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“Do you have any questions?”

I just came back from a conference last weekend. The Academy of Management is probably the biggest conference in my field, with over 10,000 participants. Going through the 500-page program and deciding which sessions to attend was almost as hard as writing a paper. However, one thing in common among most presentations was their last slide: “Questions?”. Sometimes it was disguised as “Q&A” or even as a more timid “Debate” or “Discussion”, but it was always meant to be an invitation that the presenter is opening up for questions. Isn’t it curious that questions should mark the end of an academic presentation? Aren’t we there to find answers in the first place? (more…)

Are you ready for the MOOCs?

edx is the platform chosen by McGill

Academic courses being offered online are not new. In the early 2000s it was already possible to find videos of full courses online from top universities. Over time, the offer grew and the number of channels too. From decentralized repositories, we had iTunes U, YouTube EDU and others. But a recent phenomenon is taking shape under the name of MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses.

Recently McGill has partnered with edx to start offering MOOCs in 2014. The two other major platforms today are coursera and udacity. As a member of my faculty Teaching and Learning Committee, yesterday I attended a discussion about the topic and I was amazed about how little we know about it.


EndNote for the iPad: giving a second chance

So after a first negative reaction, I decided to give the EndNote for the iPad a second chance. Basically my second impression is more positive than the first one, but I still think there are things to be improved in the overall EndNote ecosystem, if we can call it that way (desktop versions, sync, and iPad).

Let’s start with the syncing issues I reported. After my first post, I found that they had just fixed it, as well as the usability issues for the Mac version. So make sure you update both PC and Mac versions to the latest patch (6.0.1 and 6.0.2 respectively). That’s the first step. (more…)

EndNote for the iPad: not ready for prime time

My search for an optimal flow of searching, sorting, storing, organizing, reading and annotating papers continue. The current process is still a bit convoluted (and I’m not alone!), but it kind of works.
First of all, I am glad to have moved completely to a digital configuration. This summer the entire floor where my office is located will be renovated. I’ll be “officeless” for about five months. I have nothing to worry about, there are no more books or printed articles in my shelves. All I need is a device to connect to the Internet. (more…)

Do you think you own your digital library?

Bruce Willis in the film Die Hard 4. Photograph: Frank Masi

A few months ago a rumour went viral on the internet: Bruce Willis was suing Apple for the right to pass on his iTunes library to his daughters in his will. The rumour was denied by his wife shortly after – not before many news sites reproduced the story though. In any case, this is not a post about the decline of journalism in which being the “first” (or at least one of the first) to report is more important than actually checking what you’re reporting… This is a brief discussion of the question raised by the fictive legal action that – in my humble opinion – we don’t discuss deeply enough.

Bringing it to our academic world, perhaps the discussion of owning or having rights to reproduce a music file on iTunes is not relevant, but as we move more and more our lives to the cloud (I know, this is becoming a cliché), we need to understand what this actually means in terms of ownership (or the lack thereof) of digital goods. (more…)

Backup, backup, backup!

This actually happened during my comps!

The comprehensive examination is an important milestone for a PhD student. While its format varies depending on the school, degree, department, and most importantly, your supervisor, it is usually a pass/fail test of your cumulative knowledge after one or two years into the program. In Canada, after the comps, you are “promoted” from being a PhD student to being a PhD Candidate.

The format in my department is a take-home exam that lasts from Monday morning, when you receive the set of questions, until Friday at 5pm, when you need to submit your answers/papers to your committee members. One week later you meet them in an oral examination, where you clarify any questions they have about your answers and about the field in general.

So last June it was my turn. I received the questions on Monday and worked countless hours. On the third day, it happened: the Blue Screen Of Death!


Another kind of fieldwork…

Inside these buildings you can do interesting fieldwork as well!

Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote in this blog. Probably because my to-do list was full, but then by looking at recent posts from my fellow Grad Life bloggers, I can see my summer was not that original: Erik and Crystal also gave us their insights about doing fieldwork and attending academic conferences. While I’ll keep my stories about the conferences I attended for another post, here is a little about my experience with fieldwork, which was a little bit different than Erik’s. After all, when talking about fieldwork – and especially from Erik’s picture – one can imagine collecting data from an actual field… Well, being in management, the definition of going to the field can vary a little. (more…)

Your Research in the Cloud

Cloud-based hosting services have been around for a while, but with the launch of Dropbox-like desktop clients of both Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive this week, it appears to be the hot topic to be discussing now.

My goal here is not to discuss the pros and cons of each. There are plenty of thorough comparisons out there. Instead, as fast as the hype about all the cool things came, the discussion is now quickly shifting towards ill-defined terms of service that can jeopardize the confidentiality of your data. What does it mean in terms of storing your research data?


Black Mirror

Talking about a TV show in a blog for grad students can be risky: who has the time to watch them? Myself I am not aware of most of the things going on on TV, but by recommendation of a friend, I came across this ‘dark trilogy of twisted tales from Charlie Brooker’ called Black Mirror. Who is Charlie Brooker? I had no idea either, probably some famous guy in England.

“So what? It is just another TV show,” you might say. But anyone interested on technology and how it can affect human relations should enjoy this.

I am a hi-tech reader!

A few months ago I wrote about two distinct ways of reading your pile of papers for your seminars: using an e-reader or printing everything out. After starting as a hi-tech reader, I experimented with the paper solution last semester and in this post I will explain some of my feelings about this experience and the reasons why I moved back to PDFs this year.


Can you make your grad life more fun?


The topic today is not about taking a break of your grad life activities and going out to have some fun and forget about your frustrations. Today the topic is ‘gamification‘, which is a kind of a buzzword that gained in popularity during this past year.

While a whole industry is developing around the concept (which is not new, by the way: just think of how long you’ve been doing things like accumulating miles from your favourite airline and/or credit card), I have developed an interest on the topic in three ways: as a research subject, as a way to engage students in class, and – more personally – as a way to make my own grad life more fun.


Jumpstarting your social life in Montreal

We usually gather in really nice venues!

So you just arrived in Montreal a few months ago and you’re overwhelmed with the amount of stuff you need to read, write and do for your grad studies. And it is starting to get cold outside (not today in particular, but still…). And you realize you barely had time for some fun. Don’t panic, there is a way out!

As one of the thousands of expatriates that arrive in Montreal each year, I moved to the city a couple of years ago without knowing anyone. Having known InterNations before, I looked to see whether there was any event going on so I could mingle with fellow expats, but there were no activities in Montreal at that time. After posting some messages in the local forum asking for it, I was invited to organize the events in Montreal and become the city’s “ambassador”.



I signed up for Movember and for the first time I’m growing a moustache, or a Mo. While grad students usually have a hard time donating (everyone tells me: “I’m broke”), you can still participate by letting your Mo grow and spreading the word.

As for the girls, or Mo Sistas, there are also a few ways to help. Not only you can donate, but you can increase awareness within your circles: with some encouraging words, Mo Sistas can influence men to participate and grow a Mo, live a healthy lifestyle, and get checked regularly.

Since today it is only Movember 4th, there is not much to see yet, but I promise I will post a photo of myself later in the month so you can make fun of me! In the meantime, I’ll let you with some additional information about the initiative:


Are you a high-tech or a low-tech reader?

iPad (credit:

Reading is one of the main activities performed by a grad student and academics in general. In my PhD program in management, i have to read between 12 and 15 papers a week for my courses this semester, let alone all other readings such as book chapters, leisure books, blogs, e-mails, tweets, facebook news feed, so forth and so on. Yes, I probably spend half of my awake time reading.

But let me focus on these 12-15 papers. Some are as small as ten pages, but some are fifty pages long; thus, let’s consider an average of twenty pages per article. That makes 300 pages of articles to read per week, about 3,500 per semester. So how should we “consume” all this information? (more…)

PhD Comics – the movie

Outdoor screening featuring the skyline of Montreal

Last week we had the screening of the movie PhD Comics at McGill University. For those of you not familiar with the characters, it is based on the comics of the same name created by Jorge Cham, himself a PhD from Stanford University.

Although most of the jokes in the movie were extracted from the original comics, it was worth watching these grad students’ adventures in the big screen.


Life beyond books and papers

PhD Desautels vs. Red Med

Starting this year, the Desautels Doctoral Student Society (DDSS – Faculty of Management), has decided to will help in the organization and the funding of Intramural Sports. Their goals are threefold: “(1) to increase the feeling of kinship between PhD students, (2) to have fun and purify our bodies and mind, and (3) to improve the visibility of the Desautels Doctoral Student Society (DDSS), as well as the PhD Program inside McGill University.”

And as if I didn’t have enough activities for the semester, I decided to join the volleyball team!


Getting started


My original idea for this post was to look at the year ahead. But being a second year grad student, I decided to search through my notes from last year and analyze my academic goals back then. Perhaps because I was just starting, I have to say they were quite general: it was simply a list of transferrable skills that I thought could be useful for other aspects of my life as well.

Looking back, I would perhaps add quite a few more, but overall I am happy that I’ve been able to make at least some progress in these original items so far. So I’d like to share a few items with you and also read in the comments your thoughts on them, in addition to your own items. Without further ado, here is my 2010 list:

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