Shut Up and Write: Day Long Retreat

“Shut up and Write! turns writing from a solitary, to a social experience.

The concept is simple: meet up with others in a cafe (hopefully one with plenty of power points), and write. The concept originated in the San Francisco Bay Area, amongst creative writers, but, thanks to social media, has spread amongst research students around the world. The idea is to make the act of writing fun and relaxing” – The Thesis Whisperer

The Graduate Research School is offering Birkbeck research students the chance to take park in a Shut Up and Write Day Long Retreat!

This session is aimed at those who would like to set aside a whole day for writing up. The format will be based on the standard Shut up and Write sessions but provides writing opportunities in both the morning and the afternoon. Tea and coffee and a sandwich lunch will also be offered to those who take part.

Sign up and see event details here!

DATE AND TIME
Wed 12th September
LOCATION
MAL631

Shut Up and Write: Double Day Retreat

“Shut up and Write! turns writing from a solitary, to a social experience.

The concept is simple: meet up with others in a cafe (hopefully one with plenty of power points), and write. The concept originated in the San Francisco Bay Area, amongst creative writers, but, thanks to social media, has spread amongst research students around the world. The idea is to make the act of writing fun and relaxing” – The Thesis Whisperer

The Graduate Research School is offering Birkbeck research students the chance to take park in a Shut Up and Write Double Day Retreat!

Aimed at those who would like to set aside two whole days for writing in the Summer Term, students can attend either or both days. The format will be based on the standard Shut up and Write sessions but provides writing opportunities in both the morning and the afternoon, across two days. Tea and coffee and a sandwich lunch will also be offered to those who take part.

Sign up and see event details here!

DATE AND TIME
Wed, 22 Aug 2018, 10:00 –Thu, 23 Aug 2018, 17:00 BST
LOCATION
MAL630

 

 

The People’s Choice Winners – Three Minute Thesis 2018

Raul Valdivia

Three Questions for Three Minute Thesis

As one of the People’s Choice winners for 2018, how would you describe your experience of the 3MT event?

It was tough! I had practised my speech several times, but once I was in front of the audience I got too nervous and started to forget some bits, so I had to improvise. I guess I wanted to sound calm but passionate about my work at the same time, which is always difficult to get it right. I am glad people in the audience got a clear idea of what my research was about (analysis of photographs taken by slum dwellers in Lima). Overall, the 3MT event was a good experience and very well organised, I can now explain my work in less than three minutes!

Did you submit a poster for the Poster Presentation, if yes/no what did you think of the posters?

Yes, I did. I put lots of effort and creativity into the design of my poster. Coming from the School of Arts, I knew the standard format for posters was not going to suit my needs. The research poster structure is very much based on a cause-effect approach to the study of natural phenomena and social relations. I personally disagree with such positivistic model, even though I have a psychology and sociology background, so I wanted to tell a story in my poster in a way that could give viewers a sense of what it is that I am exploring, my findings so far, and the contribution my study makes to society. I anticipated most poster judges were going to be drawn from disciplines different to mine (visual studies), so I used some of the standard poster sections to keep it within the traditional assessment criteria. Sadly, I did not win, but many people complemented my poster highly, which is always a good indicator and rewarding of course.

 

Would you recommend taking part in 3MT to other PhD students next year?

Absolutely! If anything, it is a good opportunity to think about what you are doing in your research and how to best explain it to people who may not be familiar with your topic. Besides, you could win a good cash prize!

 

Pavni Kohli

When I first heard of the Three-Minute thesis challenge, I had just entered the writing phase of my PhD after an exciting year of field work and was feeling as if I was losing steam. Having presented my research at a conference in the previous few months I realised the exercise was very helpful in refocusing my thoughts. Within this context the 3MT seemed like a much-needed opportunity to step back and regain some clarity and enthusiasm for my research.

The first thing I did was look up the videos of past winners from Birkbeck and other universities. Although it seemed challenging to present three years of work in three minutes, I decided to participate because the PhD students looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Indeed, the whole experience was hugely enjoyable, starting from the training workshop which was also a great learning experience. We learned ways to capture the audiences’ imagination, communicate our ideas quickly and clearly along with breathing and body language techniques. My favourite part was meeting PhD students from other departments and learning about their projects. Their passion and enthusiasm were infectious, to say the least and I felt energised and determined to give my best. The interactive nature of the workshop meant that we could test our presentation styles and get immediate feedback about what worked and what didn’t.

This camaraderie and infectious energy carried onto the evening of the challenge where I was happy to see so many presentations and posters on such a range of fascinating topics. The atmosphere was incredible with an almost full auditorium and a warm, cheerful and sporty audience. I was very nervous but the supportive atmosphere made me feel at ease and my nervousness melted away.

It was an honour to be chosen the people’s choice winner. For me, the three-minute thesis challenge is all about connecting with the audience, communicating my research concisely and clearly and conveying the passion I feel for my work. I felt great satisfaction at achieving these goals and was delighted that the audience voted for me.

I highly recommend participating in the 3MT to other PhD students as its not only a hugely enjoyable experience but is also a tremendously powerful exercise in honing presentation and communication skills and regaining clarity and focus.

 

Raul (Department of Cultures and Languages) and Pavni Department of Geography) took joint place  for the People’s Choice Award this year.

Watch Raul’s talk “Picturing Utopia: Photography against the odds in a Peruvian sunset” here

Watch Pavni’s talk “Looking beyond fear in Delhi: Mapping women’s everyday life” here.

Cathy Rogers: Why I took part in the 3 minute thesis competition

Before doing my PhD, I spent two decades working as a TV producer, with a particular interest in science programming, so over the years I interviewed a lot of scientists. They used to drive me nuts! They would be working on such interesting projects and seeing the world through a completely fresh lens – but they were often just awful at talking about their research, at least in a way anyone could understand. They were unable or unwilling to say anything with certainty, they always insisted more research was needed and in the worst cases they even wore their inability to ‘dumb things down’ as a badge of pride.

So now I am on the other side. In some respects, I can appreciate more viscerally scientists’ stance. As you learn more and more about a subject, you appreciate more and more of its complexities and sometimes you feel you fully understand less and less. Saying things with certainty requires a 100% that science, with its 95% benchmark, will never (or very rarely (see there I am giving the caveat)) meet. But I still believe that if you can’t explain the essence of what you are doing and why you are doing it in a way that anyone interested can understand, then either you don’t understand it yourself, or it isn’t worth doing.

 

To me, that’s what the 3 minute thesis competition is all about. Going back to the big questions of your research – why do you care? Why should anyone else care? And how are you going to go about inching forward knowledge with that bigger picture in mind.

 

Cathy Rogers (Department of Psychological Sciences) was awarded runner-up and a £250 prize for her talk “Freedom and control: how do children achieve their creative goals?”

You can watch her full talk here.

Winner Keith Jarrett on Three Minute Thesis Competition 2018

There is one question in particular I dread: What’s your PhD on? It usually follows the other eye-rolling what do you do? I know it should be simpler, much simpler; I know the person asking doesn’t want my life story; I know why colleagues make up answers at random, and I nearly always regret not making something up too, or at least having a more straightforward project.

I’m what’s called an interdisciplinarian, that rare species who doesn’t feel fully at home in one department or another, who can’t remember if he should be using MHRA or Harvard referencing – the two departments are at odds with each other over this – and, worse still, whose practice-led research provokes shouts of You get to write a NOVEL for your PhD?! (Two other impossible questions follow: What’s your novel about? How many words have you written?)

I sign up to the Three Minute Thesis competition mostly because I’ve been challenging myself do things I’m not comfortable with. Explaining Oneness Pentecostalism and its migratory journey from the US via the Caribbean into London, and the subsequent effect on cultural and religious identity in the capital is one such thing. There’s jargon to unpick and I struggle to get to the point.

The point I’m trying to get to now is that it takes effort to communicate succinctly, especially when you’re in the middle of a PhD that completely takes over your life.

In the workshop, all participants are told to create a three-point story of our research. I listen to the fascinating work my colleagues are doing, colleagues who are also passionate, who also want to be able to share their world with wider audiences. I feel proud to be part of this community of student researchers. There are three whose work is so compelling to me – and completely unrelated to mine – that I read further about it. Later, at the competition, I see how they’d developed their stories into presentations, engaging with an audience who want to hear what they do, as much as I do. I was surprised to win, elated.

I hope even more PhD students get involved in the competition next year. I recommend it for everyone, as we all need to be able to present in from of mixed audiences. I’m also looking forward to following the competition, looking at more of the other videos from participants around the world.

 

Keith (Department of English and Humanities) was named overall winner for his entry, “The migration of meaning: writing a new London Caribbean culture”.

You can watch the full video for his talk here.

Birkbeck Three Minute Thesis & Poster Competition

On Wednesday, BGRS hosted the second annual 2018 Three Minute Thesis and Poster Competition at the lecture theatre and foyer within the Clore Management Centre. There was a great atmosphere of interest, enjoyment and celebration among those who attended and took part.

Keith Jarrett (Department of English and Humanities) was named overall winner for his entry, The migration of meaning: writing a new London Caribbean culture by the panel of judges, which included representatives from all five Birkbeck Schools.

Cathy Rogers (Department of Psychological Sciences) was named runner up, for her talk Freedom and control: how do children achieve their creative goals? and Pavni Kohli (Department of Geography) and  Raul Valdivia (Department of Cultures and Languages) were named joint winner of the People’s Choice Award for their talks Looking beyond fear in Delhi: Mapping women’s everyday life, and Picturing Utopia: Photography against the odds in a Peruvian sunset, respectively.

The Poster Competition was won by Ajitesh Ghose (Department of Psyhcological Sciences) for a poster titled Grounded Semantics: A Neural Network Approach.

The full News Item for the event can be found here.

Videos of the talks will be coming soon. In the meantime, you can watch videos from the 2017 competition here.

2018 Three Minute Thesis and Poster Competition: 23 May

The 2017 winner was John Siblon from the Department of History who received the £500 prize. John’s research focuses on war memory and representations of black colonial servicemen in the aftermath of the First World War.

Birkbeck Three Minute Thesis + Poster Competition: 23 May 2018

All current Postgraduate Research Students at Birkbeck are invited to take part in the 2018 Three Minute Thesis Competition which will take place on Wednesday 23 May.

This year we are also holding a Poster Competition and a drinks reception on the same evening. We hope that running these two competitions will provide a fantastic opportunity to share the interests and successes of PhD researchers from across the College.

Further information about how to register to attend of to take part is available here where  you will also find details about training sessions available for those who are considering taking part.

Prizes

The following prizes will be awarded:

Three minute thesis competition
  • £500 to the overall winner and £250 to the runner up
Poster competition
  • £300 for the winner and 3 runners up prizes of £50 each

Further Information

 

BGRS Training in Autumn 2017

Review of Autumn term BGRS training opportunities

This brief review highlights BGRS training and development opportunities organised in the 2017/18 Autumn term. These opportunities are part of a wider landscape of training and development resources available to PhD students at Birkbeck and which are summarised on the BGRS Moodle site. Birkbeck is in the process of establishing Training Needs Analysis for PhD researchers to identify their training priorities and navigate their way through the wide range of opportunities which are available at Birkbeck and beyond.

Autumn term highlights

  • PhD students who began recently were invited to attend a workshop titled ‘Making a success of your doctorate’. This all day event led by Professor John Wakeford of the Missenden Centre, provided expert advice and hints covering the organisation and management of PhD research and how best to complete PhD studies.
  • Students who were already underway with their PhDs were able to attend a ‘Surviving your Viva, and Beyond’ workshop led by Dr Jennifer Fraser, formerly from the Centre for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching at Birkbeck. This interactive workshop helped prepare students for their PhD viva and decisions about what to do afterwards.
    Several new sessions have been organised for postgraduate research students.
  • Birkbeck’s Equality and Diversity Lead, Ammara Khan, ran the first Unconscious Bias Training session for postgraduate research students exploring the concept of unconscious bias and how it could impact on life as a PhD student.
  • An Introduction to Public Engagement for Research Students, led by Birkbeck Public Engagement Officer Mary-Clare Hallsworth, provided the tools students need to begin engaging the public with their research.
  • In order to supplement existing resources for all Birkbeck researchers a Research Integrity and Ethics Session specifically for PhD students was held by Dr Sarah Lee, Head of Research Strategy Support, in order to provide a better understanding of personal, pragmatic and policy factors and to help attendees apply this in their PhD.
  • The Birkbeck Library ran a new Library Support for Researchers workshop highlighting support available to PhD students throughout their research journey.

Drawing on departmental expertise a range of BGRS events were delivered through the College’s generic skills funding awards including:

  • A series of sessions led by Dr Lily Ford on the theme of Fair Dealing relating to: use of images in research; film; and art history and culminating in a fair dealing conference.
  • Dr Dermot Hodson organised a workshop titled No Trespassing: The Risks and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Research. Antonella Paterri, a Birkbeck MPhil student from the Department of Politics has described some of the benefits of this session on the BGRS blog.
  • Other workshops provided training for: impact and communication skills; for how to make calls for papers at academic conferences; good prose writing for PhD Students; and an historical methodological masterclass with Professor Julian Swann.

The BGRS Moodle site will be used to establish digital objects (e.g. handouts or lecture capture) for those who wish to re-visit course material or who were unable to attend on the day. We have begun to make such resources available and will continue to develop this over the coming year.

Opportunities for Birkbeck PhD students to meet

During the Autumn term there have been two opportunities for the wider community of PhD students to gather and meet. The BGRS induction session welcomed new PhD students to Birkbeck and invited returning students to meet at the start of term, with around 70 attendees. Later in the Autumn term the BGRS Winter party provided another opportunity for students to meet with around 50 postgraduate researchers attending.

Shut up and write

We have continued to organise Shut Up and Write sessions, with more than 220 registrations to attend since we began running them in July/ August. During the Autumn term we organised 2 to 3 session every 2 weeks. Attendees have continued to give positive feedback about these writing sessions which provide opportunities to concentrate on writing alongside other PhD researchers and to build connections with those who take part. The BGRS intends to continue these shut up and write sessions throughout the year and registrations are now open for the Spring Term. During the Spring Term we hope to offer a concentrated all day writing event based on the same format as these sessions – this will be announced in due course and listed on the BGRS Eventbrite page.

BGRS induction for new MPhil/ PhD students

19.00, Thursday 19 October

The Birkbeck Graduate Research School (BGRS) is holding an induction and welcome session for all new MPhil/PhD researchers on Thursday 19 October at 19.00 in the Clore Lecture Theatre (B01), Clore Management Centre. The session will begin with a welcome from Professor Julian Swann (Director of the BGRS and Pro-Vice Master Research) followed by a series of brief presentations and a drinks reception.

19:00 Welcome and introduction 
Julian Swann (Director of the BGRS and Pro-Vice Master Research)

19:05 An overview of the BGRS
Tim Hoe (BGRS Manager)

19:10 Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR), one of Birkbeck’s Research Centres
Esther Leslie (BIH Co-Director) and Felicity Callard (BISR Director)

19:15 Student Services and Research Students
Alex Jones (Careers & Employability Consultant, representing Student Services)

19:20 Careers and Employability resources for Research Students
Alex Jones (Careers & Employability Consultant)

19:25 BBK Talent and Research Students
Emmeline Shadrach (Recruitment Manager)

19:30 Library Research Support 
Emma Illingworth (Subject Librarian)

19:35 Research integrity/ ethics
Sarah Lee (Head of Research Strategy Support)

Afterwards there will be a drinks reception and the chance for attendees to meet with other new research students, with the BGRS team and with PGR Student Reps.

Attendees are asked to register on this BGRS Eventbrite page.

Shut up and Write

About these writing events

Beginning in July 2017 the BGRS has organised a series of ‘Shut Up and Write’ events for PhD students at Birkbeck. The structure of each session is based on the Pomodoro Technique with focused 25 minute periods of writing followed by 5 minute breaks where tea and coffee was available. During the writing sessions students worked in silence while in the company of other attendees and were invited to switch off their phones and avoid any temptation to do anything except for writing.

At each session one attendee agreed to keep track of the time and announce the start and end of each part of the schedule – many thanks to students who volunteered to do this.

Feedback and responses

As of January 2018 over 270 research students have registered to attend Shut Up and Write sessions since they began in August 2017.  Sessions have taken place in mornings, afternoons and evenings. For some attendees this was the first time they had worked in this way and feedback has been very positive.

‘At the start of the session I was concerned that 25 minute segments would be unsettling but I wrote 1,600 words by the end!’

‘I have found the evening sessions extremely useful as a part-time student. It is often difficult to get into the right mindset to study after a day at work but having an academic working space and some structure makes it possible for me to be productive.’

‘This was a fantastic session. It was really useful to be in a room with other students who were in the same place/frame of mind as myself.’

‘The session was a really simple but a most effective idea.’

‘Really useful and very productive in terms of the amount I was able to write compared to working alone.’

Attending these events also provides the opportunity to meet with other research students from across Birkbeck and each session began with a 15 minute period for students to set up and introduce themselves to other attendees, with tea/ coffee.

Future sessions

All those who provided feedback said that they would like to attend future sessions and the BGRS will arrange dates for further Shut Up and Write sessions throughout the forthcoming 2017/18 academic year.

  • Please check the BGRS webpages for information about future events.