Archives for posts with tag: PhD

I'd like to alert you to a new resource for supervisor development on the Think Ahead web pages. The page was developed from Trust Me!  an ongoing research project led by me and funded by the Leadership Foundation for HE, investigating the behaviours that are important in building trust and creating 'quality' doctoral supervision relationships.

Throughout the project students and supervisors alike speak of the need to achieve clarity of purpose, and find good ways of working together, seeking to make the uncertain processes of the PhD more predictable; reducing feelings of insecurity, worry and stress for all involved.

The resources (locate the page here) are designed to help supervisors think, plan, and have the right conversations with their students. The page is under continuous development, linking to new resources, and articles every week via the @predoctorbility Twitter feed and blog posts.



I want to develop this for the supervisor community. Please use the evaluation form here to let me know what you’d like to see added or created, or to signpost me to a good resource you have found.

This post is by guest blogger Natalie Lamb, a PhD student in Water Microbiology.

I have now attended three poster competitions, for one of which I won a prize. The first competition that I attended was STEM for Britain 2017. I delivered my work to MPs. I was so excited but also incredibly nervous. I sent my poster to my supervisor for re-draft after re-draft and got everyone I could to look at the poster, until they were sick of the sight of it! It was an excellent competition and a great experience but I did feel very much out of comfort zone. I felt quite proud of myself by the time it was over- as though I had done well and really achieved something.

The second was The RSB East Midlands Postgraduate Poster Competition 2017. There was a lot of waiting at this one, it was not as strict for time as STEM for Britain has been. But I really enjoyed the waiting time, just to talk to the other presenters and find out they were actually as nervous as I was. It was a lot easier to network with presenters, rather than people who had come to the event to view the posters. I felt more confident going into it and even more so by the end, when I realised that all of the postgrads were in the same boat.

My most recent poster competition was at The University of Sheffield Engineering Researcher Symposium 2017. I felt very comfortable in this sort of environment now and saw it as an opportunity to talk to people, rather than feeling as though I was being examined, interviewed, almost. I won second prize and felt very proud that I had gone from a complete beginner to feeling comfortable enough to talk about how to produce a poster and how to tackle the competition itself, in just a few months.

How to Produce an Academic Poster

1. Firstly, read the competition guidelines. Do you have to submit it in a template? In a certain format? With a particular logo?

2. Open PowerPoint and set it up in the right format/ size /orientation required by the competition poster e.g. A1, A2. Make sure that this is right because it is a nightmare to change it afterwards.

3. Add Guidelines in View—Show—Guidelines, if you think they might help you line everything up better.

4. Add some boxes which will form the basic structure of your poster.

5.Not using PowerPoint but using a plain peace of paper, decide what you need to include in your poster. Think of it as a summary of your work to date for people who do not know what you are researching. It could cover: why you are doing the research, what research you are doing, how you are completing the research, what results you have found so far and what you plan to do in future. To properly know what you needs to be included, make sure you know who your audience will be. Make sure you know what you want to say and then fill out your piece of paper with what you wish to cover in each section.

6.Write all your information that needs to be included onto the poster. Then try to replace each paragraph or set of bullet points that you have used, with images. So, for example, I did the below.

7. When all of your information is in place, print out your poster to see how it looks and then improve it e.g. make sure there is plenty of white space, the font is big enough to read, it uses a specific colour scheme, no images have poor resolution, add effects to titles to make them stand out.

8. Make sure your contact details stand out. Add your name, university, supervisors (if you wish to), email address and then less common contact details e..g. a QR code to your website or your Twitter name (assuming it is a professional Twitter account).

9.Get it printed! I have used paper and cloth recently. I preferred the cloth because it was a lot easier to store in my home after the competition (also you can use it as a cape if you win or a comforting blanket if not)

10. Prepare for the day by ensuring you have smaller copies of your poster with additional information on the back and business cards. It may also be useful to being something with you to attach these extra items to your poster board. I saw this great example of additional poster material presentation at a poster competition at the IWA Young Water Professionals Conference 2017.

A few final tips:
  • Firstly, congratulate yourself, you have finally made it!IMG_20170411_111244
  • Try to not spend too much time away from your poster because you might be unlucky and miss a judge
  • Look presentable and try to look welcoming
  • Talk to your neighboring poster entrants. You may think they might be competition but it is an excellent networking opportunity
  • Don’t be afraid to give people your business cards and handouts. That might be the reason why they are there
  • Have an elevator pitch prepared. Think of yourself as selling your work in a few minutes. Try not to talk in a monotone. Just be honest and explain why you are interested in your work
  • My final tip is that if you win any prize money, use it to celebrate, otherwise it will just get lost in your normal money. Treat yourself, even if it is something small and think to yourself that you earned it by spending the day at that competition.


This is a guest post from Elizabeth Adams who manages researcher development opportunities for early-career researchers at the University of Glasgow, from postgraduate research students to academic staff. Elizabeth previously worked for the Royal Society of Chemistry and has a PhD in polymer chemistry.


Working out of a central office in the University, I often feel a conflict between thinking about the individual PhD experience and about the systems and processes to ensure consistency for all of our 2,400 PGRs. Is there a place for central support or ‘community-building’ activity or should we focus our efforts on the policy? Read the rest of this entry »

At a recent ‘Managing yourself and your PhD course’ I asked attendees to list their issues. The second biggest issue was procrastination.

procratination phdsProcrastination can be defined as “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.” [1] and that’s certainly a problem!

Why do we deliberately not do what we know we should be doing even if it causes us pain? Read the rest of this entry »

d53018c541604453a8446db7ebff4483.jpgI work a lot with stuck and panicking PhD researchers near the end of their time here, and from them I have some intel to share. Bear in mind then that what follows doesn’t represent an ever so typical experience, but it does represent an important and keenly felt negative experience. One we can all learn from as colleagues in researcher development: be your role full time academic superhero and supervisor, or like mine, a specialist learning and development role, I think this will be relevant to you. Read the rest of this entry »


In May 2016 I posted about the launch of a research project I am collaborating on with Billy Bryan (@BillyB100) looking into perceptions of value in the PhD.

The study has progressed really well over the last 9 months, we have now completed two phases: our survey for current PhD students got 200+ responses, and we also did 22 in depth interviews with PhD graduates across a range of career types. Read the rest of this entry »

My usual thesis banter is all about how to start writing. But in order to get it submitted at some point you have to stop.

thesis.pngLots of you will have hard deadlines to meet and be beavering away towards them. I hear sometimes though a variation on “…but I want to be finished way before that.” There can be flexibility in any self-imposed deadline that allows you to slide it back if you want to. Beware this tendency to drag the process on longer and longer and if you can, force an end by planning a ‘full stop’ point. Maybe plan a holiday, or agree a job start date that requires you to have finished your thesis. It’s hard to write and fully commit to your work in a new role, as many people who are juggling a full time job and thesis writing will echo.

As you come towards the end, keep your mind on being done, and remind yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

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 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.


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.

Read the rest of this entry »