All 183 entries tagged PhD
July 01, 2013
Although it's been a very difficult year, at the end of which I still appear to have some words to write, there is definitely something to be said for having had a little space away from the thesis. Coming back to it over the past couple of months, I can see the overall structure far more clearly than I could a year ago. Having said that, it's taken me a while to become properly re-acquainted with the work I've done over the past couple of years, and as for the literature review that I did three years ago - well, suffice to say, I'm marvelling at the fact that I even wrote those complex sentences!
Over the past couple of weeks, I've been constructing a final version of my methodology chapter. I say 'final version', because I've previously written two or three very different incarnations of things approximating a methodology chapter. These included copious notes on the methods (observation and interviews), a VERY dry chapter on the research design (Zzzzzzzz), and my personal favourite, a reflective version of the methodology - a sort of 'journey so far' approach. That last one was lovely to write, but my business school supervisor REALLY DIDN'T LIKE IT and gave me a very stern talking to when I sent it to him - experimental, reflective writing is not his thing!
So how's it going this time around? Well, firstly, I was pleasantly surprised, not to say hugely relieved, to discover that I had the chapter already constructed in some way, when I put together all those versions I just mentioned. What I didn't appear to have, however, was a proper framework to glue it all together. You know, the bit where I explain how being a social constructionist led me to a qualitative methodology, and how this links with the theoretical framework, the research questions and the data collection methods.
I got myself a lovely new notebook a while ago, and now it's full of random writings and intricate drawings, all of which are my way of unscrambling the mess in my head - and guess what! It turns out that the whole thing makes sense! You see, I've realised that the chapter I was dreading the most is turning out to be the one that makes me feel the thesis is nearly done. Because if I can tie together all these epistemological and methodological issues, then I must really know what I'm talking about!
What is it that I love about the methodology chapter? It's the combination of big, philosophical thinking (social constuctionism, narrative research, the voice in ethnography...) alongside the tiny, nitty gritty issues (why that leadership develpment programme? How many hours spent observing? How many interviews?..) It ties together what came before (literature review, theoretical framework) and what will come next (data chapters, discussion). And for me, with my messy head, that's a massive lead towards completion.
So onwards today and tomorrow in the chaos of writing, then two days in a research sandpit, and then a supervision meeting on Friday. Keep your fingers crossed that my business school supervisor likes the particular writing style I'll be employing this time around...
May 15, 2013
"In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death; but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there". So begins Dante's Inferno, and so begins the tale of where I have been for the past seven months, since I last wrote a blog entry.
My story left off at a difficult point in my PhD life: I had begun a postdoctoral fellowship without finishing the doctoral thesis. I was hugely disappointed by this, as I had always considered that three years would be ample time in which to complete a PhD. But I had reckoned without the vagaries of my ongoing cardiac symptoms, which had made me take some time off in the late Spring of last year. In October, I wrote that I was stressed. I could almost laugh now, given what has happened since...
A couple of weeks after my last blog, my dad suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage. He had surgery, but never recovered and was in a coma for twenty days. Twenty days of driving to Sheffield. Twenty days of sitting, watching, waiting for signs I knew would never come. At the end of twenty days, he died. I was with him, which was a strange and beautiful thing - just him and me in a room, and the most peaceful thing he had ever done.
On December 1st, I returned to the fellowship research. My brain was full to exploding, but I felt my manager had given me too much time off in November to take any time to think about what had happened. In December of course, everyone in the world was ill. Except me. My children had the flu, my husband had the flu, then my children had the vomiting bug. Then it was Christmas, which of course was difficult.
Then in January, I was ill. My turn at last! But I had a report to write for my boss, and I carried on. The relief I felt when that report was done was immense. I remember saying to a friend of mine that I could now take a few days to sit and think about my dad and begin the grieving process. As if it would ever be possible to grieve neatly, in a compartment marked 'time to think'.
The very next day, I discovered a mass low in my abdomen. I thought it would be nothing, although my midwife hands were slightly surprised at the size of it - my GP and I laughed at the idea that it felt like a 20-week pregnancy. But the scan I had that same day agreed: a mass of some kind, 10cm big. 10cm? How had I not noticed that earlier?! There followed urgent appointments in gynaecology oncology (the NHS moves fast when it feels the need...), an MRI scan, and lots of serious faces, my friends (midwives) included.
So I had a hysterectomy at the end of February, and because of the uncertainty of the tumour's malignancy or non-malignancy, I also had my ovaries removed. Instant menopause! Then a long time sitting still - the longest I've ever spent sitting still, by some considerable margin. And now, a damaged ligament and more sitting still.
Meanwhile, my fellowship contract ended, and I now find myself technically unemployed, although still registered as a student - that was an easy extension to get permission for, thankfully! I'll be extending again next month, which will take me through to September. And then, I say determinedly, the thesis will be submitted.
So a dreadful time. The worst time of my life. But as ever, there are bright moments to be found: my husband, beside me and caring for me; my children, who seem to be enjoying the whole sitting down thing; and my friends, who have brought me such joy over the years, and who have shouldered such a lot of my burden over the past few months.
What a strange post this is. It's taken me a very long time to write. I hope to begin blogging normally again from now, as I return to the process of writing up the thesis. Because for all of these seven months, the PhD has been sitting in a tiny corner of my over-crowded mind, and now, finally, it's getting some attention.
March 15, 2013
Ioanna Iordanou is a Job-Search Adviser and Postgraduate Researcher Enterprise Skills Tutor at the University of Warwick. She also works as a Postdoctoral Researcher for Warwick Business School. She tweets (@IoannaIordanou) and blogs (Ioanna's Employ-Ability Blog).
In my previous two blog posts I underlined the urgency of turning one’s attention inwards in order to understand who they are and what they wish to pursue, while also identifying their strengths, needs and drives and building a robust skillset. Now it's time for action!
In this blog post, I will focus on action towards academic routes. We know for a fact that academic jobs at the moment are as effortless to find as a Hobbit under your bed! No surprise there! Yet, it’s easy bemoan the competition and toss the responsibility there. The question is, what do YOU do about it? What can YOU control in the process? And, trust me, there is a lot!
The 10 Commandments of the Academic in the Making
What you have done or are currently working on is not enough. What are your future research plans? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Don’t take this light-heartedly. The PhD experience has been uncertain enough! The traineeship is over! You’re a professional now and if you’re serious about your career, you’ll have to be a strategist. The more conscious you are of your research plan, the more clearly and coherently you can articulate it, the more convincing you will be about your reliability as future expert in your field.
Be specific about the journals you wish to disseminate your research in; the publishers you wish to target; the conferences you wish to speak at.
It’s all about the money and you know it. Any successful funding bids so far? Which funding bodies are you planning to approach? Have you thought of research projects that can attract funding? Time to start planning!
- Media/Press Engagement
- Policy input/Workshops for practitioners
- Input to Industry
Now, except rather vague guidelines, there is no specific way of measuring the actual impact of one’s research. This is the farcical irony of the whole affair. Still, the more impactful your research is, the more likely it is to attact interest (and get you that promotion!) Consider how your work can have a tangible influence, implement an institutional change, or alter the way people think or act in a demonstrable way.
Can you create collaboration links with institutions within and outside your country of work? Where are you pointing your antennas towards? The key here is proactive networking!
What’s your teaching experience? What elements does it entail? Have you got the potential to design and deliver an original/innovative module that pertains the tradition of the institution you wish to apply for? How do you render your teaching more engaging and experiential for students? In a climate where students pay yearly salaries for their education, the bar of expectations has been raised dramatically and rightly so! (Note to all: students are rarely interested in an academic’s research outputs!) Moreover, have you pursued formal teaching qualifications? Many institutions are asking for professional qualifications now.
Bet you haven’t thought of that one, right? How do you plan to use technology to enhance your research prospects? Do you blog? Podcast? Prezi? Think 5 years ahead... If, at the moment, we are shopping online, socialising online, researching online, even dating online, what does this mean for academia? More cites and quotations will most probably entail more technological involvement! Be proactive, things are bound to transmogrify!
It’s a dirty little secret that connections are key in the current job market and beyond! It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and how you utilise such connections for your progression. So get involved!
Every young professional could benefit from a good mentor, someone who can share the secrets of the trade, whether this involves navigating publication landscapes, exploring funding opportunities, or sharing their leadership experience. A mentor can be an enormous source of support (and at times more benefits), so don't underestimate their usefulness.
10. Finally, can you talk the talk?! If you want to be part of the academic elite (and by this I mean obtaining a permanent academic job) you will have to learn, and convincingly regurgitate, the contested and, more often than not, sensationalist academic jargon that will consolidate your credibility amongst your peers and superiors. So come on, repeat after me:
Yes, sophistry and self-image are increasingly going hand-in-hand in the current academic entry climate and beyond!
January 15, 2013
Despite having planned to transcribe all my research interviews as I was going along, it didn’t quite work out that way. This was mainly due to the limited availability of participants and then the lack of them, which meant I re-located mid-way (very happily I must say) to my parent’s home for over two weeks so that I could conduct interviews one after the other. There’s nothing more I need or would want for motivation and energy than the fresh chappatis and curries my mother churns out every evening! Bless her :)
So moving on, having spent the last month trying to complete transcribing over 20 hours of spoken word (imagine - I have typed over 100,000 words – only if that could be included in my thesis!), and having finally completed it today, I feel alive again! Yes, it was such a bore. I’m not saying my research is not interesting, of course it is very very interesting, and I can't wait to start analysing the juicy data, but sitting for 7 to 8 hours per day, just typing away, is not only boring and tedious, but can be frustrating too especially when it feels like it's never going to end. But it will end - if you are in the transcription phase, just hang in there, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Hence, to celebrate the end of the transcription phase (finally over!) and the start of the analysis stage (woohoo, can’t wait to get going!), despite the snow, I am taking my other half out to Pizza Express this evening (check out their 40% off offer – yeah I know that’s cheeky – but hey I am still technically a student).
January 14, 2013
In my previous blog-post entitled Guide to Employability: Step 1. Be Original – Know Thyself I claimed that it is paramount for doctoral researchers to turn their intellectual inquisitiveness inwards and ascertain their needs, wishes, and aspirations. Throughout my PhD years and beyond, I have kept focusing on the following salient point: what is it about a PhD process that makes one avert their attention from themselves so profusely? Seriously, what is it? Am I the only one who asks this formidable question?
The staggering reality
Have you noticed that, while undergraduates are grossly encouraged to engage in a plethora of extra-curricular activities, get actively involved in teams, pursue internships, and sentiently reflect on their experiences, PhDs are only geared towards their research project, as if it’s a one way street with no way out?! Have you noticed that the most prestigious and sought after employers come to campus to meet bright, educated, and articulate individuals, yet, PhDs very rarely return the favour? And to state the acrimonious obvious, have you noticed how undergraduates are more successful in their entry level career pursuits compared to PhDs? If you think that’s because there are inherently better prospects and more career opportunities for undergraduates, this is simply an indolent and ‘easy-way-out’ excuse! Undergraduates have more options simply because they actively pursue opportunities to explore and develop themselves!
But where do I start?!
I’d say start from the basics! To speak your language, in your research project the theory is secondary, it’s the evidence that renders it worthwhile! The only way to explore your options is to understand your strengths and talents, alongside your studies. This will be achieved by means of active exploration (= research) of your potential, involvement (= data collection) in various activities and opportunities, and reflection (= critical analysis) of yourself following such pursuits. Is the process reminiscent of something familiar?
Let’s start from the basics then!
Explore, Participate, Reflect! Isn’t this what you do as a professional researcher? So, research yourself. Go ahead, get involved in various activities and explore yourself, what drives you, what energises, what motivates you, what makes you get out of bed in the morning! Ultimately, where your strengths and talents lie! If you think that reading and writing are the sole and sacred duties during your PhD experience, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment! Ultimately, even as an academic in the making, you should consider training yourself in active networking, public engagement, consultancy, and effective collaborations with non-academic stakeholders (think impact and outreach here!).
Warwick University provides a plethora of options for you to get involved with various activities, develop abilities and, not only render yourself employable in the process, but mainly uncover your strengths while building new skills and enhancing existing ones. And if you don’t know where to start, here’s a brilliant tool created especially for you:
Warwick Portfolio: an online platform where you can find all the training and development opportunities Warwick can offer you. It allows you to develop skills in 8 areas (Communication, Leadership, Networking, Language, Practical, Critical Thinking, Ethics and Research Skills, and Enterprise), record them, reflect on them, and communicate them to yourself and others!
Guide to Employability: Step 2: Identify your Strengths and Talents
In a frantic recession-shaped era, where we are bombarded with the paradox of endless options and the ostensible lack of them, more is better than less. You might think you don’t need to develop further skills; your research and data analysis is time-consuming enough. It’s also very confining! Looking for potential academic or non-academic paths is not the right avenue to start your journey from! There is a myriad of post-PhD options at your disposal, I assure you! But just like in every worthwhile pursuit, it’s the journey that makes the destination. The latter will remain unexplored until you get there, but the route, the richer in experiences, the wealthier it can render you, if not in funds, definitely in potential!
To be continued…
November 13, 2012
Think of referencing like this. A reference is a sign, an acknowledgement of indebtedness. In the academic world it is considered good manners, a sort of scholarly politeness.
To reference is to say, ‘I acknowledge my debt to this writer (or writers) for helping me with my work.’ You do not write that, of course. That’s the message, though.
Providing a reference also allows your reader to go to the texts that you have referred to in writing your assignment. A bibliographic reference provides the details of the author(s), the title of the text and even when, where and by whom the text has been published.
Here are Top 10 essay referencing tips:
1. Familiarise yourself with the most popular referencing systems, notably Oxford (footnotes) and Harvard (parenthetical). Plenty of internet sources provide helpful assistance in gaining a thorough understanding of the notation of the major systems, and how and when to use them.
2. Determine whether you are expected to use a particular system. In higher education, most work will carry detailed specifications regarding format and referencing as well as content. In such cases be sure to adopt the required referencing system rather than simply making up your own mind.
3. Referencing is for more than just quotes. Direct quotation of another’s work requires a reference, but so too does paraphrasing of another’s ideas. A good rule of thumb is that whenever a part of your work is substantially dependent on other material for its content, reference must be made to that other work.
4. Be thorough. Referencing is essential for all higher level academic work because it allows an interested reader to trace the origin of ideas and relevant external material. Incomplete information is an obstacle to this kind of research, so a thorough and meticulous approach is absolutely essential.
5. Be consistent. Determine a system and stick to it to ensure full clarity. Inconsistent use of referencing is a distraction to the reader and indicates carelessness of thought, lack of attention, and disregard for scholarly conventions. A tidy page implies a tidy mind.
6. Beware multiple publication dates. Many books – especially the best ones – have enjoyed many reprints, so it is necessary to be sure that your references can be traced to the right pages in the right volumes. It is usually sufficient to cite the date of the publication you are using, but often it can be informative to give the original publication date also, particularly if considering the history of emerging ideas.
7. Is the text a translation? If so you should bear in mind the tip above, namely that the original language version was probably published at least a year earlier. Also avoid the trap of taking the translator as the name of a co-author, as this will rather diminish your scholarly credentials!
8. Authors and editors. Edited volumes make up a huge part of many areas of academic literature. Do not confuse author with editor, and always refer to the former rather than the latter.
9. Specificity. Different referencing systems and different usage of material will require various levels of specificity, i.e. author, year and page number, or just author and year. There can be an element of judgment here, but where possible follow the established rules of your adopted system.
10. The most useful tip of all: look at how published academics do it. Any decent journal article will have a long list of references likely to contain edited volumes, translated material, collaborations and reprints; simply copy the notation. Also look at the text itself to find a model for parenthetical referencing or footnotes.
If you want to use Reference Management Software, please check out this blog post by Salma Patel (PhD Researcher)
To learn more please check out this blog post and make comments or ask questions if you need any advice!
November 12, 2012
Ioanna Iordanou is a Job-Search Adviser and Postgraduate Researcher Enterprise Skills Tutor at the University of Warwick. She also works as a Postdoctoral Researcher for WBS. She tweets (@IoannaIordanou) and blogs (Ioanna's Employ-Ability Blog).
On 16th December 2010, an article of The Economist entitled Doctoral Degrees: The Disposable Academic, caused much controversy by claiming that disgruntling doctoral experiences and brutalising career prospects render a PhD highly unnecessary and a ‘waste of time.’ The author maintained that universities take advantage of PhD students and use them as ‘cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour’ that will ‘do more research, and […] more teaching, with less money’ to conclude that ‘the interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned.’
Don't believe everything you hear: You make your PhD, it does NOT make you!
It is not in the scope of this blog entry to agree or disagree with the Economist’s piece, although I know quite a few PhD students and graduates who would report similar experiences. In fact, as a PhD graduate, I could be the first to point my finger to an inept academic system that, I felt, failed me. What my gruesome yet invaluable post-PhD experience has taught me, however, is that systems don’t change unless mentalities do, and futures don’t alter unless presents transform. As professional researcher myself, then, I would like to begin by looking at you in the eyes and ask:
What’s your research in?
If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve been asked this question as a PhD candidate…! As doctoral researchers, I am sure you have built a well-oiled questioning machine, equipped with your inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity. Research must run in your veins by now! But have you turned your questioning machine inwards? Have you really asked yourself what you wish to get out of your PhD? What’s the plan A? What’s the Plan B? (Yes, two options are better than one!) These are by no means trick questions nor provocative ones.
When students write applications for graduate schemes in the corporate world, one of the main criteria is to show commitment towards a certain career aspiration and specify how a three year graduate programme will contribute towards their career development plan. Just like a training programme in a large corporation, your PhD is your apprenticeship for your future career. Make no mistake here, a PhD does not have to be the means to an academic end only! Have you decided what you wish to do post-submission and how your doctorate will help you get there? Did you and your supervisor ask this question from the very kick-off of your PhD? Do you keep asking throughout? I fear, more than I know, that most frequently the answer is ‘no’.
Who are you? What are you?
As a Job-Search Adviser and Postgraduate Researcher Enterprise Skills Tutor, I work with PhD students who, more often than not, dismiss the above mentioned questions as too daunting, putting off their career decision plans for the post-submission stage. I have classified the hitherto most widespread tendencies in three main categories:
1. The Whatever-ers: those who have no idea of what’s out there for them and vast reluctance to find out.
2. The No Way-ers: those who have ruled out the prospect of an academic career as a result of, more often than not, poor doctoral experiences and, at some point, will consider their options.
3. The Default-ers: those who, moulded in the droning shelter of a PhD, got so desensitised by the intellectual process of proving something original, that lose sight of the wider picture, and inevitably follow the only – in their minds – route available to them, academia.
I have yet to meet the fervently steadfast PhD candidate who forcefully marches their way towards a predetermined goal via the doctoral route! This, I hope, is my loss rather than the norm!
Guide Employability: Be Original – Know Thyself
As a professional in the making, you’re better off researching yourself, your dreams, your needs and your aspirations. Identify what you want and start building your professional background in the same way that you are constructing your thesis, with passion, commitment, and, most of all, originality. Your PhD fate does not need to be as acrimonious as the Economist correspondent proclaimed. You don’t need to be one of the many! You don’t need to be dispirited, lost, and steered. Conditioning can be as dangerous as conformity and doctoral environments can be, ironically, prone to both! So take charge of the present NOW and steer it towards your desired future. It’s only when you know yourself and your needs that you’ll be able to make the best decisions for yourself and market yourself effectively.
To be continued…
November 07, 2012
November 06, 2012
Plagiarism is presenting the words or ideas of someone else as your own without proper acknowledgment of the source.
If you don't credit the author, you are committing a type of theft called plagiarism.
When you work on a research paper you will probably find supporting material for your paper from works by others. It's okay to use the ideas of other people, but you do need to correctly credit them.
When you quote people or even when you summarize or paraphrase information found in books, articles, or Web pages, you must acknowledge the original author. It is plagiarism when you do any of the following:
1. Buy or use a term paper written by someone else
2. Cut and paste passages from the Web, a book, or an article and insert them into your paper without citing them. Warning! It is now easy to search and find passages that have been copied from the Web
3. Use the words or ideas of another person without citing them
4. Paraphrase that person's words without giving them credit
5 Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism:
First, use your own ideas. It should be your paper and your ideas that should be the focus
When taking notes, include complete citation information for each item you use
Use the ideas of others sparingly only to support or reinforce your own argument
Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words
A good strategy is to take e.g. 30 minutes and write a short draft of your paper without using any notes. It will help you think through what you want to say and help prevent your being too dependent upon your sources
To learn more please check out this blog post and make comments or ask questions if you need any advice!
November 01, 2012
PG Hub and the Graduate School are planning to run Peer-to-Peer Funding Mentorship Scheme as a pilot project targeted at specific departments. It is designed to support Master’s students in selected departments through the PhD funding application process for 2013-2014 academic year.
Successful applicants to the scheme will be matched with a Master's student looking for PhD funding As mentors, you will support your mentees via one-to-one and group sessions within their departments.
PhD mentors will help you on funding sources, brainstorming, planning, literature reviews, proposal writing and redrafting.
This mentor-mentee relationship will guide you to:
make more informed decisions in your applications
understand how to compose funding applications
engage with the wider postgraduate community
improve your prospects of success
You are eligible to apply to join the Peer-to-Peer Funding Mentorship Scheme if you belong to any of the following departments:
Mentoring is a relationship. At the same time, it is a journey that mentors and mentees embark on together. Throughout this journey, two or more individuals help each other arrive at a destination called professional excellence. Naturally, the journey can be challenging, with occasional muddy trails and blind spots but with many more panoramic lookouts and high points.Good mentoring is simply " the best way to get there ".
Mentoring enables graduate students to:
acquire a body of knowledge and skills
develop techniques for networking and collaborating
gain perspective on how their discipline operates academically and socially
acquire a sense of scholarly citizenship by grasping their role in a larger educational enterprise
deal more confidently with challenging intellectual work
If you are interested in being PhD mentor and want to find out more about the scheme, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org