Friday, 23 October 2009

First meeting of the Thesis Workshop

The first meeting of the Thesis Workshop was held at 3pm on Wednesday in the Library Seminar Room. The wide range of people who come along, from different departments and at different stages of the PhD process, made for a vibrant event with some interesting discussions!

After an ice-breaker of getting to know people from different disciplines, we settled into three groups (pre-apg, post-apg and final year) to discuss problems that crop up at different stages of the writing process. A summary of the main issues raised produced an overview the main stressors at different points, from "too much information" on beginning a thesis, to a sensation of "losing our grip on reality" when lost in the middle year(s), through to "not knowing how/when to stop" at the end of the thesis! The groups also had issues in common, such as problems with language, including the difficulties of writing in a foreign language and the challenges, even for native speakers, of getting to grips with academic writing.

Practical concerns also came high on your list of things to discuss. Work-life balance was an issue especially for part-timers and self-funded students. Relationships with supervisory teams were a source of frustration and anxiety for some. Researchers in their first year had concerns about how to get started, and finishing students had worries about the viva and whether their work would be "good enough".

Writing was seen as easy for some and difficult for others: among other things we talked about how to balance research and writing, how to write in a way that is accessible and academic at the same time, and how to find motivation for writing when there are so many other things to do!

It was great to hear so many ideas on the direction of future workshop meetings. Things to come include: some guest speakers from different stages of the writing process, tea and cake, and a more social element. Finishing PhD students had valuable wisdom that could be shared with those just beginning their thesis journey, and it was envisaged that the workshop could be a forum for problem-solving as well as for sharing advice that could help people to avoid potential pitfalls.

The workshop will launch as a regular event - participants voted for fortnightly sessions - and I'm looking forward to meeting up with everyone again!

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