Thursday, January 07, 2021

I haven't disappeared

I haven't disappeared: I've simply been keeping quiet for the past few weeks. The problems with my blood pressure and the medication that I have been taking for it have been occupying my mind no small amount, but it seems that there is a mild improvement that started a day or so ago, not coincidentally because I doubled the dosage of the new medication that I am taking. I note that this doubling was the advice of my GP, who told me to start with a small dose then double it after a week. It also helps that I have found an analgesic that handles the headaches that the new medication creates - even if this pain killer is banned in several countries.

I find it interesting that my personal medical problems are far more interesting to me than the havoc that the Covid-19 virus is wreaking on Israel (and of course, elsewhere in the world). Although theoretically the country has been locked down for two weeks, few people have observed this and so infection rates have doubled and tripled. A more stringent lock down will start tonight for a few weeks. To me, it doesn't matter much as I've been working from home for the last two weeks and will continue to do so for however long it takes.


A few weeks ago, before my medical problems got out of hand, I devoted some time to the wreckage of my doctoral thesis. My understanding of the feedback that I received is that basically the whole thing has to be redone and rewritten, so I thought it prudent to start with the literature review. I spent one evening looking for advice on how to write a critical literature review, which is when I stumbled on the following:

Let us make one thing very clear. A PhD literature review isn’t just a summary of existing literature. That’s an annotated bibliography and that isn’t what a PhD literature review is about. This is the mistake I see most frequently in the PhDs I proofread. Not only will your examiners send this back for corrections, but it may mean the whole PhD thesis is problematic because it isn’t grounded in a critical review of the literature. A PhD literature review is a critical assessment of the literature in your field and related to your specific research topic. When discussing each relevant piece of literature, the review must highlight where the gaps are and what the strengths and weaknesses are of particular studies, papers, books, etc. Also, different pieces of literature are compared and contrasted with one another so that themes and relationships are highlighted. [link]

Well, yes, that's exactly what I did - I served up an annotated bibliography, although to be fair, I did add criticism. So I had to start from scratch, looking for themes then writing about them without going into any detail of the papers themselves. Thus maybe eight pages of text were condensed into one paragraph (!) as follows ...

This richness of literature regarding CSFs [Critical Success Factor] means that there is not total agreement as to what constitutes a CSF; each author apparently feels obligated to find new CFS.  For example, there is dispute in the literature as to whether modifying the ERP system (misfit strategy 4, as adopted by this thesis) is a CSF and so should be avoided; the tendency is to avoid modification in large organisations (Bergeron et al., 2004; Esteves and Pastor, 2005; Kang et al., 2008; Parhizkar, 2016; Barth and Koch, 2019) and to embrace it in SMEs (Zach and Munkvold, 2012; Beijsterveld and Groenendaal, 2015; Huang et al., 2018). The view that modification is a CSF is upheld by Barth and Koch (2019, p. 667) who examine CSFs in upgrade projects, remarking that "due to the high complexity of ERP systems, upgrades can only be conducted within comprehensive projects and require significant personal and financial resources as well as a high degree of ERP know-how". Their conclusion was based on twelve interviews with leading personnel from differing companies, all using SAP. This conclusion is not necessarily valid when a company uses a different ERP system more amenable to modification.

I sent the above to my supervisor a few weeks ago who only belatedly replied to me on Monday, writing that this is exactly what needs to be done. He also suggested a few terms to search for, such as 'software enhancement'. Today I had the time and temperament to start working on this; I found a few papers that were discussing misfits in the AutoCAD program. I realised that AutoCAD is another example of what I term 'diagonal software', so I could write a little about this. Unfortunately, the papers themselves are written in very bad English and don't appear to yield very much for me, but under the new regime, all I need to do is note that there is a small amount of literature in this field that is parallel to mine.

I then spent a few hours creating the template for my new thesis. The first chapter, the introduction, was imported with no change save to delete a few paragraphs at the end that discuss the thesis structure. The second chapter, about ERP systems, was bolstered by a few paragraphs that I wrote immediately after the viva that explain why I focused on the four systems that I mentioned. I added another paragraph or two about AutoCAD then threw out almost everything about horizontal software. The few pages that begin the new literature review, along with a page about search techniques, became the beginning of the third chapter. I then went through these three chapters and created a new bibliography to which I will be adding as I write more material.

I also spent a frustrating hour trying to get Word to format headings in the way that I want them. I am linking an interesting article on the topic, but I'm not sure that I managed to define the styles as the article explains. Correct formatting leads to an automatic table of contents, which is one reason why it is so important.

I will have plenty of time over the next two days to continue working on the literature review, and it's about time that I stopped procrastinating and got back down to work.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine (2)

As opposed to the autumnal weather of yesterday, when the outside temperature reached a high of 11°C, today is warm and sunny, 20°C. Great weather for a walk.

I was pottering around this morning at home when my wife announced that someone had posted on one of the kibbutz Whatsapp groups that the vaccination centre in the local town was empty and waiting for customers. Within a few minutes we were in the car, heading for the town.

As announced, the 'centre' (really a large room with partitions) was empty of people being vaccinated, so swiftly we had our personal data noted, answered the standard questions about feeling well, etc, received warnings about possible side effects then had the vaccination. Despite the size of the syringe and the needle, the actual penetration of the skin and insertion into the shoulder muscle was barely felt.

After waiting 15 minutes outside of the room in order to ensure that there were no immediate side effects, it was back home ... and to a great feeling of relief.

I thought that booking an appointment for Sunday evening would put us at the vanguard of the people being vaccinated, but this morning I spoke to a few people on the kibbutz, all older than me, and they had all been vaccinated; I was slightly miffed. On the other hand, someone at work who is older than me but lives in a town in the north of Israel received an appointment for the middle of January.

According to the local news, Israel is first place in the world with regard to the number of people vaccinated per 100 residents. It's amusing to note that a week ago people were worried about the vaccine and were vacillating as whether to have it; now everybody is rushing to be vaccinated!

We receive a second dose in a month's time, and the health authorities reckon that by March they will be able to remove many of the restrictions in place. Let's hope that this is so.