Archives for the month of: July, 2016

Below, and here, are two stories of PhD study from researchers who combined work and a PhD. While both are positive accounts, there are some differences, for example, working as a practitioner in the same field as you study, or working on multiple research projects including the PhD. What both have spoken of though is:

  • Perspective: the PT PhD as one aspect, albeit important, of who they are and their career portfolio. This helps to maintain momentum, and enthusiasm, and avoids becoming entrenched in the idea of the perfect PhD.
  • Complementary: Working and studying within the same topic areas, or having insight into the research culture and university workings, all useful things in navigating PhD progression.
  • Process not product: seeing the PhD as a learning and growth opportunity, and slowly building skills and experiences towards the next step.

I hope you enjoy them both, there are some good ideas here for full time PhD students too.

This piece is from Samuel Dent (@SRDent89), a researcher in Higher Education, at Sheffield Hallam University.

My PhD topic area is based in my experiences of working on the front line of University Student Support. Each March I’d brace for impact as swathes of 20/21-year-olds about to graduate would come to see me; exhausted/tempted to withdraw, and questioning the purpose of their entire education. At this point in the year most graduate recruitment schemes had announced their new recruits, and inevitably some students didn’t make the cut. For many of these students this was the first time they had realized that beginning their career would not be straightforward, and that being successful had not come easy this time.

Read the rest of this entry »

This post is from Melanie Lovatt (@melanie_lovatt), who has just completed a PhD in Sociological Studies. For a sister-post on part-time PhDs, please see here.

Dr Melanie Lovatt.jpgBack in 2010 I excitedly told friends and family that I had decided to do a part-time PhD. “Part-time?” repeated a relative sceptically. “Well, how long’s that going to take you?” “Around six years!” I replied, with an enthusiasm that I suspected might desert me long before completion. But five years and nine months on, having passed my viva with minor corrections last month and about to start a lectureship, I can honestly say that doing my PhD part-time was the right decision for me. Here are some reflections on the process: Read the rest of this entry »

This post is a follow up to one I wrote in April, which (sad face) didn’t generate any comments or debate.  As I mentioned then, the University is a signatory  the UK ‘Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers‘.  Blank face? I hope not but just in case, here is how RCUK sum it up on their website:

“The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers sets out the expectations and responsibilities of researchers, their managers, employers and funders. It aims to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK and to improve the quantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of UK society and the economy.”

The Concordat underpins the work so many of us do and has had a massive effect on the way in which the University of Sheffield considers and improves the environment for researchers. Read the rest of this entry »

This is a gust post from Saima Eman, a PhD Commonwealth Scholar in the Psychology Department and UREC student representative at University of Sheffield. She is also a Lecturer in Psychology at the Lahore College for Women University in Pakistan.

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No relationship is perfect, and a student and supervisor are very lucky if they can build a trusting and respectful supervisory relationship. In this post, I share some precautions and practical tips to get the best match for you, and maintain good student-supervisor relations throughout the PhD, drawn from my own 17 years of experience in research.

Finding out about the academic and ethical reputation, working styles, and idiosyncrasies, of the potential supervisor will be significant to your whole future career. Do not rush into making commitments, take your time. Delve deeper into institutional and group rules and procedures before formally agreeing to work on the project. Try out a pilot study at the beginning if you can, take summer projects, research assistant posts, be choosy.

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I was inspired during a Twitter conversation a couple of weeks ago to consider concepts and perceptions of professionalism. The opinions offered online and the research literature on professionalism, professional trust, and professional development, are vast and sprawling, and each profession has its own definitions and competencies that make up what it means to be professional. You can imagine that professionalism in Paediatric Physiotherapists is defined in a different way to professionalism in Chartered Accountants or professionalism in Theatre Stage Managers. I’ve not done a comparative analysis of all this, because lists of similar and different ‘in theory’ skills and competencies aren’t too useful in shaping how we help others develop professionalism. I’m more interested in examples of how this plays out in practice. Read the rest of this entry »

researchwell jpgThis blog is run by the Think Ahead team, at the University of Sheffield. We work with postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers, supporting them to develop careers inside or outside of academia. We’re very privileged to be able to  work with researchers as they progress through their PhD, start a new research contract or take the next step in their career. We see their successes and their achievements – and it’s brilliant!

Inevitably, though, we also see the other side: researchers who are struggling or stressed-out.  Because – spoiler alert – academia is hard! It’s enough of a challenge when everything’s plain-sailing in the rest of your life but, when a perfect storm of work and other life stresses come at once, it can feel overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »