I 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.
Analysing all this, we are beginning to characterise and understand some concepts of value that apply to doctoral study, and the factors which affect how value is judged. We wrote about it here in an article for Research Fortnight, which in summary says:
Post-Phd, graduates looking back on their time studying tend to value the professional competencies they gained (e.g. critical decision-making, resilience and negotiation), the friendship and professional networks they built, and their personal capacity to understand the world, far more highly than they value the technical research specialisms they gained. Graduates who had pursued a range of experiences and extracurricular activities perceived they got more value than those who hadn’t, and people keep using their PhD networks to their advantage even after leaving the academy.
Based on these early exciting findings we are adding an additional data collection phase — an online survey for doctoral graduates in all career paths, who are up to 10 years post-PhD — and we would like help circulating the call to participate. Please invite your friends and colleagues.
This new survey asks about value of the doctorate over time since graduation and focuses in on personal accounts of value at work, social value, personal value e.g. how we interact with the big questions, the problems, and challenges we face. The survey link is here and the participant information sheet (showing we have ethical approval) is here.
The survey will take around 10-15 minutes to complete (depending on how much you want to tell us!) and responses will be anonymous so participants cannot be identified.
Ultimately, we hope that the findings of this work will raise awareness of the emerging issues affecting satisfaction with the doctoral learning experience even beyond the PhD. We aim to provide meaningful new guidance and support for students, supervisors, and universities.
Please spread the word and share this post!
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.
Lots 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.
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.
Back 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.
2nd Researcher Education & Development Scholarship (REDS) Conference — University of Sheffield — Friday 14th October 2016
Anchoring Researcher Development: theoretical mindsets
The second annual REDS conference will focus more deeply on the professionalisation of the researcher developer role and access to scholarly activity, and consider the challenges involved for practitioners in developing research ideas/projects. We aim to share and explore the designs, outcomes and impact of practice-based research into doctoral and post-doctoral experiences, researcher learning and development mechanisms, and enabling supervisory practices. The event is organised to provide opportunities to network and share professional and research practices across multiple perspectives and contexts for developing researchers.
So how do people normally think about professors? eccentrics who are entirely focused on their research who are unorganised, work into the night with no social life, get frustrated at not being understood, lack interpersonal skills, intolerant, moody….I think you get the picture! I’m sure not all professors are like that but as your academic supervisor gained their position mainly due to their research skills, it should be no surprise they just aren’t that fluffy.
In fact you may think if you cried in front of them they would ‘take those tears, freeze them, and throw them in a glass of whiskey and drink it … to increase their spirit-crushing abilities’ (Quote 1)
So how are you going to manage your relationship with your supervisor so that you can get your PhD with minimum pain? In conversations with students I have found that one area that often causes problems is the supervisory meeting, so here are some top tips gleaned from those who have been willing to share their ideas. Read the rest of this entry »
Organising your PT Phd by @SRDent89
“I go through spells where I don’t do anything. I just sort of have lunch—all day.”
Writing is not my natural forte, I like the Nora Ephron quote above about her writing process, so similar to mine. I go through long dry spells where my motivation is on the floor, my focus too caught elsewhere, and I’m not entirely sure I’ll get a PhD at all – the guilt creeping in for every day off, or trip out for coffee. Secretly I feel abit like a dilatant, who if they can look and sound the part someone will eventually give them a PhD. Like Annika’s earlier blogpost, I have the “swishy wool coat and smart leather bag that makes me appear intelligent”.
The truth is I probably work far too much, and am anything but a dilatant. I am a part-time PhD student, with a full time job, who would…
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Announcing TRUST ME! A multi-university research study into doctoral student-supervisor relationships…
This project (@predoctorbility on Twitter) is about the relationship between doctoral students and their supervisors and it asks about the quality of that relationship: what constitutes ‘quality’, what does quality mean for learning, and how do you get a quality relationship, and how would you recognise if and when you have it?
The work I’m doing in this project looks at a the relationship between students and supervisors with a particular sharp focus. I want to understand more about what distinguishes a good quality supervision relationship, asking — it it the presence or absence of trust? And what kind of trust? We know from the literature in organisation, management and leadership studies that trust is important, and it’s mediated by the front line managers. Is it the same for student-supervisor relationships as it is for management relationships, are the academic staff the equivalent front-line managers? Opinions vary about supervision… is it leadership? What kind or leadership? What makes a good academic leader? Can supervision be more closely compared to management, or to learning and teaching. What rules apply?
I think we can at least all agree that the doctoral experience is intended to be a learning experience. Good working relationships play a critical role in workplace learning and the emotional dimension of professional work is significant (Eraut, 2004). Research into the role of emotion, and motivation as determinants of the student experience, successful completion of the doctorate, and academic ability is gaining momentum as a discipline (e.g. Cotterall, 2013; Jairam and Kahl, 2012; Wellington, 2010; Kearns et al, 2008). Emotionally competent leadership, as well as technical and intellectual mentorship is expected of academic leaders, and the need to establish good rapport and craft a ‘high-quality’ student-supervisor relationship has been emphasised (Jairam and Kahl, 2012).
So what do you think? I am collecting anonymous stories over on the TRUST ME! blog and your thoughts are needed.
Doctoral students, I’m interested in hearing about what your supervisor does that impacts on you, what makes all the difference, how are you supported, what does good supervision look like, how do you and your supervisor interact, how did you come to trust each other, is your relationship typical?
Supervisors, what’s your approach, where did you learn about supervision, how is it working for you, what does good supervision look like, what are the essentials for supervision, where does trust come from, how do you interact with your students?