Tips for Writing an Academic CV

depicts a CV on a desk with a pair of glasses and a pen

Most of us have a resume, that handy little document where our life is written out in terms of employment and most of us have a good idea of what should be included. An academic CV is another story. If you are applying for grad school or want to demonstrate your involvement in research projects or are applying for certain awards you will need one. I got some great advice when I started compiling mine; ‘it’s never too early to start, you’ve done more than you realize.’ With that sage advice in mind, here are some other tips to help you get started.


There is no one correct way to format your academic CV. It is important it make sure that whatever format you use, it needs to be clear and readable. So don’t mix categories and keep things in reverse chronological order. Most templates start with education, followed by work experience. As you may not have research experience you can add sections for awards, professional memberships, conferences attended and skills. Here are a couple of websites to give you some idea about formatting, and

2. Value the experience you do have

So looking over these templates, you might be feeling discouraged. Chances are you haven’t been published by an academic journal (yet), however, perhaps you have been published in Ryerson Today or a local paper. You may not have presented at a conference, but perhaps you have attended them. Include this information. However, keep in mind that you don’t want to overload your academic CV with information.

3. Length

Which brings us to the topic of length. Unless you have a string of publications to your name, your CV should between one to two pages. After you have the basics, you can plump it up if you need to. However, remember as wonderful as your CV will be, it will probably only be skimmed by the reader so it needs to be clear and concise.

4. Proofread

Like any CV or resume, it’s important, vital really, to make sure that you have someone proofread it. Ask your proofreader to also comment on your fonts and the your organization of your CV. You want to make sure that it is clear at first glance, as a second read might not happen.

5. Share

One of the best ways to evaluate your academic CV is to share with it others who already have one. Find a professor, RA, TA, GA or sessional instructor who is willing to help you with this. Chances are they did they same thing when they first began writing their academic CV.

Good luck!

Placement Diary Closure

languageI am finishing up the end of my fourth year placement. There are a few loose ends to tie up such as changes to the coding of the dataset for the study I have been working on all year. The study is about community access to school and municipal space. Once the coding is done and I have written my share of the research methods, it goes together with the qualitative data to become a real published study that will be peer reviewed. The idea of peer review is intimidating. The purpose of qualitative data is characterize rather than quantify information or in some interpretations to put a human face to the story you are telling with the research.

Many question the validity of qualitative data, the validity (or credibility) and reliability (replicability) of quantitative research. In this society we like cold, hard facts because we see them as absolute truths. They are not of course and anyone who has stopped for a moment to consider some of the things that have been done in the name of scientific “advance” will surely see. Many in fact will say that it is only through qualitative data that a deep and meaningful study be made. Still others will say that specifically grounded theory research (in other words that which is built from within the population group itself) is the only way to tell the true story-literally in the words of the people whom it concerns.

This all said, there are as many or possibly more places to make an error in the collection, cleaning, coding and presentation of qualitative date. When you combine this with someone (like me) who has very little feet on the ground experience with research, you have a higher possibility of error. Despite this, I have been charged with the task of doing this part of the study and am greatly honoured that my supervisor felt I was up to the task. I have been fortunate in both my placements to have supervisors who were extremely flexible with the way in which I did my work and very generous in terms of the material they let me explore. After all, they are responsible for the output of those working under them so I am truly honoured.

The nature of a process has a way of information itself too. As this placement has unfolded, my first hand experience with the material (that of being a user trying to access public space) has also grown. This is an entirely separate story but suffice it to say, as I began to code the data, the stories sounded very familiar and the themes were easier to pick out. This might be serendipitous but it may also have created another possibility for error. It  has certainly created a need for constant checking and re-checking of my reflexivity (locating who I am in the process of research).

Now that my placement is wrapping up, I am both concerned and excited to see how the information will be received. I have had one great evaluation and am told that another is to follow so I’m not so I am not worried about the, well quantified, view of my work. It is, however, really important to me that the data that I present more than just an acceptable summary of responses on a survey. This data represents people’s stories, their everyday experience that informs programs that can impact lives of children, seniors and all others in their communities. I hope it is worthy of consideration and above all meaningful to someone.


I’m 2 assignments – a paper and a presentation – away from completing my Bachelor of Social degree at Ryerson. While I’ve been thinking about graduation for some time, this only became real for me during class yesterday. Our prof distributed paint and canvases, and asked us to express our feelings about graduation through artistic expression.

I’ve never been much of an artist, and spent more time mixing paint colours together than creating a visual statement of my feelings. With a night to think on what my time at Ryerson means to me, and how it feels to be finishing up, I’ve formed a more in-depth reflection.

My undergrad has been a 5-year process; I started at Ryerson in Sociology. I loved the theory – Foucault, Durkheim, and Marx continue to influence me – but yearned for a more practical application of what I was learning. I switched into Social Work after a year, and I’ve never felt a stronger sense of belonging in my academic career.

During my first year, everyone around me was thinking and talking about issues that I was interested in, and the Faculty of Community Services and Ryerson’s Student Union ran a number of engaging events. The course work in first year reminded me a lot of Sociology – we only had one SWP (Social Work) class – but I relished the opportunity to become part of a vibrant community.

Second year was when things got real, with 6 courses each semester. My head was filled with Healy, Mullaly, Saleebey, and other emerging Social Work theorists. I chose mostly political courses for my electives and began to form my ideology that would later inform my modality of practice.

I opted into an International Placement for 3rd year, which occured during the Spring/Summer following my 3rd-year course work. I took the extra time I had during the Fall/Winter to start engaging more heavily in organizations that I felt I would be interested in working with in the future. I also learned a lot about Social Work Research in 3rd year, and have already started applying my learning to real life.

My 3rd year placement in Bulembu, Swaziland was an unforgettable experience and is the source of some of my most cherished memories. To have been able to take this trip, and receive school credit for it was an unbelieveable privilege. I would not trade those 3 months in for anything.

4th year, which I’m a week away from completing, has also presented me with an incredible placement experience. I’ve signed on to a research project into developing a program for serodiscordant couples – where one partner is HIV-positive and the other negative. The program this study will produce is set to be the first of its kind in North America – based on an early environmental scan (our literature review might reveal otherwise). In coursework, I’ve been able to build ever further upon the theory I learned in 2nd year.

Overall, Ryerson’s BSW program has left me feeling confident about my future as a social worker. I could not be more enthusiastic about the experience I’ve had at this university, and am thrilled (and a little scared) to finally enter the real world.

Fitting it All Together

I am madly trying to finish the projects I have open at my placement at Central Toronto Community Health Centre. I have already blogged about how I learned so much more than I expected to this year. I checked off the “requirements” easily in the first few months: run a workshop (check), do intakes (check), attend a debriefing and steering committee meeting (check, check) and complete a client summary for the perinatal program me (oh crikey! I haven’t finished that yet). Well, guess who is spending the next few days poring through summaries and translations of summaries trying to determine -in a meaningful way – how well the program serves the needs of the women who attend it. This is my third run at the thing: I have abandoned the first two documents because they were either too reliant upon added up checkboxes or because the suggestions I made were inferred and not direct words from the participants. So now I’m at a bit of a loss as to where to take it.

I believe I have a Ryerson professor to thank for my conundrum. I took the research course with Purnima George in 2010-11 academic year. I dreaded the course. Like most people I feared the memorization and even more so the numbers (there were very few numbers in the end but there was a lot of memorization). Unlike most people in the class, I had a three month old baby who thought sleep was for whimps and just as my head would hit the pillow (yes, we co-slept, call the police), he would wake up with complaints. I managed to get the reading in for the course during his naps which were always taken in public because my son would only be lulled into sleep by the hustle and bustle of the local cafe and the thrum of conversations between the good people of Parkdale. My study group were good enough to hold council in my living room where my husband could deliver the little fellow for his almost hourly feedings. Their patience and willingness to trek across town (I was the only Westender) was truly remarkable.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever had a professor who changed my opinion on a subject quite as much as Purnima did on the subject of research or more specifically, Quantitative Research. In fact, her enthusiasm for the subject, her amazing research and her dedication to her ideals was a true inspiration. So as I prepare to take another run at this silly little summary this week, I believe I am holding myself to the standard she set in that class for veracity. It will not be the most memorable piece of work that I take away from this placement but it will be a good exercise just the same. I will likely remember the street mom who got a chance to mother her own child against all odds long after I remember the summary from the perinatal program and come to think of it, the voices of the minority population in that group are entirely absent due to structural barriers. I would not have recognized that before I took the research course but suddenly I realize it is those voices that are missing from the summary. How will I capture them?

Interestingly, I’m looking at doing a research placement next year. In the interview I told them I wanted to do a meaningful grounded theory study on education. Somehow or another the agency has funding for quantitative research which is simply a miracle in this day and age and they are willing to let me take it on. They are even willing to let me have input on what gets studied. My daughter goes to Montessori and I’m constantly amazed at how effective that method is at guiding those children to enjoy math. In three years they go from stacking boxes to long division in a seemingly effortless fashion. They key though is letting the child choose the work. So no one is more surprised than me to hear myself say “I choose research”. That is the power of good teaching.

A Pill to Prevent HIV


Canadian-Developed HIV/AIDS Vaccine Approved for Human Studies

Twenty years of research by scientists at the University of Western Ontario has lead to the first HIV vaccine to be tested on human subjects. This groundbreaking vaccine was developed using the same process used to vaccinate the flu, polio, rabies, and Hepatitis A. Vaccines will be administered to 30 people at risk of HIV infection, to start. If the vaccine proves effective, the test group will expanded to 600 and then 6000 people.

The implications and possibilities from these tests are extremely positive. The old adage of prevention being better than a cure may be true with HIV/AIDS. Hope is a powerful thing, and this vaccine provides a lot of it.

With my placement at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), I’ve been able to examine the immediate reactions to this news, both from service providers and service users.

One reaction that I’ve observed is of hesitation and uncertainty. Similar to when the first form of antiretroviral treatment (ART) was introduced (nicknamed “the cocktail” because of the large quantity of pills originally required to ingest), there is a sense of doubt about whether or not the vaccine will prove effective.

Also akin to the reaction to the cocktail, individuals at-risk of HIV/AIDS are beginning to consider a longer life. It’s been years since HIV/AIDS was considered a ‘death sentence’ for Canadians, given the increasing effectiveness of ART. However, I still heard service users express fears that an AIDS-related illness would be the cause of their death. Among Toronto’s gay community, for instance, there’s been some discourse around people thinking to contracting HIV as an inevitability and weighing the consequences of infection before contracting the virus.

As to what this vaccine means to the developing world, where HIV infection rates near as high as 40%, the outcome can only be positive. This vaccine is the first real shot the world has at reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS in a major way. Corruption, lack of HIV clinics, and prevailing avoidance of issues surrounding the virus have caused the epidemic to expand in Africa and parts of Asia. Positive turnarounds have occurred in some countries, such as India, but the fight to prevent HIV is currently complex and expensive. This vaccine could simplify matters in short fashion.

As to the future of HIV prevention, we can only wait and see. The development of this vaccine is worthy of great celebration, however, as we move closer to closing the door on HIV/AIDS.

Urban Dictionary: 10 Words to Know Now

Why is it that almost every time I pass a loud group of teenagers (yes, I suppose I myself am still a teenager but…), I overhear them using a word that I have never heard before. I consider myself to be a well-read individual with a fairly sophisticated vocabulary, but somehow they manage to beat me to the punch with all the latest words. Does it really matter? No, definitely not. Do I really care to keep up with it all? No, I don’t mind being old fashioned, along with the majority of society. I can’t say I’m interested in finding out what “irks” means, and I’m sure I’d never use it anyways even if I did, but this idea got my thinking back to an old website I stumbled upon a few years ago – back when I did care to keep up with the terms.

I got curious and paid it a visit (because I have so much free time a week from exams) and it was just as cool as I remembered. Heads up, a traditional dictionary is not your only source of new vocabulary. If you’ve never paid a visit to you’re missing out. Consider it the Wikipedia of slang and catchphrases – nothing is off limits. Site users post words and definitions; it’s as simple as that. The vast majority of the words will probably never ever make it to Webster’s, but they’re amusing and can certainly account for your daily dose of wit, humor and ‘street-cred’ (if you don’t know what that is, keep reading!). After browsing through for myself, I have derived a list of 10 great words/phrases that I thought were too good not to share. Enjoy!10. Freudian Click: To accidentally send an email to the wrong person – I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point or another. Note: This is also closely related to the “Freudian Autocorrect” phenomenon, thanks a lot iPhone.

9. rlol (Really Laughing Out Loud): The original ‘lol’ is overused and practically meaningless in this day and age. By adding the ‘r’ for really, you can really drive the point home that you are really in fact really ‘lol’ing. ‘rlol’ really takes it to the next level, enough said.

8. Precrestination: The act of procrastinating in brushing one’s teeth until it becomes completely necessary, such as before a first date or a long overdue trip to the dentist.

7. Unlightening: The process of acquiring new knowledge that actually decreases your overall state of intelligence. Bad television often has this effect, *cough* Jersey Shore *cough*.

6. Text Paralysis: The temporary lack of awareness and inability to execute simple motor functions while composing, sending or receiving a text message.

5. Brofessional: A professional “bro”. Note: A brofessional is often a champion at brolympic events.

4. Youtube Degree: A self-awarded baccalaureate-style degree that one earns after they have gained expertise in a particular field of study by watching various instructional and how-to videos on Youtube.

3. Podestrian: A pedestrian with an iPod. A podestrian is often oblivious to their surroundings and it is appropriate to assume that he or she cannot hear you and does not care to.

2. Naplash: What happens when you suddenly jerk you head forward after falling asleep in class.

1. Chevrolegs: The kind of vehicle you own when you can’t afford a car. I have two.


Disclaimer: Words and ideas found on

Image from:

Students honoured at FCS Recognition Event – An Outsider’s Perspective

Guest Blogger: Samantha Sim
Ontario Work Study Program (OWSP) employee for the Faculty of Community Services and 2nd-year Journalism student

Last Wednesday’s first-annual FCS Student Achievement Event reminded me just how interconnected our world really is and how important it is to use this interconnectedness to give back to the communities around us who’re in need. The event showcased 23 presentations split into two categories: students presenting on conferences they had attended and students presenting on their experience at an international placement.  Being a journalism student I’m essentially an outsider to the faculty, so it was interesting for me to see the variety of countries students visited and the range of topics that had been presented at conferences. The event showed me that no matter your age you can make an impact on the world around you and it really got me thinking about the one I want to make before I leave this school.

Award recipients Ying-Mei Liang (left) and Marian Mohamud (right) with Dean Dr. Usha George.

The event also honoured three students who were recipients of Faculty of Community Service awards. Nursing student Ying-Mei Liang was the winner of the FCS Full-Time Undergraduate Award. “Thank you to FCS for recognizing students who go the extra mile outside of class,” she said. Disability studies student Stacey Simmons won the FCS Part-Time Undergraduate Award. Social work student Marian Mohamud was the recipient of the RBC Community Services Award. “[FCS] recognizes our hard work. [Winning this award] tells me that I’m doing something good and that I should continue doing it,” said Mohamud.

Here are a few of the presentations that caught my eye:

Tina, a fourth-year ECE student who recently visited Tanzania, Africa.

Tina, a fourth-year early childhood education student, spent three weeks in Tanzania, Africa this past May working as a team lead for Child Reach International, a U.K. based charity that provides community based development to children worldwide. She helped renovate a local school, teach children, and recruit team members for the charity. Her stay also included a cultural experience where she was able to visit and explore local African communities. “It was an incredible experience and I’d recommend other students to go,” she said. “I’ll definitely be going back within the next five years.”

Denice (right) speaking with an event attendee.

Health science graduate Denice Koo showcased her presentation “An examination of knowledge, beliefs and perceptions about the plant-based diet among women attending breast cancer risk assessment clinics” that she presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference in October 2010. Koo credits the conference support grant as being a major advantage for helping her to secure her current and past jobs. She currently works as a corporate patient education specialist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Without [the conference support grant], which allowed me to showcase this level of research, I may not have been able to get the types of employment opportunities I’ve had.”

The New Orleans Project and its participants.

A group of students travelled to New Orleans to work with the St. Bernard Project, which is helping to rebuild the St. Bernard parish after Hurricane Katrina. In addition some of the students travelled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to volunteer at a donation centre sorting goods for the victims of the recent tornadoes. I spoke with Iryna Muzyka, a fourth-year food and nutrition student, and Daphne Paszterko, a continuing education student, who both agree that the trip really opened their eyes to the scope of the damage these natural disasters inflicted. “Even if you can see these things on T.V., [this project let us see firsthand] the people who’ve been affected,” said Paszterko.

Katarzyna (left) with Dean Dr. Usha George (right).

Katarzyna Tupta, a masters nutrition communication student, presented the findings of her presentation titled “Expectations and perceptions of first-year students in Ontario food and nutrition undergraduate programs” at the Dietitians of Canada National Conference in Edmonton this past July. This was the first conference Tupta attended and she encourages other students to take advantage of the conference support grant. “There’s a whole world outside of school with lots of interesting research going on. The [conference support grant] gave me an opportunity to see this and make lots of professional contacts,” she says. For her project Tupta surveyed 104 first-year nutrition students about what they expected out of their program and whether they were interested in becoming dieticians. She found that 97% of students were in the program with the objective of becoming dieticians.