Tips for Working from Home

Building on our previous post on working from home, Rachel Sargeant, a full-time, distance-learning PhD student in the Film and Creative Writing Department, draws on her experience to give some advice.  An adapted version of this post also appears on her personal blog.

Rachel's latest book, The Roommates.Although I only commenced my studies in January, I previously completed a distance-learning masters and have been working from home for over a year since I became a full-time author. This is what I’ve come to realise:

Continue reading “Tips for Working from Home”

Happy and productive 2020!

Happy New Year and welcome back.  Or just welcome, if you’re starting your research programme this month.

2020 balloons

It’s traditional at this time of year to make (and perhaps break!) a few resolutions.  The media is full of articles about diet and exercise, but what about resolving to make lasting improvements in your research processes?  It’s easy to say “I will do more” or “I will do better” but what exactly does that look like in practice and how can you make it stick? Continue reading “Happy and productive 2020!”

Fighting procrastination

Oh, how easy it is to put things off, especially if those things are difficult, ill-defined or repetitive.  Or if your deadline isn’t for a few years yet.  Unfortunately, that’s a pretty good description of postgraduate research, so a postgraduate research degree is fertile ground for a tendency for procrastination to flourish.

procrastination, n. The action or habit of postponing or putting something off. [OED]

Let’s learn a little bit more about procrastination and why it happens, but note that procrastination can become a habit for lots of reasons (or a combination of reasons) so if you are struggling with persistent procrastination, you may want to explore some of the counselling options available to you via the Mental Health and Wellbeing Service.
Continue reading “Fighting procrastination”

Helen writes: getting started

In the first of a new occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams gives advice on getting started with your thesis writing.

In 2018 I started at the University of Birmingham as a Writing Skills Advisor, and when asked to contribute to this blog I considered the hardest part of writing my own thesis.

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Helen Williams, Writing Skills Advisor, Library Services

Fittingly, ‘getting started’ was often the toughest task for me, which also felt apt for a first blog post. Preparation is essential in drafting effective writing, and there is a lot that you can do encourage this process before putting pen to paper. So, to start, here are four tips for getting started. Continue reading “Helen writes: getting started”

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.”

Writing productively during #AcWriMo

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Image credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega

November is Academic Writing Month or #AcWriMo.  Set an academic writing goal, and work alongside the online #AcWriMo community to achieve your goal.  We have talked about setting an appropriate goal for #AcWriMo in a previous post, so this year, we’re going to look at being a productive writer, to help you reach those carefully set goals. Continue reading “Writing productively during #AcWriMo”

Give yourself a break

August.  Somewhat surprisingly, the last few weeks have been hot, like summer is “supposed” to be.  Campus is quiet, eerily so, at times.  Lots of colleagues are taking annual leave, and there aren’t as many e-mails flying round as usual.  The days are long.

For some, this is a time of fewer distractions, and an opportunity to focus on their research.  For others, motivation is low as the hot weather induces lethargy and the beaches/mountains/meadows seem so enticing.  For others still, deadlines loom large and all these external things are irrelevant.  How can you ensure that you make the summer work for you? Continue reading “Give yourself a break”

#AcWriMo – what’s your writerly goal?

November is Academic Writing Month, or #AcWriMo.  Based on the ever-popular National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) for writers of novels, #AcWriMo is hosted by PhD2Published and allows you to work towards a stated academic writing goal with the support of a huge online community of academic writers doing exactly the same thing.

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Image credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I would encourage you to have a look at the #AcWriMo resources following the links above – there’s loads of really great stuff there, and a whole online community for mutual support – but I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about setting goals.  A well-set goal can drive you forwards, focus your activities to get you where you need to be, and keep you motivated and enthusiastic.  A badly-set goal is hard to reach (or even to know if you have reached it), and is, crucially, demotivating, defeating the whole purpose of setting it in the first place. Continue reading “#AcWriMo – what’s your writerly goal?”