November is Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) and in this post, Liam Knight, a PGR in the Department of English Literature and a Westmere Scholar, reflects on his experience of participating in last year’s event.
Back in 2020, I took part in AcWriMo, a month-long writing event in which people working within academia set themselves goals to accomplish over the month of November (e.g. write X000 words, collect X amount of data sets, read X number of papers, etc.) and then use their local and online academic communities to keep themselves accountable and supported and ensure that they reach those goals (or come as close as is reasonably possible)!
Why is it that life as a PGR that means learning to write all over again? Just as you think you have got the hang of writing essays suddenly, there are a whole new set of things that you have to write; abstracts, literature reviews, conference papers and even, whisper it softly, grant proposals. What’s worse, each one seems to have its own set of, often secret, rules that you have to learn. Well, at least that’s how I felt before I attended #PROWSS2021 this year. It was four days of ideas and advice followed by a full day of Shut up and Work – a great way to put into practice some of the ideas that you picked up earlier in the week.
Shut up and work was for me initially, Shut up and write, though I’ve come to appreciate the ‘work’ phrasing is much more apt since there is all sorts of work involved in study and research before, during and after the writing process. It was, and still largely is, a time dedicated to writing, editing, and proofreading. A friend who was leaving the university after completing her studies told me about Shut up and work as I was starting my PhD programme. It took me some time to seek out a session, but once I found one, I found it immediately useful.
I wasn’t entirely sure of what I expected. But I knew I wanted a time dedicated to writing and only writing. I imagined it as time free not only from reading, but the endless loops and interesting dives into reading, that only seemed to snowball as I chased one footnote, idea, or curiosity after another until I had a folder of pdf articles becoming too big to manage. That was in the early days of my programme, and while I still chase footnotes, through “shutting up and writing” I’ve become better at not trying to cover everything I’ve read.
In this post, Raeni, a PGR in the Department of Accounting, and Isbahna Naz, a PGR in the Department of Management, share some tips that they found beneficial in developing their sense of community during their PhDs.
3- 4 years doing a PhD is a long time. Some may say, “Life is on hold while doing my PhD”.
We are, of course, all on different journeys but with the same aim. Before COVID-19, we have a study space in the Muirhead Tower, where we could meet, interact and create a community within our cohort even though we are from different research interests. Having a sense of belonging with our peers alongside the journey is essential in numerous ways.
Being a member of a research community allows us to stimulate research progress, access an excellent seminar programme, discuss opportunities, and recognise other organisations beyond the campus. The community also sometimes directs us to get opportunities, for instance, acting as teaching or research assistants. Keeping us busy while engaging with others also helps our wellbeing.
In this post, Sarah Chung, PGR in the School of Education and Westmere Scholar, tells us about the value she finds in running and attending Virtual Shut Up and Work.
As a mother of two young children, who was working as a full-time primary school teacher and school governor, I very enthusiastically started my part-time PhD in Education in 2018. I planned to work in the evenings and at weekends, only venturing onto campus as needed. On a regular basis I would receive e-mails which would tell me all about the opportunities that were available for PGRs and one always stuck out – Shut Up and Work. As an initiative, I thought it was great but I couldn’t join in as I was at work. It made me realise that there was a lot I couldn’t attend as a part-time PGR. When I became a Westmere Scholar in 2019, I had the opportunity to attend the Shut Up and Work sessions organised by the PGR Community Engagement Officer (then Eren Bilgen) and I immediately noticed how supportive the environment was with everyone sharing goals and next steps. I also noticed how much more productive I had been!
Reflecting on the session, I realised that it would be great if we could include other PGRs that were part-time, distance learners, PGRs with parental/caring responsibilities or even a combination of all three! Eren and I discussed how we could do this, and we decided to offer an online version – ‘Virtual Shut Up and Work’ – via the Westmere Facebook group for distance learners and part-time PGRs. Continue reading “Virtually the same – communal productivity at home”
Recently, Melina Delmas, PGR in Modern Languages, was giving advice to a friend of hers who is starting her PhD this September. Melina shares her helpful tips with all of us as a welcome to our new PGRs.
Are you a new postgraduate researcher at the University of Birmingham? Do you feel a bit daunted at the thought of starting this new adventure? If so, fear not. Lucky for you the University of Birmingham has lots of resources to help you. Here are a few tips to start you off on the right foot! Continue reading “Welcome to the University of Birmingham!”
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”
Eren Bilgen, PGR Community Development Officer in the University Graduate School, runs regular “Shut up and Work” days at Westmere and here she tells us what goes on…
An idea that started in San Francisco became a popular activity among writers around the world and transformed writing from being an isolated activity into a social experience. You probably came across “Shut up & Write” sessions for researchers in different universities. We call ours “Shut up & Work (SUW)” because working on your PhD involves many other activities as well – reading, data analysis, thinking, planning and so on. We all know that shutting up and working is what we need to do to get our work done, but let’s face it; this is easier said than done. Somehow, the magic happens when it becomes a collective activity. This is how it works. Continue reading “So, what’s this Shut up & Work all about?”