The long-awaited SPA Post-graduate Applications Workshop was held this past Thursday, the 10th of March. If you wanted to go but didn’t get the chance, here are the highlights of the event to keep you informed on the realities of social science postgraduate applications! The workshop was conducted by Jess Wiemer, second year Anthropology student,in partnership with the SPA department as a Students as Change Agents project. Talks lasted approximately an hour and a half, followed by a chance to chat with the speakers over refreshments. The subject of postgraduate applications in sociology, philosophy, or anthropology was approached from four different perspectives by the four speakers.
The first was Professor Susan Kelly, one of the Sociology Professors in the department and Director of Post-Graduate Studies in SPA. She spoke about how to write post-graduate proposals. She provided excellent resources for good proposal writing in the forms of books and websites, including Przeworski and Salomon’s The Art of Writing Proposals (1995) and the ESRC guidance to research grant proposals found at http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-applicants/how-to-write-a-good-research-grant-proposal/. She explained how to justify the costs of the research and connect to the research interests of potential supervisors and concluded by discussing the typical structure of a proposal.
The second speaker was Dr. Andrea Butcher, anthropology lecturer at the University of Exeter. She spoke about the importance of collaborative research and how to profile oneself for these collaborations. She explained the changing values placed on the social sciences and emphasised the current requirements to demonstrate impact outside of academia. She spoke about how interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaborations can help provide funding for research through the demonstration of social, economic, or political impact. She provided links to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) website, which gives information on the expectations of research (http://www.ref.ac.uk/), and to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Consortium website, which includes a list of different collaborative organisations (http://www.ahrc-cdp.org/about/). She concluded by stressing the importance of networking and making yourself known through online profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter and through joining organisations like the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA).
The third speaker was Lauren Redfern, Exeter Alumni and MA student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She spoke about post-graduate education and how to use your undergraduate degree to your advantage. She explained how skills acquired through experience may be even more relevant than academic excellence, and that these skills can come from areas which may not always seem relevant to the future research project. Drawing on her own experience she explained how her internship with an anthropological filmmaker give her the research skillsshe could highlight in her application for a medical research Masters programme. She explained that mixed methods are becoming more common and asked for in the social sciences and stressed interdisciplinary collaboration. She concluded by stating that the most important thing to keep in mind when developing research is to focus on an area that is needed.
The final speaker was Ashley Kilgallon, Exeter Alumni and PhD student at the University of Leeds. She spoke about the process of application to publication and the realities of the PhD journey. She also stressed the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the social sciences. She provided an example from her own research of the Police Liaison Teams of the Metropolitan Police Service. She explained that it was collaborating with the police force that provided her with the access needed to conduct her research. Collaboration, she explained, built trust between her and the employees of the Metropolitan Police Service. She then made several useful suggestions on how to conduct oneself in an interview for applications to research programmes. She stressed the importance of networking, field work, and having passion for your research. She concluded by noting that what makes you stand out is your drive, and to demonstrate this you must stay true to your character no matter what.
The SPA Post-Grad Applications Workshop was one of many events conducted to inform students about careers and postgraduate education within the social sciences. The event was a wonderful opportunity to ask questions about the postgraduate journey to those who have already, or are currently, experiencing it. The speakers provided helpful advice on writing proposals, getting grants, conducting research, and publishing material. Informally chatting with them over refreshments afterward was a great way to network and to gain knowledge on the realities of social science academia. The SPA department at the University of Exeter continues to collaborate with the Careers office and Students as Change Agents projects to develop creative programmes and events to support its students. If you desire to organise an event, create your own Students as Change Agents project to make your idea into a reality!