All 194 entries tagged PhD Student
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November 02, 2013
October 21, 2013
Writing about web page http://artslaunchlunch.eventbrite.co.uk/
Although it's organised by the Arts Faculty for the PhDs in Arts and Humanities, I reckon you, doing a PhD at Warwick, are still welcome to attend. Kindly register on this Eventbrite Link (and secure your lunch place), using your Warwick email account.
I look forward to seeing you there!
August 06, 2013
I have been on the field, Nigeria, for the past couple of months. As is Warwick tradition (and in other universities I would expect), your supervisor would prep you for life on the field. I was kitted with all relevant information and training, from code of conduct as a “Warwick Researcher”, to ethics, security, health etc. I have an awesome supervisor! However, in addition to the key tips he gave me, I have learnt a few extra lessons of my own that I thought would be nice to share on the blog.
It pays to be nice
Nobody should tell you this really – however, just in case you are not a naturally nice person, FAKE IT!
By being nice, I mean being genuinely interested in others, greeting them with a smile (I promise that doesn’t hurt), and being conscious about not taking others for granted just because they really want to help. Being nice has given me access to information and people I would have spent a decade and a half trying to reach. I have missed my way many-a-time to locations for interviews and gotten help just because I asked nicely, really nicely. The average man next door does not give a hoot if you find your way or not (just like London), especially where Naira (Nigerian currency) is NOT changing hands. I have to be grateful for the 5 seconds the guy took out of his busy dayto give an almost confusing description. When you ask for directions to a place, for instance, Washington Street, the response goes something like this:
“Go straight, keep going straight. When you get to the junction, turn right; then turn left. Go straight small, you will see a turning on your left. Don't turn. Keep going. At the SECOND turning, enter, you will see the Washington street.”
Woe betides he who asks for a repeat of the instruction.
In other instances I have negotiated really cheap taxi fares, just because I was nice to the taxi driver. Perhaps a puppy-eyed-pout or two helped the situation as well (shrugs). Hey, a girl’s gotta do what she gotta do. If you have a nice smile and a pout that shames Rihanna, use it girl!
Amp your personal planning & project/data management skills
I have met many people who throw this line around often, “I work best under pressure” – not on the field, it doesn't work there. The need to improve on one's project management skills is a point that is best experienced not explained. When you lose an audio file or two (recorded interviews), forget to send an email or misplace some crucial phone number, you will realise that water no dey pass garri.
*Water no dey pass garriis a Nigerian-pidgin proverb that figuratively means “a mess resulting from poor planning or lack of it.”
Keep a notebook on hand (even in the toilet)
A few days ago, a taxi driver told me he wants the military government back in power, because being under civilian rule in Nigeria was doing nothing for him. This was unsolicited information, other than the fact that a soldier walked up to us in the middle of the road; that was was sparked up the conversation. This insight from the taxi driver was relevant and interesting to my research for different reasons, so I immediately snapped my iPhone on and noted it on my notes app.
You never know where ideas would strike you – one’s eureka moment may be over a shared yahuza suya(grilled beef by Yahuza - yummylicious) and a can of Malta Guinness with a mate. You have to note that shizzledown! By shizzle,I mean any new information, insight or whatever. My friends are used to me now, when mid-conversation my eyes brighten up and I am slamming away at my keyboard or punching my touch-screen mercilessly. They shake their heads knowingly and carry on the conversation.
That little demon which whispers to your very smart brain that you would remember it all is LYING – don’t neglect the notepad.
Being on field, gathering data (via interviews in my case), and meeting new people, is an exciting experience. Although I can’t wait to get back to the comforts of the University of Warwick Library...don’t look at me like that, I am very happy to be immersed in the society I am going to write my thesis on.
I am experiencing first hand some of the society-challengesI am going to discuss in my thesis. The tone and quality of my work will be better for it; I can feel that coming on already. If I were embarking on the same task from the “ivory tower” without connecting with the society where the policies I am going to critique and recommend will be affected, my work would have lost an important touch.
Do you have any lessons you are learning or learnt while on field that you didn’t glean from your supervisor? Please share.
July 28, 2013
Well I've finished my first academic year at Warwick though I'll start the second year still as a first year! So I guess it's naturally a time for reflection but also looking forward to what the next year will bring.
Thinking about my first day at Warwick, it was nearly as nerve-racking as my first day as an undergraduate student 25 years ago - not knowing anyone, the campus or what the study would entail; only this time I also had to work out how I was going to achieve any kind of balance between full-time work and part-time study.
I can't say that I've managed to get the balance right between work and study and with the nature of my work, I can't see that changing any time soon. So instead of being able to have a regular consistent focus on study, it's more an intermittent approach with concentrated bursts of activity. I know that will need to change as the years roll on. I had started off with a day/week during the working week devoted to study but that was quickly eroded as my companies took on more work as an economic necessity. I'm already a Co-Director of a consultancy business and I took on another Director role with a new consultantcy business last year - not the best timing in relation to study, but definitely good timing in relation to my professional work.
I'm lucky that I chose a subject that I already know well and am genuinely passionate about, I suspect that I may have given up by now had I been tackling a completely new subject area. It's a natural progression from my Masters dissertation and that has been brilliant grounding for my PhD work.
I am relieved to discover that I'm not that far behind the full-time PhD students in my year. I've done a tranche of writing for which my tutor has given me positive feedback and I've now got the chapter structure in place too. I feel very well supported within the department, not just by my tutor but all the tutors and administration staff, right the way through to the Head of Department. They have been incredibly accommodating in relation to my rather haphazard availability and always make me feel welcome and are genuinely pleased that I have been able to attend additional sessions. I also have a great family and set of friends who rally round and keep up my enthusiasm for my PhD, and my brother/business partner has never faltered in his ongoing support.
Though I've had to delay going on my study trip to the US due to an ever-increasing workload, I am looking forward to spending next term preparing and researching the virtual archives before my trip to the physical archives in January 2014.
I was hoping to spend some of the summer months working on my PhD. That now looks unlikely with an impending festival in the autumn for which I work on the marketing and communications, lots of projects building to their conclusions in September, and a work trip to Australia to give a keynote address at a cultural conference in Queensland on the subject of cultural tourism, plus the opportunity to meet with the Commonwealth Games 2018 cultural programme team (I worked on the North West Cultural Programme for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002). All good experience if I ever get the chance to speak at film related conferences although it's a very different style of presentation. If I'm not too tired I'll try to dedicate some of my flying time to PhD reading rather than just catching up on my paid for work.
I realise that I may start next term feeling a bit rusty and will need to immerse myself in the world of study and film terminology and language again after an enforced break. I'm already earmarking Christmas and New Year as PhD time...
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 20, 2013
Would you like to meet postgrads? Do you having nothing planned for Tuesday evening? Then come along to PG TalkFest!
PG TalkFest is back after a successful start in March. It is a great meeting place for postgrads and a way to listen to interesting and lively talks. The aim is to keep the style informal and to engage with the audience.
For this version of PG TalkFest, there will be a Masters student and two PhDs who will be presenting talks about Batman, video games, and evolution.
It is being held on Tuesday 21st March from 6pm-8pm in the PG Hub. Talks don’t start until 6:30pm so you have some time to socialise before the event begins. There is also an interval. Light snacks and drinks are provided from 6pm.
The speakers of the night are:
Sebastian Averill (History)
Joanna Cuttell (Sociology)
Steve Norton (MOAC)
For any queries, please contact Sarah on S.A.Cosgriff@warwick.ac.uk.
Sign up here to help with catering numbers: http://doodle.com/wtahg4p4sbtpbkvh
April 29, 2013
Everywhere I turn, I find talent. Singers, athletes, intellectuals: all reside at this university, and can, with time and a nose for excellence, be sniffed out. Lo and behold, some people even have more than one talent: meet the lucky sods who are blessed with easy charm, a forehand which cannot be returned by Roger Federer himself, and a world-class brain working on problems for the betterment of all humanity. Good for them.
Of course, when you are at a place like Warwick, each year brings another crop of new geniuses, and you inevitably start to wonder where the university finds them (although I guess it is more the case that they find the university). All this brilliance floating around you: it can provoke some strong feelings. Some appreciate the challenge, and strive to make their work even better. Others react with calm indifference, reasoning that they are doing as well as they can, and that you can hardly bemoan people for their abilities. There are a number, however, who cannot help but feel the pangs of that green-eyed monster, that deadly sin, jealousy, whenever they encounter those who are blessed across the board. All I can say is that I envy the people in the first two groups.
This is a pretty sweet example of a green-eyed monster
This was brought home for me a few weeks back, when I attended REXfest, an evening of music and chatter for postgraduates at the Terrace Bar, which was, I am compelled to add, wonderful. But standing in a bar, watching people who not only played the piano and sang with the soulful metre of Elton John, but whom were also casually doing a PhD in Economics on the side (if you were there, you will know exactly whom I mean), well, you cannot help but feel the creeping prickly heat and low-altitude sinking feeling so characteristic of jealousy.
Usually when I see someone performing music, or sport, or just living with serious aplomb, at levels of which I, a confused and disoriented young person, can only dream, I console myself with the knowledge that I am a PhD student, and that no matter how often I burn the pasta or fall over blades of grass, I am at least a postgraduate member of a fine seat of learning. But when I encounter people who not only have the ability to understand particle physics, but also know all the chords to ‘Call Me Maybe’, well, that changes things.
The same goes, of course, for sport. Last year, I flirted with the idea of playing football again. I spent many an hour manically running after a ball in my youth, and recapturing that heady enthusiasm was, I reasoned, a good idea. After dashing around for ten minutes, and subsequently coughing up that cigar I smoked when I was eighteen, I soon encountered a pretty serious problem: I was absolutely and undeniably awful, well below the standards of the others. I would make some glib comment about how I would have been more useful if I had just stood there and acted as a goal-post, but that would be unfair to goal-posts; at least they hit the ball back.
The final straw came when someone very kindly passed me the ball in front of an open goal, and I obliged by standing square on top of it, sending me, rather than the ball, into the top corner. In the process I somehow sprained my ankle, and when I was once again fit, it didn’t take me too long to decide that the next time I strode onto a football pitch, it would be to give some stranger with size nine feet my boots. Of course, I would normally take refuge in the fact that football is not my thing, that would be academia, but all those people who can run for more than ten minutes without losing a lung and who can kick a ball exactly where they are meant to are also revolutionising the fields of healthcare, engineering, and literature.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that some people are very good at what they choose to do in life, and have to take comfort in that, whilst others are exceptional at what they choose to do, and pretty darn brilliant at a few things on the side as well. Frustratingly, they are often also very pleasant, humble people: all the multi-talented geniuses I know are also bloody good company, absolute delights who make the whole PhD experience that bit livelier. Thankfully, these people will probably end up teaching the next generation of bright minds and leading the world of future, while I will be standing on street corners, where I am a threat to no-one, mouthing off about pigeons, who are a threat to everyone.
I guess if there is a lesson in all this, and I am reluctant to be so candid, it is that we must be grateful for what we do have, be it in our heads or in our hands. When push comes to shove, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I must admit that even if the PhD does implode in an explosion of missed opportunities, I will always be a deft hand at washing up tea-spoons…and no-one can take that away from me.
Oh, except dishwashers.
I would generally say that postgraduate students are an honest and open bunch of people, willing to share expertise and experiences. There are, however, some aspects of PG life which are perhaps not discussed with enough candidness, and one of those is the ease with which one can feel jealous of your colleagues. I wonder whether it is easy enough at this stage to sit down with friends, family, and supervisors, and say, “This whole postgraduate thing…well, I seem to find it that little bit more taxing than everyone else.”
Maybe if we were that bit more open about the emotional difficulties of research, we might find that we are not alone, or that our colleagues admire us for qualities to which we have become blind. It is a curiosity of postgraduate life that, while it is at times a deeply solitary and egotistical pursuit, it can also be fundamentally collective, with inspiration and encouragement coming from many quarters. Maybe the final step would be a little more honest admiration, the ability to say to someone, hey, I think you’re a great teacher, or, did you know, you’re an exceptional editor.
So, in this summer term, that’s what I’ll be doing: turning my envy into uplift, converting the doubt inside my head into smiles and handshakes. As a PhD student, I am surrounded by deeply multi-talented people, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling a little envious of me for it.
March 21, 2013
Do you want to meet other postgraduate students? Fancy a going to a new event with a different flavour? Look no further - check out a brand new event: PG TalkFest!
PG TalkFest is about meeting new people and listening to 10 minute informal talks. The speakers are allowed to talk about whatever they want, whether it is about their research or something related to it.
There is a good reason for the speakers to do this: to practice public engagement skills. It is about practicing presenting in a very different way to what they are used to as well as trying out different ways of engaging the audience.
It is being held on Tuesday 26th March from 6pm-8pm in PG Hub 1&2. Talks don’t start until 6:30pm so you have some time to socialise before the event begins. There is also an interval. Food and drink is provided from 6pm. Please sign up on bit.ly/10fGQc2 to help with numbers.
Our amazing speakers of the night are (in which there are a couple you may recognise!):
Jack Heal (MOAC)
Tom Bray (History)
Tomi Oladepo (Theatre Studies)
For any queries, please contact Sarah on S.A.Cosgriff@warwick.ac.uk.
Hope to see you there!
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!
March 07, 2013
Great news today - I've been awarded an AHRC Research Training Support Grant to visit American film archives in Los Angeles and New York this summer. I was lucky enough to briefly visit film archives in both cities whilst researching for my Masters dissertation back in 2008 (before the financial meltdown - which I had to self finance and squeeze into a holiday!). This grant enables me to spend more concentrated time trawling through the fantastic primary source materials available at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Margaret Herrick Library (Academy of Motion Pictures official library), Museum of Modern Art New York and the New York Performing Arts Library. I may even get time to squeeze in a couple of other archive visits too.
I've now got some serious planning to do to work out my timetable and juggle my professional workload to make sure that my company clients don't suffer (though I'm lucky that my brother/business partner can cover my absence) and I make the most of my time in the archives. I know from my previous experience that detailed planning is essential and particularly as each archive has different rules, regulations and opening hours. The more research I can do here in the UK before I go the better, to check out exactly what is available, what I can gain access to and keeping in contact with the specialist archivists and librarians in the build up to my trip.
As I'm looking at films in the 1940s and 1950s, there is a wealth of material in the official archives of studios, producers, directors, writers and stars held in some fantastic archives and libraries. In comparison to today, so much communication was completed on paper in those days, and in multiple copies, from memos and letters, to scripts and contracts, press books and reviews, to production notes and financial details, the list goes on, in addition to photos, audio recordings, video footage and so much more. The insight that can be gained from having the time to wade through boxes of often unmarked materials and to start to build connections, almost like a jigsaw puzzle, will be invaluable to my research.
Having attended a seminar about visiting film archives, particularly abroad, last term organised by a Research Fellow in film at the Institute of Advanced Study, I picked up some great top tips for do's and don'ts. There is always a danger of misreading or wrongly analysing something in haste and then following a journey that leads to a dead end wasting time, energy and valuable limited resources. One of the challenges of visiting archives is that it can be difficult to correctly and appropriately reference material, especially when looking at loose papers in unmarked brown paper files, stored in boxes - consistency is crucial as well as collecting all relevant reference material - because you can't easily check when you get home! So as with my PhD generally, I'll need to have very clear aims and objectives and allow some flexibility to explore new routes opened up by discovery, but make sure that enthusiasm doesn't overtake reason.
I've spent 20 years working in the arts and struggling with clients to source funds to deliver arts, heritage and cultural tourism activity, especially in the current climate, often by extensive lobbying but mostly by having to fill out complicated and lengthy application forms with onerous evaluation requirements. So I am hugely grateful to Warwick and AHRC for a straightforward process and procedure, even though the timelines for submission were a little tight!
So if any of you out there have visited American archives, then I'd love to hear about your experiences and any advice to make the most of my trip.