not have all the features of writing software like Word, or table software like Excel. But it does do lots of things they don’t and links in well with them to make my life easier. Here are some tips I find particularly useful:

  1. Use your notebook as an alternative brain. You have enough to remember without cluttering your mind with where things are and what you did. Over a long project it gets hard to remember. Write it down in your notebook instead.
  2. Use the search function to find things. Once your notebook starts to get a lot of stuff in it, it can be hard to find things. But its much easier than a paper notebook because you have a search function.
  3. Rearrange pages and sections if you need to. OneNote will automatically put a date stamp on your entries so I tend to generally just enter them in sections by month. But sometimes I need to gather up all the pages that are on a certain topic and I move these to a new section on that topic. OneNote pages can be dragged and dropped to move them around easily.
  4. Make use of links to other parts of your OneNote notebook. Its easy to link to other pages and other notebooks in OneNote. Use this feature to refer to relevant previous entries like magic. Create organizing pages which summarise where things are.
  5. Use your notebook as one place to store information from all sorts of files, emails and webpages. You can create links to folders, spreadsheets and documents stored on your computer, send copies of emails to the notebook (including their attachments) and send copies of websites to your notebook. You can also insert photos of your fieldwork or photos of drawings/diagrams you have done. This way you have everything in one place where you can find it.

Is it a bibliography or a reference list?


Tui feeding in the flax by Yani Dubin, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

At the end of your document you have a list of references. Should you call it a bibliography or a reference list? What is the difference? This page on Massey University’s Online Writing and Learning Link explains.

More than one way to write a dissertation


Black headed gull by Siddie Nam, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

In this post, Pat Thomson discusses an important thing to bear in mind when reading the posts on this blog and the ones I link to. There is no one way to write your research report—no one way to do it and no one way for it to look. Everyone is different and has a different best way of doing things. And every report is different and the material has a different best way to be written about.

So what is the point of sharing techniques and ways to structure writing on this blog? As Pat points out, having a repertoire of ways to do things helps you select the best way for the situation.

You can read more about Pat’s ideas here