Most of us are doing lots of reading – that’s the easy part, right? But we’re not always reading the most effective way. Although we accumulate lots of material and ideas, we struggle to turn it into academic writing.
In this interactive webinar, we’ll look at several techniques for becoming a more efficient and productive reader.
Are your notes in a mess? Do you lack an effective system for storing and organising your reading material? In this interactive webinar, we’ll explore three methods for imposing order on the chaos. Through demonstrations and discussions, you will learn how you can use them to build an effective process that’s right for you.
New weekly podcast:
Corkscrew – Practice research beyond the PhD
Hope interviews different generations of practice-based research PhD graduates
from different disciplines about why they did practice-based/led PhDs in the
first place and what they went on to do next. The podcast is produced with
assistance from Dr Jo Coleman.
Peer support, finding a place within academia, staying up to date with the latest research, communicating research to wider audiences and navigating life after PhD.Ema Talam andJon Fairburn outline five ways in which social media, and in particular Twitter, can make all the difference to PhD research at a time when regular academic life has been severely disrupted.
Doing a PhD is hard: lack of work-life balance, uncertainty about the future, diminishing satisfaction with the PhD programme over time, isolation, harassment and discrimination are all too common experiences. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these challenges.
Whilst by no means a panacea, at a time when undertaking a PhD is even more of a fragmented and disjointed experience, social media provides an important space for connection. We – a PhD student and an experienced researcher with over 25 years of experience in academia – put forward the five following reasons why PhD researchers at any stage of the process can benefit from engaging with academic social media and why it is more important now than before COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s start with the peer support. With universities in lockdown and many PhD students working from home, the informal support that comes from working as part of a research community has diminished. Despite its sometimes hostile reputation, peer support is strongly present on Twitter. Readers new to academic Twitter might consider following general academic hashtags, such as #AcademicTwitter, #AcademicChatter and #AcademicMentalHealth, or specifically PhD centred discussions on #phdchat and #virtualnotviral. Whilst a hashtag is not a peer support network, in difficult times they provide pathways to resources and opportunities to meet likeminded people that can make all the difference.
You may even find your peer group is larger than you anticipated. The sudden shift to remote teaching and learning early last year, placed experienced professors and PhD researches running their first classes from all fields in the same position of learning to teach remotely for the first time. The hashtags above as well as being links to a wider research community have also been an invaluable resource for teaching tips and tricks, learning resources and even free training. Do not be afraid to ask questions related to teaching or any aspect of academic life.
Whilst a hashtag is not a peer support network, in difficult times they provide pathways to resources and opportunities to meet likeminded people that can make all the difference.
Finally, Twitter can also be used as a tool for co-ordinating and engaging with existing PhD communities, for instance through organising synchronous and a-synchronous events, such as remote writing retreats.
Navigating your academic discipline(s)
In a similar way hashtags can also be used to find academic communities, for economists #econtwitter is a good place to start as is RePEc’s list of economists on twitter. Learned societies and their social media accounts, e.g. in our fields the Royal Economic Society or Regional Studies Association, also provide useful points for finding the latest news from a particular discipline and often provide tailored advice for how certain disciplines approach social media.
For better or worse, social media is a surveillance network. By following academics whose work you are interested in, you can not only directly engage with them, but by simply following you can develop a sense of the research, networks and events they are interested in. These can help you orient your research towards academic communities and projects that may not be represented within your own institution.
While approaching people at conferences can be intimidating, it is almost impossible on Zoom events due to lack of time dedicated for informal networking or even any breaks at all
Social media can also be a source of inspiration for looking beyond your immediate discipline. The shift to digital as a result of the lockdown, has considerably lowered barriers to attending conferences and seminars. These events are regularly advertised via social media and are a great opportunity for you to attend new areas of research and expose yourself to new ideas and methods that can benefit your PhD.
While approaching people at conferences can be intimidating, it is almost impossible on Zoom events due to lack of time dedicated for informal networking or even any breaks at all. Fortunately, the back channel provided by social media, such as Twitter, can provide a means of keeping the conversation going. Look out for event hashtags, which can be used to preview your work, or just to signal your presence and highlight what you found interesting. Finally, in digital environments where genuine engagement can often be minimal, a considered question or engagement is invaluable and can even lead to future collaboration.
Keeping up to date with the latest research
Not all academic dialogue resides in published academic papers. Many academics post and discuss newly published papers on Twitter. Social media such as twitter, are also central to sharing non-standard research outputs like blogposts, infographics, or even datasets. As COVID-19 has demonstrated much influential research has circulated via social media in the form of preprints, long before final publication. These can all be very useful for PhD students to track new developments in their fields of study.
Communicating your research to wider audiences
COVID-19 has also demonstrated the importance of social media as part of the public sphere and having a profile has become increasingly important for making your work visible to important stakeholders, the media and the general public. Established organisations, such as NGOs, or even your university, are likely to have significant audiences on social media and present opportunities to share your research with non-academic audiences.
This could involve simply tagging potential interested stakeholders in posts or taking part in more structured engagements. Simply being on social media does not guarantee public engagement, but it is a platform that allows you to connect to potential research users, which can be invaluable at a time when social contact of any type is minimal.
Life after PhD
Institutions and academics often share information about the job openings on Twitter. Following academics in your field of study can ensure that you have information about new job openings. Twitter makes it easy for information about job openings to be shared – your network can either tag you in posts about job openings or send a direct message. By building your social networks around your research interests, you are more likely to find relevant information about job openings in the field(s) of interest, whether in or outside of the academia. Many government agencies, firms and universities also have their professional profiles on LinkedIn, where they share information about new job opportunities. Additionally, on LinkedIn, you can easily indicate your openness to work or share your CV should you wish to. Both platforms can be used to seek for advice regarding job applications and help write stronger applications.
PhD students (and their supervisors) are sometimes sceptical about the use of social media and the time that will be spent on social media. Engaging with academic social media does not have to involve huge time investments – it can involve only several minutes per day and directly depends on what you want to get out of it. We would argue the benefits of using academic social media far outweigh the costs.
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.
Image Credit: Adapted from Jon Tyson, via Unsplash.
About the author
Ema Talam is a final year PhD in Economics student at Staffordshire University. She is interested in the topics of firm-level productivity, innovation and exporting, as well as innovation policies. Follow Ema on Twitter on @ematalam.
Jon Fairburn is Professor of Sustainable Development at Staffordshire University. He teaches on the MSc Digital Marketing Management amongst other courses. Follow him on Twitter @ProfJonFairburn.
You may be interested in the following announcement from the National Archives which includes information about online ‘Introduction to Archival Research’ sessions.
The National Archives holds one of the largest collections in the world, containing over 11 million historical government and public records. From Domesday Book to the Leveson Enquiry, our records offer students a myriad of untapped research opportunities across a wide range of time periods and disciplines.
With so many options, however, getting started in the archives can be a daunting prospect. Many students have questions which they are too afraid to ask. How will I know where to go? What do I need to bring with me? How do I find records for my research? How do I order documents? Do I need to use gloves? How can I be sure I’m not wasting my time?
This introduction day will explain how to get started with archival research, the importance of knowing the history and structure of a collection to navigate the records, and how to make the most of your time on site.
Our upcoming events
Our next ‘Introduction to Archival Research’ sessions will be held entirely online on the following dates:
These sessions are are aimed at third year undergraduate and postgraduate students. Registration this year will be at a reduced rate of £5. While this workshop will be entirely presented online, we hope that students will be able to join us back at Kew for our Skills and Methodology workshops, which will be held in June 2021.
Dear Members and Contacts of the Birkbeck Graduate Research
We are delighted to share with you a call for papers for our
interdisciplinary AHRC Midlands4Cities-funded virtual seminar series, ‘Culture,
Things, and Empire’. We will be hosting 5 online Zoom seminars (20-minute
papers and 40 minutes of discussion) and 1 masterclass for all registered
participants surrounding issues and themes such as race, gender, class, and
materiality in the fields of imperial, colonial and global studies. The series
will take place between November 2020 and April 2021. Registration to attend
the seminars will also open soon here: https://culturethingsempire.wordpress.com/
Creative writers teach in schools, universities and the community, on retreats, in theatres and in workshops. Teaching is often a key part of a writer’s career, and there are rich possibilities creative arts education across a huge range of contexts. But how do you teach creative writing? Can you? This series offers anyone considering teaching creative writing as part of their career development the opportunity to look in detail at the theory and practice of creative writing pedagogy in a variety of institutional and community settings.
The series will address the historical principles and contemporary critiques of creative writing pedagogy, and how these are responding to wider institutional and societal developments. It will consider in detail the theory and practice of employing these pedagogical skills both within and outside higher education. Attendees will be invited to reflect on future possibilities and challenges for the development of creative writing teaching, enabling a deeper awareness and knowledge of creative writing as a subject of study, a future career, and a creative practice.
Students are not expected to attend all the sessions, but the series has been designed to allow for an arc of learning from theoretical principles to practical engagement.
The sessions will take place online via Microsoft Teams, once a month for the 2020/21 academic year.
You can sign up for individual sessions using the links below:
Kick off your academic year with the Web of Science essential tools for researchers
SEPTEMBER 29 AT 11:00 AM BST
Whether you’re an early-career or well-established researcher, the suite of integrated tools from the Web of Science will supercharge your workflow, making every stage of your research journey a smart one. Learn how to make the most of the Web of Science platform and start off the year on the right foot.
The article below is written from the point of view of PhD students in the United States. It describes the experiences of Black, Indigenous and people of colour within a particular field of research but it is an informative framework to consider issues of importance for postgraduate researchers in other disciplines and for the wider postgraduate research community.
CILAVS, the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, is based in the School of Arts and brings together Birkbeck researchers from the departments of Cultures and Languages, History of Art, Film Media and Cultural Studies, Geography, Law, Politics and Psychosocial Studies. Created in 2007, it is now an established hub for research networks in the UK and overseas, promoting the best research on the history and theory of visual culture in the Hispanic and Lusophone worlds and supporting research in the cultures of Iberia, Latin America and the Afro-Hispanic and Afro-Lusophone continent.
The Centre has
attracted very substantial research grants from AHRC, British Academy,
Leverhulme Trust and other bodies, including private donors, and enabled
collaborative doctoral partnerships with organisations outside of higher
education, including the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Royal Society and Victoria
and Albert Museum. CILAVS has also brought to London some of the most
important artists, filmmakers and scholars in the Iberian and Latin American
fields: Carlos Monsiváis, Pedro Costa, Luis Camintzer, Roger Bartra, Jean
Franco, Cecilia Vicuña, John Beverley, Karim Aïnouz and Trifonia Melibea
Obono Ntutumu, to name just a few.
Opportunities for PhD students
CILAVS offers a rich and varied programme of
activities including talks, workshops, film
screenings and festivals. It has also organized conferences, book launches,
exhibitions at Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery and many other public events in
collaboration with other Research Centres in the School of Arts, Birkbeck
Institutes and beyond.
The Centre is
very keen to involve interested Research students from across the College in
its activities and will offer support in the organisation of student-led
activities including, for example, reading groups, workshops, talks and
conferences. Javier Vicente Arenas, currently CILAVS’ student representative
and member of its steering committee, says:
Doctoral research can be a very solitary undertaking. However, for those working or interested in the fields of Iberian and Latin American Studies, CILAVS offers a unique opportunity to meet other students, share our ideas and interests, and showcase our research and academic achievements. This can lead to unexpected synergies among students while having a positive impact on our research and CV. Moreover, CILAVS is keen to support students’ initiatives, so do get involved!
We will love to hear from any Research students at Birkbeck working on any aspect of the cultures of Iberia, Latin America and the Afro-Hispanic and Afro-Lusophone continent. If interested, our contact details are below.