‘messy’ PhD training

Universities already offer plenty of excellent training available to postgraduate researchers for ‘how to’ conduct research. My workshops complement university-led training to address the many ‘messier’ components of doing research, which are less commonly discussed and for which there aren’t always clear ‘how to’ guides. These include, among others:

  • dealing with unexpected problems and surprises in research
  • responding to work guilt, shame, demotivation, imposter syndrome
  • fostering greater academic confidence and joy in research
  • reframing negative experiences or feelings during the research journey
  • learning to trust your own individual research intuition and work rhythms

I believe that peer-led sharings and insight can often provide the most effective and helpful advice for PGRs. So, my workshops encourage plenty of discussions between participants, generating dynamic and interactive exchanges, collaborative peer-generated advice, and valuable opportunities to connect with and learn from other researchers.

In this workshop, participants will:

  • discuss the different reasons and motivations behind doing research
  • be reminded of the importance and value of their research
  • find new ways to bring these motivations and passions to the forefront of their daily work routines (especially during the challenging, low moments in the PhD)
  • learn the Next Moment Method, for addressing difficult situations with greater ease and uplift
  • learn new practical suggestions for incorporating greater joy into their everyday work and routines

Instead of trying to ‘fix’ problems and/or ignore difficulties, participants will be guided to find ways of accepting and embracing the more uncomfortable moments of demotivation, things going wrong, personal problems, anxiety etc. and learning to engage them as a helpful resource instead.

This session will feature a mix of whole group discussions, small group (peer-led) discussions and a substantial ‘teaching’ component. I will offer the following suggested ‘methods’ in the training:

  • Not chasing the motivation
  • How can messiness in the PhD be a good thing?
  • What to do when things go wrong
  • Journaling / meditation prompts for working through blocks

This training will encourage participants to set common ‘productivity’ guidelines aside and to find their own optimal working practices (and be accepting and comfortable of them).

We will cover:

  • Finding your best work groove
  • Making procrastination work for you
  • The efficacy of and inspired action that comes from not making plans
  • Incorporating active rest into your working life

This session will feature a mix of whole group discussions, small group (peer-led) discussions and a substantial ‘teaching’ component. I will offer the following suggested ‘methods’ in the training:

Based on the successful How to Thrive and Survive in Your PhD project (which I helped to set-up in 2018 and coordinated throughout 2020 at the University of York), this workshop is shaped primarily around small group peer discussions.

I work on the premise that in many instances, the best, most practical advice for navigating the diverse challenges of doctoral research comes from others from the PGR community who are on the same journey as each other. So, instead of being ‘taught’ in the way of conventional training sessions, the advice and guidance shared in these sessions are almost entirely generated from and shared by participants themselves.

By these peer-led discussions, participants are encouraged to:

  • recognise that others experience many of the same concerns as themselves
  • recognise that while others feel the same anxieties, the PhD journey can be and look very different for each individual; there is no one way to conduct doctoral research.
  • learn the diverse strategies and methods that other PhD students employ to address the challenges of the PhD.
  • share with each other methods and tips that have worked for them, and thus to help each other ‘solve’ any issues they may be struggling within in their PhD journey.

As the trainer, I facilitate structured, small-group discussions and offer guided questions for participants to discuss among themselves on common issues/concerns faced by PhD candidates at various stages of their PhD, including:

  • finding the right working habits/schedule
  • time and project management
  • academic confidence
  • what to do when things go wrong
  • extracurricular activity (conferences, teaching etc)
  • personal and professional development
  • work-life balance, health and social life