Advice? Take it or leave it.

As a PGR, you are no doubt receiving plenty of advice from many different sources, not least (I hope!) this blog and any development workshops or online courses you are completing.  I’ve recently seen this excellent post by Amber Gwynne on The Thesis Whisperer blog, and it’s got me thinking about giving and receiving advice.

Amber gives a number of really good suggestions for contextualising advice and deciding which pieces of advice you should take or leave.  I would recommend you read her post.

[T]here’s an awful lot of advice out there. And then there’s just awful advice. So, how do you separate the wood from the trees … ?

Her advice (!) can be summarised, in my view, as a two-step process: contextualise the advice from the giver, and be highly self-reflective when considering whether it can usefully apply to you.  It’s this second point that I want to pick up in more detail. Continue reading “Advice? Take it or leave it.”

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Viva la examination

When deciding whether to award a research degree or not, the examiners have two things at their disposal:  the thesis and the viva.

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You may feel anxious about the latter because you have never experienced an examination of this type before, and you are uncertain about exactly what you expect.  You may also feel that the viva requires skills that you don’t use regularly – but in this you would be wrong.

Continue reading “Viva la examination”

Specialization and overspecialization through your research: the forest and the trees

In this post, Alex Feldman, a recently completed PGR in the School of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, shares his thoughts on specialisation.

It’s a jungle out there, as the old cliche goes. Although we prefer the seemingly protective ivory walls of academia, we still live by the same law of the jungle. Whether we say “publish or perish” or “eat or be eaten,” some truths endure whether we’d admit them or not. You want to advance in your field, but you don’t want to be disposed when your field’s fashions change; such is the academic’s conundrum.

I’m no expert on academic fashions, but it depends on your circumstantial approach. Whereas conventional wisdom once advised planting your flag in some underpopulated area and holding on tight, you’re also aware we now have newer standards to follow: inter-disciplinary research, cross-field inquiry, discourse analysis, etc.

You need to specialize in something to be taken seriously in that field. Continue reading “Specialization and overspecialization through your research: the forest and the trees”

Happy New Year!

2019 has begun, and I hope you got what you needed from the recent Christmas break. Here’s looking forward to a happy 2019!

Have you made any new year’s resolutions for 2019? The New Economics Foundation have developed an evidence-based Five Ways to Wellbeing, and you may find inspiration for your resolutions here.

Continue reading “Happy New Year!”

‘Twas the night before Christmas (vacation)…

Spring is frequently considered to be the time for cleaning, but nevertheless, many colleagues are currently sorting and tidying their desks. For those working in universities in all sorts of roles, the Autumn Term feels like a particularly long and sustained period of hard work, with memories of summer weather and holidays fading into history. The end of term and approach of the Christmas break comes as a welcome opportunity to take a deep breath, tidy desks and minds in preparation for returning in the new year, and shift focus from busy day-to-day activities to future plans. Continue reading “‘Twas the night before Christmas (vacation)…”

The thesis is not enough… (part 2)

In the second and final part of her post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, shares her experience of being involved in wider non-research-related aspects of University life.

Representing the University as a Postgraduate Ambassador

One role I have had is that of Postgraduate Ambassador. You might think that as a Postgraduate Ambassador during open days you mostly stand outside holding an umbrella when it is windy and rainy waiting to provide directions to potential students. Although this might be part of the role it is also a great opportunity to meet new people. As a Postgraduate Ambassador you get the chance to meet and advise prospective students from a variety of disciplines on open days and other University events, which can be very rewarding. Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 2)”

The thesis is not enough… (part 1)

The pressure of submitting a thesis might be overwhelming and some PGRs might feel guilty about spending time on social or other activities. In this two-part post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, explores these matters in greater detail and shares her experience of being involved in other aspects of University life.

When starting my PhD at the University of Birmingham I remember going to a Careers Network event during which one of the attendees stated: “try to gain as much experience as you can in different fields at the University while doing your PhD as it will help you obtain a job afterwards”.

Shana Gander-Zaucker RPC 2016
Shana presenting her poster at the RPC 2016

My first reaction to this was a feeling of slight anxiousness as I felt a little overwhelmed by just beginning a PhD and I didn’t want to add more to my so-called ‘to-do list’. However, since then I have obtained some work experience in different capacities and have been involved in a variety of social activities. They have greatly helped me in my development as a researcher. In this post I will talk about how focusing on more than only your thesis could help you not only while you are doing your PhD, but also afterwards. So what types of roles have I been involved in? Well, they have been varied. However, while reading this you should recognize that this is not a comprehensive list and that each PhD journey will be different with its own valuable and unique opportunities.   Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 1)”