How to read a thick thesis?

Yes, it is difficult and most of the time, you think that it will waste your precious research time. Well, the answer is you don’t have to spend time trying to understand what is the core of the thesis content in your first attempt. It will definitely put you off. But somehow you have to read it because it might have some interesting discussion that you might be able to use or refer to in your research. For sure you don’t want to missed out some important literature. But at the same time you don’t want to end up feeling ‘what a waste of time’.
Skim Reading is the answer so far. It help you to gather the core ideas in the thesis so that you are able to understand, not to missed out, and then to make decision whether you should spend a bit more time reading the thesis thoroughly. On the other hand you will be able to say to our supervisor that ‘Yes, I have read the thesis. It is interesting research but it is not relevant to what I am researching at the moment’. There are plenty of different websites that teaches skim reading. But I have tried this one in particular and found that the methods here and the exercise they offers is very easy to learn on how to skim read.

Reading thick thesis is not that difficult after all. Good luck!


Useful advice on oral presentation

I would like to thank Prof Mark D. Hill for sharing the oral presentation tips (1992 revised January 1997).
Some of you might think that this oral presentation tips might not be relevant to your research areas as the oral presentation here is created for computer science program. But, trust me when it comes to presentation slides, it all goes down to the content, and that is what you need to add in. Others, which is the structure, is almost the similar. Just have a read through.

Things to Think About before you start your slides

1. Oral Communication is different from written communication

Listeners have one chance to hear your talk and can’t “re-read” when they get confused. In many situations, they have or will hear several talks on the same day. Being clear is particularly important if the audience can’t ask questions during the talk. There are two well-know ways to communicate your points effectively. The first is to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). Focus on getting one to three key points across. Think about how much you remember from a talk last week. Second, repeat key insights: tell them what you’re going to tell them (Forecast), tell them, and tell them what you told them (Summary).

2. Think about your audience

Most audiences should be addressed in layers: some are experts in your sub-area, some are experts in the general area, and others know little or nothing. Who is most important to you? Can you still leave others with something? For example, pitch the body to experts, but make the forecast and summary accessible to all.

3. Think about your rhetorical goals

For conference talks, for example, I recommend two rhetorical goals: leave your audience with a clear picture of the gist of your contribution, and make them want to read your paper. Your presentation should not replace your paper, but rather whet the audience appetite for it. Thus, it is commonly useful to allude to information in the paper that can’t be covered adequately in the presentation. Below I consider goals for academic interview talks and class presentations.

4. Practice in public

It is hard distilling work down to 20 or 30 minutes.

5. Prepare

See David A. Patterson’s How to Give a Bad Talk

moving toward modern living

This new robot, iRobot Scooba 230 somehow reminded us of the modern popular living style the world is adopting. The purpose of this new design is to assist busy life that most family is facing at the moment, juggling between work and some quality times with family. More design similar with this robot will soon occupied our household, and yes at the moment this all changes is making you feeling uneasy but, it won’t take long when it become something that we need. Mobile phone and internet, was regarded as the unnecessary product a decade ago, now, can we live without it?

Establishing singular national history of Malaysia

In one of my PhD chapters (2011), I discussed about the construction of Malaysian identity through establishment of national history and argue by examining and showing how it is constructed. To think about the idea of national history is not far from thinking of selection of what can be considered as national and what is not. Now, if history means the study of the past (Oxford Dictionary 2010), then to established the notion of national history should mean the study of the past that linked to the nation and the state. We all knows, I hope, that to includes all history of the nation, the people, their culture, believes, achievements, tragedy and so on, is an open ended. So the questions here is firstly, how does the selection of choosing the ingredient of the Malaysian national history occurred? Secondly, how does it been perpetuated as the national history, and thirdly, nonetheless, is the most important question, what purpose does national history served?

Image construction by NurulRahman-Oct-2010.

For a new country such as Malaysia, this is the current impact of the establishment of the term national history. In public schools and higher education, the national history is the most emphasized subject of history. Students are asked to memorized the date of the significant events without being involved in critical discussion of the events occurred to provide clear understanding of the historical incident. Due to that, most of the history classes became monotonous and uninteresting. Most of the students were required to remember the important dates and events because it will be asked in the exam. History has never been interesting for me at school. Until I have learned the other side of the history, or the invisible gaps in Malaysian history, through different readings, mix and match from several different artifacts. Interestingly when I discussed about my discoveries to some of my fellow Malaysian friends, they said to me that most of the books or literature that I have read is regarded as the attempt of the western action to destroy the sense of unity and harmonious living in Malaysia. They also advised me instead to look at publication of Malaysian history written by local historian and refer only to the literature that were published in Malaysia. As they said, it will provide the most accurate history of Malaysia. Shocked, yes, thinking how can one believe only on one side of the stories (in this case a country’s history) without researching, comparing the materials and gaining knowledge from others? Can the notion of national history be that linear? Then our discussion goes on by my fellow Malaysian friends by showing examples of the movies that they believed linked to the national history, such as Bukit Kepong, Leftenan Adnan, Abang, and even linked to the legendary Malay icon, Hang Tuah. The mixed of history, national history, folk and legendary stories is part of Malaysian history. I am not surprise if Hang Tuan and his fellow friends is part of the discussion in history classes in Malaysia. Besides legendary Hang Tuah is already part of the exhibits artifacts of Malay Kingdom in Malacca National History. How can I contest the artifact that were exhibited in National history as not part of the country’s history?

This curiosity of trying to understanding my own Malaysian history, and origins of national identity became my past 5 years PhD research topic. I stand here as I am at the end of writing my PhD’s conclusion, that the notion of Malaysian identity that once I believed in and still many of my fellow Malaysian believed in is no more than an imagining ideals of Malaysian identity.

Today in a Malaysiakini online newspaper, this topic have pop up, and I hope that many Malaysian will began to take notes. The curiosity that I have felt alone is shared by the author, Raja Petra. In this article, Raja Petra wrote that Malaysia ex-prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad states that ‘Malaysian history as currently taught in schools was inaccurate’ (, 11 September 2011). At least that hypothesis that I was trying to prove in my PhD is supported by Malaysia ex-prime minister. In Tun Mahathir own words he stated, ‘Many from the younger generation do not understand history and the origin of the nation, as there were attempts to alter historical facts into fantasy,’ quoted as saying in a Bernama Online report 11 September 2011. The National Professors’ Council (MPN) also has taken debate further in claiming that Malaya was never colonised by British Empire. Thus, Higher Education Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin began to comment that the current history syllabus in schools needs to be reviewed.

It is also known that Malaysia Prime Minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, are currently in London where it is believed they met the British government to discuss amendments to the British distortion of history. It is claimed that there are some errors in the documents kept in National Archives that gives the wrong impression about Malaysia. As stated by Petra in online newspaper articles, ‘The documents in the National Archives in London talk about the British Colonial government of Malaya and refer to the Colonial Office. This gives the wrong impression that Malaya was a colony of Britain whereas this was not so, says Malaysia. Malaya was never colonised by Britain, argues Malaysia’ (11 September 2011).

If the national history that was taught, proud and claimed for years as part of the nation history celebrating the independent day Merdeka on the 31 August 1957, is now stands as incorrect and doubtful, will there be a truth in the history of Malaysia?

This blog content is part of a working paper by the author. Any republication of the text, ideas or statement in any form should be in an agreement of the author – Nurul Rahman 2011. (contact nurulrahman [at] gmail . com]

‘Ya’bon’ a pop culture conflict through advertising

A french journalist Pierre Lardet discovered a cocoa based recipe made of cocoa, cereals, honey, sugar and banana flour during his visit in Lake Managua, Nicaragua in 1909. He brought this recipe home in Paris and introduced a new drink called Banania in.

On of Lardet strategies to promote his cocoa based drink is to integrates his drink with the colonial troops around World War I. Banania used the tagline of pour nos soldats la nourriture abondante qui se conserve sous le moindre volume possible (‘for our soldiers: the abundant food which keeps, using the least possible space’ by promoting it thorough an image of a Senegalese man enjoying his Banania drink. The mixture of color yellow (to indicates the banana ingredient), red, blue and white (from the Senegalese man uniform and also to indicates France as the origin country of the product) is used as the highlights of the advertising of banania cocoa drink.The tagline which is originally ‘Ya’bon’ (means it’s good) is supposedly derived from a pidgin french language spoken between the soldier (which in fact it is an invention), later transformed to the slogan and the character became inseparable as the expression was coined: l’ami y’a bon (“the y’a bon buddy”).

In 1970s and 1980s, Banania sponsored the Yellow Yersey for Tour de France to continue its promotion around France and gained its name internationally. The advertising promotion of Banania began to attracts attention from the local who their origin is from the black ancestors and also others who are concerned on the impact of the pop culture advertising to the image of France. As much as it has caused several conflicts with its ‘manipulative image’ of a black guy in its product branding, banania became the cultural icon in France. Even though the form of the character of Banania have evolved through years, its name and its original advertising continue as one of the popular culture around the world. Banania posters and reproductions of the packaging, tin-plates sign of the pre-war advertising continue as a demand on the current market.

Banania logo in 1930 (image from wikipedia)