Swimming for an academic survival during 1st year of PhD

One year ago I have started swimming in a totally new ocean: my own PhD journey. I think I am a good swimmer, more of a resistance type than speedy. In the water I like trying new moves and techniques, floating and pushing and diving. It is quite playful and sporty. My 1st year of academic research had something similar. I started with attitude ‘I know how to approach this’. However, as expected I did stumble on several occasions just to mention:

-deciding on the research method to use for papers;

-the immense task of performing correct literature review;

-formulating very critical constructive feedback;

-framing the discussion in a world of ideas rather than action-oriented as my reviewer wrote it:

‘better to slow it down. I don’t mean you rush the writing, but the reading is fast! It’s bang, bang, bang! Idea! Quick! In! Out!’. J

You see I was used to policy world where my work reports need to be actionable and recommending measurable pragmatic steps. In the academic research, I discovered the experiment dimension: Thinking hard of an idea, drafting it and trying to see if you have any results by developing, testing and documenting it. Once the favourite path discovered I started swimming with confidence towards empirical research, developing ideas through communities of practice, testing if existing theories apply and in which conditions, and more experimentations.

Milestone one is achieved by ending 12 months of the programme. To reach this point, several lessons served me well:

-how to reflect on my learning and try to see how I can maximize the synergies between my professional ecosystem and my academic endeavours;

-usefulness of communities of practice and peer to peer feedback;

-connecting to support of members of the cohort, for good and for bad;

-time management and avoiding procrastination by self-measuring every little step;

And indeed enjoying my days spent in the Royal Library of Belgium each and every time in new ways, resourceful peer to peer discussions over coffee and travelling to conferences to be exposed to yet new research.

Once I learnt how to swim in a salty lake at Romanian Black Sea side, now I’ve started learning how to conduct research at Lancaster and visiting many different libraries all over Europe.

By Daria Catalui, PhD student EduTech.

Feedback Makes Me Squirm

I have been onBute Park, Cardiff strike today – I may even get on the telly (see if you can spot me in this tweet). I was on strike yesterday but the weather was cold!!! Today it was warm and sunny – perfect for a trip around Bute Park (pictured left) after the picket-line.

I found a shaded spot and finally summoned up the courage to open an email my supor (this is a truncation of ‘supervisor’ – a bad habit I’m getting from my kids, see this tweet for another one, i.e. #mobent). My supor is a very approachable person but I’d been avoiding their email for days. This time, the email did not contain any feedback – phew!

I am not proud of the fact that even the thought of a message containing feedback makes me squirm, even though it is exactly what I need. It’s ironic really, as I’m a lecturer for the day-job…, ie. someone who is entirely unafraid of dishing out feedback. Thus, if I ever do get over this phobia I promise to nail a little bit of it into the part of my brain that deals with marking.

Back to the phobia. I am really not sure what it going on. Is it related to ‘impostor syndrome‘?  Unlikely, that only applies to ‘high achieving individuals’. I usually blame this kind of thing on being the youngest kid of five siblings… Probably that’s not it this time. Is it something to do with the sheer challenge feedback could drive into my plans and the subsequent work it will involve? Or is it the naked, didactic text that begs questions I can’t answer or to which I have no means/right of reply…

All this leaves me thinking: Does anyone else get this and, if so, what have you done about it?

(Mike is in Cohort 7 of the PhD in Technology Enhanced Learning and E-Research and blogs occasionally at networkedlearning.blogspot.com)


Experience of a brand new researcher

This is a sharing from my point of view as a part-time distance learner 5 months into my PhD in educational research. Pardon me that I might just be like talking in baby language here.

Seeing daily teaching with new eyes

As it goes with distance learning, everything is condensed into an internet presence and at the mercy of good wifi connection. At the beginning, I was worrying that I might miss a lot in terms of learning research methodologies and interaction with other researchers. These probably are the downsides. However, since my research topic is closely linked with activities in my full time teaching post, I came to realise that there is a great advantage to working alongside my field of study. It made me become more observant, reflective and curious. At least in my own case, the reciprocal relationship between research and teaching is developing slowly into a dialogue, as long as I do not see collecting data just as collecting data but as an integral part of my teaching. Continue reading Experience of a brand new researcher

Viva Survivors

One of the most important and most sensitive stages, for me, in my studies for the PhD was defending the dissertation (the Viva). This stage that occurs at the end of the study, which is an obsession that was hidden in my mind throughout the preparation of the study and after completion of delivery and await for the test.

I can say after completing this sensitive stage successfully, that I am very happy where it’s really  was worrying and I couldn’t pass it without excellent planning and hard work; Now, I am very glad that I have prepared well  and didn’t waste my time and I passed the Viva  successfully. I would love to share my thoughts which may help who has not yet reached this phase. Continue reading Viva Survivors

The Body Researching: Transcription

As PhD students we spent a lot of time talking/thinking about the process of doing research. However these narratives, whilst often connecting to the emotional self are often disconnected to the physical self. The embodied nature of research. Here, I focus on just one aspect of research – transcription – using descriptive writing to re-position the process of research with(in) the body.

Continue reading The Body Researching: Transcription

Book Reviewing

Amazon image of the Willis 2014 Action Research book

I’ve recently published a review in BJET of a book about Action Research aimed at doctoral students. I did find Willis & Edwards’ book useful where the SAGE handbook can be a bit intimidating… Amazon are selling it for about £40. Sadly, it’s not in the Lancaster library :/ (at the moment! – but I must say I’ve found the library refreshingly receptive to recommendations in the past).

This sort of highlights the significant perk of getting into book reviewing… You get to keep the book! I know that’s stating the obvious, but I do enjoy a real paper book, on a substantial topic, ‘to have and to hold’ (I do think e-books are very useful, not least for the capacity to search the full text).

Continue reading Book Reviewing

Seeing the PhD viva from the other side (the good side)

Throughout the course of my PhD the viva stayed in the back of my mind as being something that sounded vaguely scary, but that by the time I did it I would completely ready for. Because, of course, when I had spent three years or more studying full time I would surely know everything there was to know. After all, aren’t you supposed to (briefly) become the world’s foremost expert on your topic?

Three years and five weeks in, I submitted my thesis. Suddenly, the viva loomed. No longer a vaguely scary event located somewhere in the future when I would be ready for it, it was now set to take place precisely six weeks and two days later.

Continue reading Seeing the PhD viva from the other side (the good side)

One to Read – “The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research” (2010)

Featured image
Petre, M and Rugg, G (2010) The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research, Open University Press

You’ve entered the world of the PhD student, do you ever feel there are rules and practices at work that you have not been told about?

Well here is a book that gives you a heads up on ‘things that nobody bothers to tell you explicitly, either because they assume you know them already, or because they are so familiar to them that they completely forget that other people don’t know them, or because they don’t think they’re worth mentioning’ (xi).

Continue reading One to Read – “The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research” (2010)

Using a speadsheet grid for a literature review – a thematic analysis grid

Author column
Author column

I’ve tried many different techniques for organising literature reviews, including mind mapping software, little black notebooks with long lists of bullet points, A3 paper full of multi coloured sharpie doodles – the list would go on for a long time.

Eventually I came across this technique, introduced to me by Dr Deborah Anderson who completed her PhD at Lancaster a few years ago. In its original form she used large squares of paper, my addition to this was the idea of using a cloud based spreadsheet.

Continue reading Using a speadsheet grid for a literature review – a thematic analysis grid

Six steps to reduce Ethics process angst

ethics girl

Right, so Vicky Gorton has asked me to blog about the pitfalls of the Ethics process for EdRes Postgrad students, which I am happy to do as I have recently climbed out of most of them, so the memory is still fresh and the trauma is in need of analysis (it isn’t that bad really, not really, honest). It is also excellent timing as it provides me with a legitimate, stimulating and much needed form of procrastination, which is funny really, as that is the first pitfall that I am going to warn you about. Continue reading Six steps to reduce Ethics process angst