Developing the future postgraduate researcher

A neon sign spelling out the words The Future

image credit: future neon by Flickr user Russell Davies [CC BY-NC 2.0]

I’ve been asked to come along to a Research Supervisors’ Symposium being held at the University of Gloucestershire to talk about some of the challenges facing supervisors in developing the contemporary researcher. I’ve entitled my presentation “developing the postgraduate researcher of the future” and the slide deck I will be using is included here.

In this presentation I will be covering a few things, some of which I have been talking about most recently at the Vitae conference.

  1. How the focus has changed from being solely about developing the research to a balance of developing the individual.
  2. I’ve included some facts about the variety of career destinations for doctoral graduates, the majority of whom do not remain in academia which brings us back to the question of “What is a doctorate for?”
  3. Also included is some work from Rachael Pitt and Inger Mewburn about the competences (as mapped to the Vitae RDF) that are being sought in job descriptions for junior academic staff. This highlights the wider skill set that augments research specialism as being important for careers in the academy.
  4. There has been a lot of interest and research into the postgraduate research study space and Stan Taylor from Durham has curated a bibliography for doctoral supervisors via the UKCGE
  5. I’ll talk about the conceptual framework for doctoral supervision by Anne Lee which demonstrates the complex nature of that relationship and how many different roles are inherent to the development of a successful researcher.
  6. I think important to add to the framework is the idea that navigating the boundaries of those roles as the researcher progresses is neither easy nor comfortable for some because the identity formation that is occurring.
  7. I’ll delve into the practicalities of the identity formation because a lot of it happens as the researcher learns to write in their particular academic context. I really think that supporting postgraduate researchers as they develop their writing skills is a high impact activity.
  8. Then I’m going to look to how the environment is changing and how that is affecting the skills around developing the research – we are in a brave new open world and it does often expose the contrast between the old and new.
  9. I’ll finish up with a look into how I think the researcher development community are adapting and evolving to support postgraduate researchers for the future.

That’s it.

Social Media and the Science Communication Unit #digitalresearcher

Social media on electronic displayA few weeks back I gave a lunchtime presentation in a forum for those using/running social media channels at UWE. I was presenting the point of view of someone who supports the development of researchers and how social media is both part of my professional practice and something I think researchers should think about utilising to support their own career development.

Fast forward to today, when one of the research centres at UWE, the Science Communication Unit, invited me to attend one of their lunchtime meetings to discuss some of the opportunities and challenges for researchers.

In some ways, I thought it a bit daunting as I’d imagined that I wouldn’t be able to add a great deal to the existing knowledge base in the SCU. So I focussed discussion on what I think are the challenges and opportunities more widely. The slides I used to frame the discussion are embedded below.

 

Main points then from me:

  1. Some folks get bamboozled by the enormous number of tools available and often ask which one they should use. I reframed this by saying one has to remember the underlying process in all of this is people sharing things in a community so the question should be what do I want to share and with which community – then the right tool is the one that does that.
  2. I think there is a difference in the willingness to ‘have a go’ depending on experience, and as some evidence suggests, what age range you are in. Confidence in digital literacy I think is the best way to sum this up. I believe that some early career researchers are risk averse when it comes to using digital tools for a number of reasons.
  3. I can usually categorise these into three themes– concerns about information overload (or time to engage), concerns over digital identity (the blurring of professional vs private) and concerns of the misappropriation of ideas. Most of these can be mitigated against by making a point of using social media for the right purpose and perhaps displacing other activities.
  4. I don’t think everything to do with social media is wonderful, there are downsides. I read with some trepidation, Cal Newport‘s recent book on Deep Work where he argues that we have become addicted to distraction lowering our boredom thresholds to a point that it becomes very difficult to focus on cognitively difficult things for any length of time. Indeed, one of the chapters is entitled “Quit Social Media” although he is really advocating a proper consideration of the Return on Investment (ROI) of some digital tools– interesting stuff!
  5. I offered a few tips on making life easier by using short cuts to getting things done – aggregator tools, compartmentalisation and blogging to name a few.
  6. The main point is that researchers often associate social media with the dissemination of work but increasingly social media is playing its part in all of the research cycle.

Further Resources

Social Media – A Guide for Researchers

Vitae/Open University Handbook of Social Media

Vitae Digital Literacies survey report (2012)

The Ed Techie – Martin Weller blog on digital scholarship/open ed

Mark Carrigan – Social Media for Academics (2016)

The Thesis Whisperer blog

Patter – Prof. Pat Thomson’s blog

Copyright and the e-thesis

Photo of a pile of reference books, a laptop and a daunted woman.

How to get your thesis online?

Copyright and the e-thesis

This week the UWE Graduate School put on a workshop on the topic of using third party copyrighted material in a thesis. I enlisted the help of Bennet Jones, one of the research support librarians at UWE who has the responsibility for the UWE Research Repository to explore the issue.

Disclaimer: Neither myself or Bennet are experts in legal matters relating to intellectual property or copyright so the advice given here is our interpretation of how to comply with restrictions

The reason this workshop has come about is because UWE introduced a requirement for all postgraduate researchers to place a digital copy of their thesis on the UWE Research Repository and there have been lots of queries relating to the inclusion of third party copyrighted material. This isn’t an issue isolated to UWE, many other higher education institutions are publishing research outputs on repositories – University College London published results of a survey on this issue in 2010.

All submitted UK theses are in the public domain (except for those that have all or part of the thesis embargoed) and available to anyone who requests a copy via the British Library Ethos service. The proliferation of institutional repositories has made it easier than ever to access these materials. Data from UWE’s own repository illustrates this with doctoral theses being the most frequently accessed items.

This is a good thing for the exposure of the researcher and their work, especially in an era of open access research. The downside is that it is also easier for copyright owners to identify where breaches have occurred.

The slides that Bennet used are included here.

The key points are these:

  1. If you plan to use material that was not created by yourself in your thesis you should check the copyright status of the work
  2. Establish whether the work is available in the public domain, whether it is copyrighted, and is there a license for reuse
  3. It is better to ascertain these things as you go along rather than trying to retrospectively get permissions
  4. Where copyright is owned by a third party, consider whether using alternative materials would be suitable e.g. under a creative commons license
  5. If it is integral to your thesis then seek permission to use (usually a fairly straight forward process)
  6. Keep records of permissions granted
  7. Ensure that the material is appropriately attributed
  8. Seek help if unsure

 

 

 

The Beginner’s Guide to the Doctorate

So this is the way forward!

So this is the way forward!

This week I ran a workshop for newly registered research degree students entitled “The Beginner’s Guide to the Doctorate”. What I set out to do was to lay bare the road ahead when it comes to a research degree, to get the participants to consider aspects of the journey that, perhaps, they had not yet thought about.

I always enjoy this kind of workshop because I am always enthralled by the enthusiasm and diversity of the new researchers who are embarking on their journey of discovery in research; the topics sound fascinating.

I started by introducing the concept of the journey from a skills development point of view, although I offer many workshops to researchers, very few of them are about upskilling researchers, more about changing the perspective of the researchers themselves toward their own development. It’s about helping them to understand what they have as a consequence of following a research degree path.

It also gave me the chance to talk about the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which is a relatively new way of being able to describe the incredibly rich skills set that researchers have (I have written a separate blog post about the RDF as there is a lot to talk about).

Vitae have recently released an online tool to help researchers navigate the RDF, to encourage them to plan their development. The full details about that tool can be found here: http://rdfplanner.vitae.ac.uk/

I asked the participants to talk about motivations to undertake a PhD, I think it’s important to understand what drives you so that you can remind yourself when the road becomes a bit more difficult to negotiate – that’s the infuriating thing about a research degree, it rarely if ever goes smoothly. The words of Einstein ring true here, “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research”.

The day was loosely structured around the sharing of hints and tips for new researchers and I used the following powerpoint slides to give the day a format although we explored lots of different areas of the RDF.

I tried to cover a lot of ground over the course of the day but I hope that the new researchers had plenty of food for thought, along with a generous helping of hints/tips to see them off to a good start.

Here’s a few more resources that I think are useful:-

UWE Graduate School webpages – Everything you need to know about the support available to doctoral students from UWE.

The Thesis Whisperer blog – A fantastic resource for all doctoral students from Dr. Inger Mewburn (Director of research training, Australian National University). A comprehensive coverage topics relevant to doctoral students covered in this blog site.

Patter; Pat Thomson blog – A blog from Professor Pat Thomson, Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, focussing mainly on the topic of academic writing. This blog is a goldmine for advice on finding your academic voice.

The Graduate School development events diary – The online events diary for all events relating to researchers – a chronological list of events with booking forms. Any of the events I talked about today, you’ll be able to find them here.

Vitae – The Researcher Development Organisation

www.vitae.ac.uk A first port of call for a wide range of useful materials relating to postgraduate research study especially on assessing how you are developing your skills throughout the process.

Researcher Development Framework The collation of the skills, knowledge, behaviours and attributes that make up a successful researcher.

The RDF Planner An online application to better enable researchers to self-audit their competencies against the RDF and help direct them to resources for professional development. e-mail skillsdevelopment@uwe.ac.uk if you are interested in taking advantage of a trial subscription to this.

www.phdcomics.com Light relief following grad students through their journey in the form of a comic strip.

www.phinished.org – A discussion and support group for people who cannot seem to finish their dissertations or theses.


Supervising Doctoral Students: Pedagogy & Practice

The UWE Graduate School run a course aimed at staff new to supervising postgraduate research students entitled “Supervising Doctoral Students: Pedagogy & Practice”. The aim of this course is to encourage supervisors to think about a research degree in terms of a journey, to consider the support required by the doctoral student at various points along the way.

We set some pre-course reading for the participants to bring up the ideas around the different approaches there are to supervision; these were the references supplied:

  • Lee, Anne (2008). How are doctoral students supervised? Concepts of doctoral research supervision,Studies in Higher Education (33(3) 267-281.
  • Deuchar, Ross (2008) Facilitator, director or critical friend? Contradiction and congruence in doctoral supervision styles, Teaching in Higher Education 13(4): 489-500.
  • Morrison-Saunders, A., Moore, S.A., Hughes, M. and Newsome, D. (2010) Coming to terms with research practice: riding the emotional rollercoaster of doctoral research studies, in M. Walker & P. Thomson (eds)The Routledge doctoral supervisor’s companion, London: Routledge.
  • Stanley Edward Taylor, (2012),”Changes in doctoral education”, International Journal for Researcher Development, Vol. 3 Iss 2 pp. 118 – 138
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17597511311316973

The programme for the two day course is included here:

Introductions and challenging assumptions

We started by talking about what our own doctoral journeys entailed, was it a good/bad/indifferent experience and what role did our supervisor(s) play in helping to navigate that journey. Perhaps predictably, there were some pretty diverse tales from all- but with the same sort of message resonating. Our own experiences of being supervised are formative in how we then supervise others.

There was an interesting discussion regarding the framework of supervision picked out from Dr Anne Lee’s work on research supervision as being intriguing. A full explanation can be found here: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/484/1/fulltext.pdf

This led onto the discussions about how supervisors are chosen. Expertise & experience were two characteristics that leapt out but it was recognised that a great many other factors can and do influence the choice.

A discussion about the difference between the role of the Director of Study (DoS) and second/third/fourth supervisors was also had. These are quite clear in terms of the regulatory framework at UWE.

Policy context for postgraduate research study

We also explored the context in which doctoral studies take place at UWE, what are the external/internal agendas and influences that shape what we do. The slides used to illustrate the complexity of this are here: A quick tour of the doctoral policy landscape
policy landscape for doctoral studies

policy landscape for doctoral studies

We ended Day 1 with a look at the progression examination arrangements we have here at UWE. The slides I used to support this are the same ones I use to inform doctoral students and are reproduced here:

Progression exam prezi

Progression exam prezi

It was a discursive day and it was great to have two things from the supervisors there, 1) a genuine enthusiasm for supporting doctoral students and 2) a wealth of experience that they bring to the table.

Doctorateness

The second instalment of this course focussed on supporting doctoral students through the “middle years” (how do you maintain motivation?) and supporting students toward the finish. We began by talking about “doctorateness“, what is it, how do we define it and, probably more importantly, how do we encourage the development of it in others?

A good starting place was the Doctoral Descriptors, a set of criteria that research degrees are measured against by way of examination. The UWE descriptors are based on the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) publication “Doctoral Degree Characteristics” (Sept 2011). Most universities will have equivalent descriptors somewhere in their regulatory framework. The UWE Doctoral Descriptor and the separate MPhil descriptor can be found in Section K3 of the academic regulations.

It’s useful to compare the two together to help highlight the key characteristics that separate a PhD or Professional Doctorate or a DPhil from that of an MPhil.

It is important for supervisors to try to help their students understand what it is that they are aiming for, some say you should try and set out the stall from day 1. A light hearted but illustrative example from Matt Might (Assistant Professor from the University of Utah) about what a PhD is helps us to get out heads around the problem…

The Illustrated Guide to the Ph.D.

The second element of doctorateness is to consider the philosophy element of the endeavour. Perhaps research students and their supervisors spend too much time on the written output, the doctoral thesis without necessarily considering the other and perhaps more original meaning of thesis – “a proposition stated or put forward, especially one to be discussed and proved or to be maintained against objections”.

Maintaining momentum

The topic of maintaining motivation was discussed. Inevitably the phenomenon known as the “Second Year Slump” (a general loss of motivation caused by a virtuous cycle of lack of progress/lack of belief in ability to make progress).

Matt Might has some advice on this:

3 Qualities of Successful Ph.D Students

The group considered, discussed and debated what might constitute good hints and tips for helping research students to keep moving in the right direction. Here are those:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Health and wellbeing

There is a growing concern about the increase in postgraduate researchers experiencing mental health problems during their doctorates and it is often the supervisor that is the first point of contact when help is sought. We brought in Diane Zimmer, the head of the UWE Wellbeing Service to highlight some of the support on offer.

The road to completion

The last session of the day was around the final leg of the journey, how to help research students complete. Here’s is the prezi I used to illustrate the logistics:

Finally, here is a collection of some relevant materials (clearly not exhaustive) on the topic of supervision.

 

 

 

Digital Researcher #druwe

Social media on electronic displayThis week I ran a workshop at UWE on the use of social media in the context of research. This workshop is along similar lines to a workshop that I ran in February 2012 for researchers and a workshop at the Vitae Conference in September 2012 for researcher skills developers from across the country.

Some context then about this workshop; researchers are changing the way they use digital tools in the context of their research. There is lots of work going on as part of the wider JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme including work being carried out by Vitae to better understand the development needs of researchers.

I’m interested in the digital literacy of researchers for a couple of reasons:

1) It surely makes sense to better understand how researchers use digital tools in the context of research so that we are better able to support them

2) I believe that these digital tools are key to researchers building their own professional profile in an increasingly competitive academic research environment.

The slides I used to support this workshop are below.

Prezi for #druwe

Prezi for #druwe

 

We started out the morning by highlighting some of the hopes & fears that researchers have about using social media tools… I predicted that the fears would fall into three broad categories:

  1. Information overload – the fear that engaging in social media would be too much information to keep track of
  2. Digital Identity – concern over what to share about oneself, privacy issues and the blurring of private versus professional
  3. Data/intellectual property concerns – what happens if I share something that someone else exploits/stealing of ideas
Hopes and fears

Hopes and fears

Hopes

Basic overview of what is out there

Getting research out there

To become more aware of others with similar interest & activities to my own

Catch up with colleagues who use twitter/blogs naturally

Which button do I press?

How to quantify opinion (or research data) gathered via social media tools

Fears

Maintaining privacy

Managing a digital reputation

How do I edit the digital me?

Will this become another distraction?

Digital Identity

We spent some time discussing online identity, how to balance the “personal me” vs the “professional me”, how different tools lend themselves to different purposes and how actively managing information about yourself is a good thing to do.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it”.Erik Qualman

 

Twitter

We asked the participants to use twitter to interact with their networks using the hashtag #druwe

https://twitter.com/UWEGradSchool/status/833993171273187328

Power of networks

We discussed a little bit of network theory, illustrated by this video for a TEDx talk by Zella King

Managing information overload

We had a look at portals and aggregators to help manage information streams.

Using social media tools in research

There is increasing concern about ensuring rigour when using digital tools to gather research data. At UWE, we have some guidance available on the Research Ethics pages. I think there is still some way to go to understand better how this area of social media use can be supported.

We discussed how research is social & iterative, the benefits of engaging with folks far and wide about your research outputs and how to use tools to make the finding out about knowledge a little easier. We had a play around with some social citation tools, e.g. CiteULike, Zotero & Mendeley

Blogs

We discussed why folks blog – a variety of reasons including:- organising thoughts, mind dump, getting feedback at an early stage etc.

This blog is a just one such example!

Netiquette

Summed up with “Common sense!”

Other sources of information

Here’s a list of things that I have come across recently on the topic of social media in research (clearly not exhaustive!):-

A blog about blogging in an academic research context from Imperial College – some really interesting advice and guidance here.

The Networked Researcher blog site which promotes the use of social media tools for researchers – “Digital Professionalism – what not to share”

The British Library – Help for Researchers – “Web 2.0 as a social science research tool”

The Guardian Higher Education site – discussing benefits of blogging as a researcher – “How blogging helped me find my research voice”

The Research Information Network site – “Social Media: A Guide for Researchers”

The Vitae/Open University “Social Media Handbook for researchers and supervisors”

Thanks to the researcher who attended both physically and virtually!

The Art & Science of Communication

This week UWE put on a two-day intensive course for researchers on the topic of communication. The intention behind this was to go beyond a regular ‘presentation skills’ course, more to have a nose under the bonnet of communication to examine the fundamental principles that could be used to craft a range of effective messages suited to the purpose at hand. Researchers find it challenging to find ways of engaging others in the research they do for fear of losing its academic rigour.

I brought in Piero Vitelli from Island 41 to shape the course into something of real substance that would be of value to the participants. Piero used the analogy of the course being a bit like Sachertorte, an incredibly rich and calorie packed chocolate cake to describe the deliberate attempt to put a lot of content into the two days.

Speaking of packing content or data into a short space of time, here’s a clip that should demonstrate that it doesn’t matter how complicated your data is, it is important to make it accessible.

Over the two days we set out to try and understand the secret behind impactful, engaging communication of research.

The following notes summarising the course are reproduced here with permission from Piero.


The basic model of communication we put forward was as follows:

comms model

More often than not, when we set about preparing a piece of communication we pay too little attention to the upper half of the pyramid, we focus on the content; the “what” of our communication.

We spent a lot of time looking at the “why” of our communication or in other words, what is behind our motivation to tell others about our research, what are our values, what do we stand for. I’ve written about this sort of thing before, it comes down to asking yourself “why”. This then informs “how” we might go about delivering the content.

Much of the rest of the course was about looking at the techniques and/or qualities of effective communication– getting into the mechanics of it all.

The other major talking point of the course was around the issue of confidence. Everyone talks about the need to feel more confident when giving presentations and most people assume that others have more confidence than they. It’s a weird thing but a presenter’s job is not to feel comfortable but to give every fibre of their being to the audience, to forget how uncomfortable it feels.

Only others can give confidence because it is, after all, about being “with trust” (latin:- Con fidere), so literally only others can have trust in you. You can see this demonstrated in this clip featuring Paul Simon playing a concert in Toronto when he invites a fan on stage (named Rayna) to play the song she requested (“Duncan”) because it was the one she learned to play guitar on… watch how Paul Simon has trust in her and provides the encouragement.

How ‘confidence’ really works?

Some last thoughts, I really enjoyed the stories, the metaphors and the analogies used by various folks throughout the two days. I was amazed by the risks that the participants took in trying things out to explain, illuminate, highlight or inspire about research to bring things to life. Here’s one picture that springs to mind: what you see (the number 6, the maths symbol sigma or the number 9) all depends on your perspective…

Is it a six, a nine or a sigma? - depends!

Is it a six, a nine or a sigma? – depends!

Further resources

The following publication is actually a piece of research about the art of presentations among public interest professionals. It is equally as relevant to academia and has some of the best advice contained within around “chunking”, taking audiences on a journey from A->B, considerations about the use of visual aids etc. And it’s free.

Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes (free download)

Screen_shot_2012-02-23_at_12

A blog site about all things presentation related. It’s a must read…

Presentation Zen

 

Image Attribution

Sachertorte by _chris_st available from Flickr at http://flic.kr/p/by8tRy under a creative commons 2.0 licence. Full details http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

The progression exam

Under the spotlight

Under the spotlight

This week I ran a workshop for our research students entitled “The Progression exam”. This is a formal milestone in the research degree journey that pretty much every doctoral candidate at any university will have to overcome. Some call it a “transfer” exam, others a “progression viva” but whatever the nomenclature they all have an aim similar to the following: –

a formal test of progress in the early stages to ensure a suitable basis for continuation on the programme has been established

I have run this workshop numerous times in the past and there have been one or two changes in how progression at UWE is now monitored.

Whenever I run a workshop on this topic or the related “Writing up” or “The Final Viva” workshops I always try to do two things:-

1) Provide knowledge about the process

2) Reduce anxiety by reassuring doctoral candidates

Recently at UWE we established a Graduate School at UWE with a new (and hopefully improved) web presence that puts all the information about research degrees in one place. We have created sections that relate to the major milestones including the progression exam.

Disclaimer: One should read my post in conjunction with the latest rules governing PG Research study.

Those rules are set out in section K of the UWE Academic Regulations here.

The slides that I used in the workshop are below:

Recent changes

From October 2013, all new research degree candidates will be subject to a slightly amended progression exam process where the option of re-submission (a time limited referral step) is now available to the examiners. Full details about this are on the  Graduate School website. Other recent changes are summarised below.

  1. When a progression report has been submitted, a viva will automatically follow
  2. Two independent examiners are appointed for a progression exam, one of whom will be designated the Principal Reviewer
  3. The Principal Reviewer may be used in subsequent progress review stages including the final viva voce examination if this is appropriate

Any queries about how the progression exam is arranged, the paperwork etc can be found by contacting the team in the Graduate School Office

Director of Studies Update

Successful supervision of research

Successful supervision of research

This week the Graduate School ran a short session for experienced doctoral supervisors who perform the role of Director of Studies (DoS) at UWE, Bristol. The intention of these sessions is to provide a way for colleagues to bring themselves up to speed with the changes in postgraduate research study, particularly with respect to the policy landscape and the institutional response to those changes.

We started out with a wide lens, how the Bologna Process has shaped a number of things at doctoral level and moved onto how the regulatory bodies in the UK assess compliance and/or adoption of these principles. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) have a Quality Code that sets out the expectations of UK universities who offer research degree programmes.

The presentation that I used to support the session can be found by clicking on the image below (redirects to the prezi website).

DoS update

We spent a little time talking on how support for postgraduate research study has been reorganised at UWE with the creation of the Graduate School and the associated website that has all things relating to the doctoral process on it including guidance and regulations, all the forms for research degrees and a whole programme of skills development events.

The session moved onto reflecting on the changes that have been implemented around recruitment and selection, project registration, progress review, teaching support and the final assessment process (appointment of examiners, submission of the thesis etc).

During the session, we shared some of the results and subsequent actions in light of student feedback, principally via the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) conducted in 2013. This survey will run again in 2015 and will provide us with some feedback about how the Graduate School is impacting on PGR provision.

One of the areas that many universities struggle with is the section on research culture. It is the theme which scores lowest across the board when looking at the aggregate data. It is hard to understand what can be done to improve the situation because I believe there are many factors that contribute to research culture – it’s partly about the status of PhD students (are they doctoral candidates, students, early career researchers, valued members of staff?), partly about facilities and infrastructure (do I have an office, computer, desk – somewhere to call my own?), partly about the sense of isolation in carrying out doctoral research (the top complaint about being a doctoral researcher) and partly about the role played in university structures (in departments, research centres and/or groups).

At the Graduate School we are continually trying to improve the sense of community of doctoral researchers by using online tools where possible. The skills development offering are mostly available via video conference as well as face to face, a twitter presence, a facebook group and this blog.

There is clearly some way to go but I think we are moving in the right direction.

Writing up a PhD – The final straight?

Hand typing at a keyboard

Tapping away

This week I ran a workshop for research students on the topic or writing up the thesis. I remember my own journey well and how exhausting it all seemed. I, probably like many other research students, did not relish the prospect of turning my research into a well crafted piece of writing so I procrastinated.. a lot! Much of my written work was completed in a matter of weeks right at the end only because I was given an immovable deadline, just what the doctor ordered for a classic last minute type of person.

I set out to try and help research students understand that it doesn’t (and probably never will) feel comfortable to approach such a seemingly daunting task as producing a thesis and I set about imparting as much wisdom, hints, and tips on writing as I could. This has led to this particular workshop being quite content heavy as it has been added to over the years (so any thoughts on streamlining the content will be appreciated!) incorporating bits and pieces from the Vitae Resources repository as well as nuggets collected from far and wide.

Two things I think are important about writing a thesis:-

  1. Writing should be thought of as being integral to the research, not as a add on activity
  2. The purpose of the written thesis is to convince the examiners that you meet the criteria for the award of doctorate – so clarity is important!

Here’s the slides.

Further resources

Throughout the session I made reference to a number of blog posts which I think are worth highlighting here:

The Thesis Whisperer – Edited by Dr Inger Mewburn; this is an excellent resource for folks navigating their way through a doctorate).

 

Patter – Professor Pat Thomson‘s blog – This has to be one of the best places to read up on the many challenges of academic writing.

There are some great hints and tips in the postgrad researcher section of the Vitae website on the topic of completing your doctorate that are well worth the time to read.
Finally, if you have any comments or advice about writing up then I’d love to hear them.