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Thoughts from week one of 'How to survive your PhD' course

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I've enrolled in the free 'How to survive your PhD' course being run by Doctor Inger Mewburn (thesiswhisperer) and colleagues via ANU.

The course is open to anyone: PhD students, supervisors, friends and family, support staff etc. I'm hoping by taking part I can get some insight into how to support PhD students better.

The main theme of the course is surviving the emotional journey of a research degree. A PhD can feel like a long, hard, often lonely, struggle. It can also be exciting and joyful and stressful and a whole gamut of other feelings along the way!

Even if you're not taking part you can see some of the discussion on Twitter via #survivephd15

Here's some of the thoughts and tips I picked up from the first live chat of the course:

What if your supervisor doesn't seem invested/interested in you?
  • Find another supervisor who is! Not always an option and changing supervisors can be like going through a divorce, but it's a very important relationship for PhD students.
  • Build up a network of people who are invested/interested in you and your research - these could be other PhD students, peers, colleagues - could be a physical network (e.g. meet for coffee regularly) or a virtual network (e.g. online chats or via Twitter - try the #phdchat tag).
We're thinking of finding ways to facilitate more informal networking and support for researchers here at Leicester. Let us know if you think that's a good idea...

Encourage supervisors and PhD students to talk about the emotions involved in doing a PhD
  • Perhaps ask your supervisor how they felt when they did their PhD, as a way introducing the topic.
  • Important to seek professional help in some cases - supervisors aren't trained counsellors.
Read some survivor stories:

The Unruly PhD: Doubts, Detours, Departures, and Other Success Stories
by Rebecca Peabody

Thesis Survivor Stories: Practical Advice on Getting Through Your PhD Or Masters Thesis
by Marilyn Waring, Kate Kearins

These should be available as ebooks via the University Library from next week.

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