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)!
Sara Corpino is a distance learning PGR in the Department of Modern Languages and in this first part of a two-part post, she gives her tips on how to overcome difficulties and get through the PhD.
If I only had listened…
I have thought about applying for a PhD in Modern Languages for years before being brave enough to send my first proposal. I remember my academic colleagues telling me how difficult it would have been doing a PhD, but I was really motivated. Plus, I was not scared, as I thought that obtaining the PGCE in Modern Languages – which I had just finished – would have been the toughest experience in my life, until…I started my PhD first year. If I only had listened to those people preparing me, would I have changed my mind? Not at all! And would I have been more psychologically prepared? Possibly yes, but I could have been even too scared to take my first step into what has been the most rewarding – and of course challenging – experience of my life so far.
Continuing her occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams reflects on what it means to find a gap when writing your literature review.
The fact that doctoral research must be original and fill some kind of ‘gap’ in the literature is trotted out all the time, particularly to PGRs in their first year or so of study who may still be grappling with all the existing research on their topic. But how do you search for an absence? How do you identify something that isn’t there?
It can feel like a somewhat impossible task, especially if there are reams of articles, chapters and books that have been written on your topic. One answer could be changing the parameters of your research slightly; focusing on a specific and under-researched angle might tick that ‘originality’ box in a field that is saturated with research. However, if this isn’t practical, or you’re already fairly set on what research you want to carry out, it might be that you need to try to record your reading in a way that makes that gap more obvious.
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.
Two weeks ago today, the Postgraduate Researcher Online Writing Summer School 2020 (#PROWSS2020) began. Find out what went on from Kathryn Twigg, a PGR from the Shakespeare Institute.
#PROWSS2020 was an invaluable research experience. It comprised a week of workshops targeting different areas of postgraduate writing and was accompanied each day by a 2-hour Shut Up and Work. After hearing wonderful things about previous Writing Summer Schools (and attending last year’s myself), I was an eager participant in the 2020 sessions.
COVID-19 has affected us all (for better and for worse) and university life has not escaped the dramatic changes the pandemic has triggered. With libraries and study spaces closed and opportunities to work from home being sporadic at best, #PROWSS2020 provided a much-needed opportunity for focused work. Continue reading “#PROWSS2020 in pyjamas: this year’s writing summer school”
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”
In this post, Mélina Delmas (who previously welcomed you to UoB) looks at four common fears most research students face and some tips on how to cope with them. Congratulations to Mélina on submitting her thesis in December 2019!
“I’m not working enough”
Throughout the course of my PhD, I often found myself grappling with the number of hours I worked. Being an Arts student, I didn’t have to conduct experiments or to come to the lab. Thus, some days, I found myself working five hours maximum, which made me feel like I should be doing more. Continue reading “Grappling with Fear”
In the third of an occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams talks about how reading previous theses can contribute to your writing practice.
If you saw last month’s posts about perseverance and The Conversation, you’ll have picked up on the fact that November was #AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) – an annual, month-long, communal attempt by academics at all career stages to focus on their writing. In thinking about what can be most helpful in both facilitating and improving writing however, I keep coming back to how important reading is as part of this process.
Last week was the PGR Writing Summer School 2019, and Eric Ngang, a Global Challenges Scholar in Law, was there.
If you want to get top tips on how to navigate your PhD journey irrespective of the stage at which you are in the process, the PGR Writing Summer School is the ideal opportunity. I took part in the 2019 Summer School and it has been the most invaluable opportunity for me to reflect on my PhD journey after one year.