What’s my research all about?

Today, after a small achievement on the writing front, I decided to see what my research is all about.  So I built a word cloud from the text in some of my recent work.  It started off as procrastination, but actually it was far more interesting (for me, at least) than I’d originally imagined.  So, here it is…

There are not too many surprises.  I’m an ecologist, so ‘species’ is going to be a commonly used word.  A lot of my work has focussed on modelling detection probabilities for different species, and I have recently published some work on estimating bird dispersal distances.  But what is interesting to me is how useful these word clouds could be.

I can see that this will be a good way to assess how my research interests are changing over time.  And let’s face it, that makes them a vaguely productive form of procrastination.  Also, on a smaller scale – say, for a single paper – they are useful for assessing the tone or style of your writing.  They could help to identify whether you are over-using certain words or phrases, or conveying a sense of confidence in your writing.  For example, I am surprised that the word ‘However’ made it to the list.  I guess I must start a lot of sentences with “However,…”.  I have a feeling that someone once told me that you should never start a sentence that way.  I was even more concerned that ‘tends’ came up in a cloud I built from a paper I am currently writing.  x tends to be associated with y… It doesn’t really convey confidence, does it?

So, now I have new form of procrastination that is both creative and useful.  I intend to use it, but not too often.  Watch this space!


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