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Brain Food

Brain Food is a series of workshops which teach graduate students effective ways to approach their research, writing, and data analysis. Each of the six workshops in the series is 3 hours in length and is offered one or more times each semester.

To register for these sessions, visit the Library’s Events Calendar.  

Note for Faculty Members: If you are considering requiring your students to attend Brain Food, please notify Brain Food staff in advance by emailing

Brain Food: getting started on your thesis

In this workshop session, we provide foundational skills and strategies that will carry you through the thesis or dissertation process. Topics covered will include:

  • Managing the Thesis Process: We discuss goal setting and time management strategies to keep you motivated throughout your graduate degree.
  • Formulating Your Research Question: Your research question forms the basis of your research project. In this session, we discuss how to formulate an effective research question and how to use it to guide and inform your thesis or dissertation from start to finish.
  • Working with Data: With so many ways to obtain data it’s difficult to make sense of it sometimes. Come to this workshop to learn techniques on how to start working with your data and better answer your research question.

Brain Food: time management essentials

In this workshop session, we address the specific time management challenges that graduate students face. Topics covered will include:

  • Graduate When You Want To: Long-term Planning: Learn how to predict your time to completion and use project management tools to help you meet your goals as a graduate student
  • School-Life Balance: Learn practical strategies to help you achieve school-work-life balance
  • Time Management from the Inside Out: Procrastination and perfectionism are common challenges for many graduate students. In this session, we will identify strategies to modify or decrease unhelpful behaviours.

Brain Food: writing the literature review

In this workshop session, we focus on one of the most difficult parts to write, the Literature Review.

  • Gathering and Reading Literature: A good thesis demands a good literature review, and that means finding and critically analyzing the key literature in your field. In this session, learn some methods for finding and evaluating the literature in order to select relevant and authoritative sources. We’ll also be discussing the use of Zotero for citation management.
  • Writing the Literature Review: Your literature review is a key component of your thesis or dissertation. This session will discuss how to connect the literature review to your argument, build the structure for your review, and avoid some of the common traps when writing.

Brain Food: outlining your thesis & explaining your research findings

In this workshop session, we analyze the common features and structures of the thesis/dissertation and then focus more specifically on the results and discussion sections.

  • Outlining Your Thesis: This session offers a visual mapping strategy that you can use to organize your research and writing, structure your argument logically, manage your evidence, and ultimately create an outline of your entire thesis writing project.
  • Writing Results and Discussion Sections: This session introduces writing strategies that will help you describe your data and communicate the significance of your research findings.
  • Data Visualization: A picture is worth a thousand words!  It is time to explore or explain your research findings through visualizations.  This workshop will introduce the data visualization process, examine the strengths and weaknesses of standard chart types, and provide an introduction to how to build these charts using Tableau software.

Brain Food: paraphrasing & summarizing

In this workshop session, we provide foundational skills and strategies to help you paraphrase and summarize more effectively when writing the introduction, literature review, and discussion sections. Topics covered will include:

  • Avoiding Plagiarism: We discuss the university’s guidelines for maintaining academic integrity as they relate to including the ideas and conclusions of others in your thesis or dissertation.
  • Paraphrasing: Paraphrasing is a vital skill for including evidence from published sources in your thesis or dissertation while avoiding plagiarism. We discuss the features of effective paraphrases and strategies for creating your own. You will have an opportunity to apply these strategies and practice these essential skills.
  • Summarizing: Summarizing is a useful skill for condensing large amounts of material into smaller chunks relevant to your topic. Learn strategies for summarizing, and practice your skills.

Brain Food: publishing and presenting your research

In this workshop session, we focus on communicating your research to a wider audience. Topics covered will include:

  • Disseminating Your Thesis: This session will cover what you need to know with respect to publishing and author rights, as well as the e-thesis submission process via the library’s Atrium. It will help you to identify the publishing models and options available and to understand copyright and what you should be negotiating with publishers.
  • Presenting Your Research: Need to share your research with others? This session will introduce you to resources and strategies for visually and orally presenting your research evidence.