In May the thesis forum welcomed three speakers who shared their experience of completing the PhD and life on the other side. This was our second webinar (via Adobe Connect) and once again we welcomed a good number of off-campus students.
Rahma (Media & Communications)
Rahma passed her APG in 2011 and is now in her final year. She started with the positive aspects of doing a PhD such as enjoying the chance to learn and the experience of being a student. While you might think your contribution to knowledge is small, it will be significant. She advised sticking to highly relevant literature at the start and ensuring you keep a tight focus. If you struggle with the literature, don’t blame yourself. It might be that you lack background context or the author hasn’t made themselves clear. International students can have the additional problem of the language barrier.. When it comes to your fieldwork, don’t shy away from sensitive or difficult areas. They might be the potential strengths that will inform your research and play a significant part. Plan your fieldwork but be flexible. Rahma also advised making the most of your supervisory meetings, by preparing an agenda in advance.
Rahma encouraged PhD students to attend seminars and workshops. Such events are a chance to develop your work even if the topic varies from yours. There might be discussion of similar theories or methods, and you will be pushed to questions your ideas. If you give talks then you will learn to accept comments and constructive criticism. Sharing your research will also boost your confidence and knowledge. Rahma has been writing from the very beginning and recommended free-writing as a way to keep on track. Type up as you go along and keep a good record of everything. Being organised was also crucial to staying on schedule. Rahma used a diary to record her aims for each day and to get problematic thoughts down on paper.
Simon (History/Special Collections)
Simon finished his PhD in 2005 and told us about the career choices he has made since. He started by asking the audience what their plans were for the future. A number were intending to pursue a career outside academia. You may expect to go in a straight smooth line through from PhD to post-doc to lectureship. Often this isn’t the reality. Simon talked us through the series of different research posts he held and described how they helped develop his skills and experience. He gained skills in team-working, project management new technologies and was involved with writing funding bids. Team projects often give options for publications which can boost your CV.
Simon recommended broadening your search when it comes to post-PhD employment. Universities have lots of people with PhDs in academic-related, support roles. www.jobs.ac.uk can be a good source for academic-related jobs. Twitter is also useful for jobs and postdoctoral position. Networking is also very important.
Mukhtar (Politics & International Relations)
Mukhtar graduated in January 2013. He discussed the importance of sticking to deadlines and how this is key to finishing your project. He juggled a number of other commitments during his PhD such as part-time work, working as a research associate, taking up short fellowships, and attending conferences. Mukhtar suggested researchers should balance this with non-academic activities. He also raised the issue of publishing and the long lead times on submissions. PhD students should be aware of the length of time it might take to hear back from journals and the time between acceptance and publication. Mukhtar acknowledged that there can be demotivating factors about the PhD, but these can be countered if you are a passionate researcher and sustain your academic curiosity.
Leicester students can access a video recording of the whole forum via the Research Essentials Online module on Blackboard. Please go to Blackboard and select Research Essentials Online (APU X005) > Thesis forum > Thesis Forum May 2013 > If you have any difficulties accessing this please get in touch.
Our next webinar will take place on June 11th on ‘Digital literacy as a postgraduate attribute’. Full details will be available soon.