How's the Thesis? - Recent Developments

My thesis work has been going along somewhat smoothly lately, although in the next few weeks, I’ll be a little bit worried about how I am going to get working on the second and last experiment of my thesis. I’ve been putting polish on the first experiment client while I wait for the IRB paperwork to come through so that I can actually release and start the thing. At this point, the client and website are looking pretty polished, although I am somewhat worried that if I keep adding statistics-crunching stuff to each results page, it will take a long time or not respond well under load. I guess we will see when the client actually releases.

In preparation for the second experiment of the thesis, I’ve been starting another literature review, to check and see what has happened in the HRI field, or more specifically developments either tangentially or fuzzily related to my thesis topic, in the last year. One of the problems of working on the thesis while having a full time job is that the progress is a bit slower than normal, and some stuff can actually happen that you need to be keeping up on.

In the last two weeks, I’ve set aside one day, approximately two hours, to look at the recent conferences and journals and pick out papers which seem related. It had been a while since I had been looking through, so I really do have almost a full year of conferences to wade through. Some of these conferences, like IROS 2011 and ICRA 2011 are really large, with 70+ pages of titles and abstracts in IEEExplore. Add to those the journals like Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics which not only have 6 fairly large issues a year, but early access to unpublished but accepted articles as well, there’s a lot to go though.

After sifting through the papers and categorizing them in “really related”, “tangentially related”, “somewhat related”, “non-thesis interest” categories, I move them over to my Dropbox account and then get to reading them. I used to read on my Kindle which worked pretty well, especially with the note leaving feature, but I’ve started using Goodreader on the iPad which has a number of ways of marking things, and then happily emailing me the marks which not only works great for point out passages or commenting on the entire article, which I like to do at the end, but it is pretty great for highlighting references which I will look up later.

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with the reading day set aside. I’ve read two articles which are really relevant to my thesis work. One which got really close to what I am doing in my first experiment, but is different in a significant way, and another which took a truly interesting look at the analytical side of things and has a modeling angle that I might seriously consider for future work. I’ve also got partway through a journal article which I am hoping that I will finish this week, that has a pretty good overview of the last year or three. I think that I’ll keep reading at least one day a week, so that I can keep up on the latest developments as they happen from now on, instead of waiting for it all to pile up. Also, it’s a great way to switch up the normal work that I have to do and relax into the weekend.