PGR Profile – Joshua Ng







Name: Joo Hou Ng (Joshua)

Discipline: Psychology (Social, Environmental and Organisational Research Group)

Location: Washington Singer Laboratories

What is the working title for your research project?

Acculturation orientations shape international students’ performance in socially distinct spaces on campus.

Can you describe your research project in one sentence?

How the physical and social properties of space, and the possible meanings attached to space via identity goals (i.e. towards host or home acculturation orientations), combine to impact individual performance within different spaces

What is a typical day like for you?

There’s four seasons in the UK (every year), hence, my typical day varies according to the four seasons of PhD life, as below:



Components Elements of the day Venue


Reading and research design Curiosity and creativity In my office


Data collection & data cleaning Professional beggar – begging students to take part in my research projects


Out in the field and various study spaces on campus


Data analyses & write-up report


Anticipation of interesting results; scratching my head on how to report the data results


In my supervisor’s office


Presenting and sharing Enthusiastic about the applications and implications of my research projects


Engaging in different conferences or sharing platform

As some days in spring are similar with some days in winter, and the same is for autumn and winter, and summer and autumn, hence there’s overlapping of days of those four seasons.

The best is – PhD life is actually quite flexible – I get to give myself a break (once in awhile), by resting and spending time with friends for one full day, giving my mind a break from all the research details.

What would you say is your proudest moment during your research journey so far?

The audience of my talk/poster understood my sharing and concluded that my research topic is important and interesting.

What do you like to do when you are not researching?

  1. Coffee chat with like-minded people – exchanging stories, sharing the passion.
  2. Watching movies – I find creativity through reflection on movies

If you could start again, what would be your advice to yourself as a new postgraduate researcher?

  1. Don’t be anxious, go with the flow.
  2. Don’t try to be perfect. Just try to be better than you were.

Can you explain your research in 5 emojis?

  1. 🙏 – Folded hands emoji – Uphold all that I am doing to God in prayers; also seek prayers and support from all my friends, as conducting cutting-edge research is challenging.
  2. 😂 – Face with tears of joy emoji – Learning to laugh at my mistakes and learn from them.
  3. 🙌 – Raising hands emoji – Good cooperation with my supervisors and interns in different research projects
  4. 💜💚❤️ – Love heart emoji – Sharing the passion of my research with my friends, colleagues and participants who took part in my research projects, including the cleaners in different study spaces on campus.
  5. 🎉 – Party popper emoji – Celebrate the success of completing data collection and other small progress/improvements.

Joshua was a runner-up in our 3 Minute Thesis 2018 competition. Watch his 3MT here to find out more about his research.

What Next? Finding the right workplace for your needs and skills – a personal career journey

Cap’N Kelly

Kelly Louise Preece is the Researcher Development Manager for PGRs in the Doctoral College. You’ll recognise her face from workshops, her voice from WEBINARs, and her jokes from the 90s. You can follow her on twitter for musings about Researcher Development and the PGR experience…interspersed with tweets about superheros and sewing.




Last week I was delighted to present at the SWDTP Conference at the SS Great Britain. I was asked by organisers Anastasiia Kovalenko and Debbie Kinsey to talk about careers beyond academia – and more specifically about my career ‘side-step’ from an academic to a professional services role. The ‘personal’ aspect of the presentation resonated with people, so I tweeted a version of the presentation. Here is the twitter thread if you’re interested in what my 5 year old desire to be Queen, and my current job in Researcher Development, have in common…

Ten Steps for Dealing With Feedback, adapted from Get A Life, PhD

Kelly Louise Preece is the Researcher Development Manager for PGRs in the Doctoral College. You’ll recognise her face from workshops, her voice from WEBINARs, and her jokes from the 90s. You can follow her on twitter for musings about Researcher Development and the PGR experience…interspersed with tweets about superheros and sewing.


I really like Get a Life, PhD’s post ‘ How to Respond to a “Revise and Resubmit” from an Academic Journal: Ten Steps to a Successful Revision’ as its practically focused. As such, I adapted the ‘Ten Steps to a Successful Revision’ to develop ‘10 Steps For Dealing with Feedback’ – specifically your supervisor’s feedback on a draft of your thesis – for my How to draft your thesis WEBINAR. Here they are – I’ve used quotation marks to make sure I’m giving Get a Life, PhD due credit 🙂

Step One: Read or listen to the feedback.

Feedback on your draft thesis may come to you in a variety of different ways – an email, as track changes on a word document, or in a supervision. If it is the latter, I would suggest audio recording your supervision – that way, you can focus on discussing how to approach the re-draft rather than making sure you write every word down.

The first thing you need to do is to read or listen to the feedback: carefully.

Step Two: Take some time out.

Don’t try to tackle revisions whilst you’re feeling overwhelmed/angry/lost/confused/hurt…take some time out. Do something for yourself. Watch someone in your Netflix queue. Read a (fiction) book you’ve been dying to get to but not had the time. Go for dinner with the friend you key missing. Spend time with your family. Go away and stay with family/friends for a few days. Treat yourself and get some distance.

Step Three: Create an Excel File to List the Revisions.

When you are ready…

‘Create an Excel file with four columns in which to put the suggestions for revisions.’ Label the columns: “Supervisor”; “Suggestions”; “Response”; “Done?”.

Step Four: Extract the suggestions from the reviewers’ and editors’ letters.

Revisit the feedback ‘to extract the suggestions for revision and put the suggestions in the Excel file. This step requires the painful and painstaking process of closely reading [or listening to] the [feedback] and extracting all of the useful suggestions. On some occasions, the [feedback] can contain useful information, but not relay the information in a congenial fashion. The beauty of this step is that you can rewrite the suggestions and not have to look at the mean-spirited [feedback] again. For example, [your supervisor] might write: “One major problem with this [thesis] is that the research methods are suspect.” You can re-write this as: “Provide a more accurate and complete discussion of the data collection.”’

Step Five: Re-arrange the suggestions for revision in a logical fashion. 

‘Oftentimes, two [supervisors] will both mention in different ways that you need to build up the conceptual framework or the literature review. If you group all of the literature review suggestions together, it will be easier to tackle the revision systematically.’

‘Organizing all of the suggestions for the Introduction, the Literature Review, the data analysis, etc., will make it easier to respond to’. Of course, if done in track changes this is pretty easy, but helps you collate verbal comments etc. with these.

Step Six: Decide how you will respond to all of the suggestions. 

‘If the suggestion is to more clearly define the difference between “transnational” and “transborder,” then you can write: “Add one paragraph to the conceptual framework that clearly explains the difference between transnational and transborder, and why this distinction is useful.” Be sure that the suggestions you lay out for yourself make it clear what the next step is.

Note: Respond to all of the suggestions. There may be some suggestions that you disagree with. This is fine, but you have to make a conscious decision not to respond to any particular suggestion. For example, [your supervisor] might suggest that you return to the archive to explore more biographical features of a certain person. You can respond that this step is not necessary for your argument. Place all of your instructions to yourself for how you will respond in the third column’ for use in your next supervision meeting or when sending through your next draft.

Step Seven: Tackle your revision plan, step by step. 

‘Now that you have made a clear plan for revision by outlining all of the suggestions and have decided how you will respond, you can tackle the revisions one by one. If you feel intimidated, start with the easiest ones. Usually, the easy ones will be something along the lines of: “Find and add a quote from Diana’s interview that elucidates how subjects talk about discrimination.” Even easier: “Add citation from Stephens (2009) about transnationalism from below.”’

Step Eight: Double-check

‘Go back to the original [feedback], and double-check to make sure that you have not missed anything.’

Step Nine: Do a final read-over.

‘Read over your [thesis] to make sure that you have maintained the flow and argument in each chapter and overall, even after having made the revisions. Read it without thinking about the feedback, but imagine a reader who is unaware of your original version or the feedback, as that reader is now your intended audience.’

Get a friend or colleague to give it a read for you. Ask them to give you feedback on clarity, flow and argument, or perhaps just to proof-read it for typos!

Step Ten: Submit!

Either: another draft, or the final thesis!

Written by: Kelly Louise Preece- Researcher Development Manager for PGRs

On crippling inadequacy, #remoteretreat, and chocolate cheesecake brownies

Edward Mills is a PhD student in the Department of Modern Languages. 

I’m now into the third year of my PhD, and — to be brutally, painfully honest — I’m not as far along in the project as I’d hoped I would be. After a tricky (albeit ultimately successful) upgrade viva, which knocked me back a bit, I’m still, to this day, terrified by the idea that my thesis might not be sufficiently rigorous, or have a sufficient theoretical underpinning, to merit completion, let alone examination.

One response to this problem, of course, is to read about it, and indeed there’s long been something of a cottage industry surrounding ‘how-to-write-a-thesis’ books. These books take several forms, and describe themselves in many ways, with recent examples variously proffering ‘blueprints’ for writing practice, ‘bodies of ideas’ for students and supervisors, and (in one case) claiming to be an out-and-out ‘guide to the secrets’ of the PhD process. The volume that’s been doing the rounds in my brain recently, though, dates from 2014: Eric Hayot’s The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities. The name references the famous Elements of Style, a fact that Hayot himself cheekily acknowledges in his introduction. If the classic work is predominantly a style guide, though, it’s Hayot’s comments on writing practice that have rung truest with me as I reflect on what’s really been holding me back over the last twelve months. In his chapter, ‘Eight Strategies for Getting Writing Done’, Hayot offers a very honest observation not on how he writes, but rather on how — or why — he doesn’t write. What gets in the way?

Let’s start with fear. I am terrified — seriously terrified — of academic writing. Nothing that I do confronts me as strongly with a fear of total, consuming incompetence and inadequacy. (Hayot, p. 17)

Dramatic? Predictably. Over-the-top? Possibly. Accurate? Painfully. Hayot absolutely nails the role played by fear in inhibiting academic writing, and on reflection, I’ve come to realise that this is an absolutely accurate description of what goes on in my head. It was a pattern repeated throughout my second year: I’d turn up to work in the morning and, sitting at my desk, feel a rising sense of panic as the minutes ticked by. Week by week, I would see the self-imposed chapter deadline creeping closer, but for some reason, even opening up my writing software felt like the hardest thing to do. Clicking on that little icon at the bottom of the screen would mean that I’d have to look again at what I’d written earlier, and inevitably conclude that it ‘didn’t sound right’ or ‘didn’t make sense’. Never mind that it was an early draft; that it could all be improved later; that beating myself up wouldn’t help a jot. Perusing the padded, pathetic prose that paraded in front of me always seemed to bring back that nagging fear: I’m simply not good enough for this. Worse still, comparing myself with the performative culture of academic Twitter, where everyone seemed to be doing just fine, left me in a double-bind: I felt as though I didn’t know what I was doing, and even if I somehow managed to work it out, I’d never catch up with my friends who were merrily finishing chapters, writing articles, and teaching specialist courses in medieval literature.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but my response to that fear, over my second year, was largely to run away from it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, I produced a lot of other ‘stuff’ during my second year, teaching Madame Bovary to first-year undergraduates, talking to a lot of school students about the medieval period, playing in two orchestras, competing with a local brass band, representing the University at chess (badly), designing posters and conference programmes, and gaining a rowing coaching qualification. These are all things I’m glad to have done, but none of them were the reason why I was (somehow) being funded. Instead, these were prime examples of what Hayot calls ‘virtuous procrastination’: the kind of things that keep you incredibly busy during the day and are fulfilling and rewarding, but which, on closer inspection, do nothing whatsoever to pop the rapidly-expanding bubble of ‘thesis panic’ that you feel every time you look at the calendar and realise it’s already March. Hayot astutely identifies teaching, which many PGRs do, as one such example:

Academics who procrastinate have a hard time noticing that they’re doing so, mainly because they have moved beyond the more obvious forms of undergraduate procrastination (going out with friends, playing video games, frequent tanning, etc.) to its advanced and subtler virtuous modes. […] Writing (as opposed to teaching) makes us feel weak and afraid; serves only ourselves; and is not, on a weekly basis, the subject of any institutional demand. (Hayot, p. 27)

In short, I’d been busy but not productive, picking the low-hanging fruit wherever I could and trying desperately to cover up a lack of progress with the gloopy papier-mâché of tempting side-projects. So what changed? Well, I certainly haven’t found the magic cure for writing fear: whenever I start writing, I’ll always be thinking (at least partly) about the many medievalists out there who are obviously much better than me. Nor have I simply absorbed the entire contents of Eric Hayot’s book: like the chocolate cheesecake brownies available in the Queen’s Building café, it’s a thing best enjoyed in small chunks. What I have done, though, is stumbled across something that’s helped me to face the fear, and reduce procrastination into the bargain: Twitter. The same website that can be so soul-crushingly performative also has its lighter side; in my case, it’s been the #remoteretreat hashtag.

The principle behind #remoteretreat is very simple: it’s effectively a distance version of the ‘writing retreats’ that have become increasingly popular in recent years as an antidote to the somewhat-isolating nature of Humanities PhDs. The key principle of a ‘retreat’, or indeed of any shared writing endeavour such as ‘Shut Up and Write’ or Exeter’s own ‘Write Club’, is one of mutual support. You work in ‘blocks’ throughout the day, safe in the knowledge that other PhD students are doing the same, and you come together on Twitter at the end of each session to share (i) your results, and (ii) GIFs of food and tea. The main advantage of #remoteretreat for me has been its consistency: since it’s decentralised, a different person can run each day’s session, and it allows me to work from my (fairly quiet) office while still feeling part of a writing community. On any given day, there’s a good chance that someone, somewhere will be running a session: I just check in, say hi, and — once I’ve started — usually find that producing something, however rough-and-ready it may be, becomes much less scary.

Of course, a ‘solution’ like this isn’t for everyone, and certainly shouldn’t be taken as a silver bullet. Nor am I entirely ‘cured’ of the fear of writing: if you’re reading this a month, or even a week, after it was published, there’s still a good chance that I might right now be curled up in a corner, terrified of opening up Microsoft Word yet again. I certainly do feel better, though, and would recommend having a go at anything that allows you to break out of the bubble of PhD study and channel your desire to work into a productive community. The Doctoral College here in Exeter is running a range of workshops and writing groups throughout November as part of WriteFest!, and I’d heartily encourage you to attend at least a couple.

Oh, and one last thing: I don’t mean to imply by any stretch of the imagination that everything you do as a doctoral student can be classified either as procrastination or as thesis-writing. Other activities are important, and — in all seriousness — play a crucial role in helping you to maintain your focus throughout the PhD process. I may have started writing again, but I’m certainly not going to follow this up by quitting all of my side-projects.

After all, if it were ‘thesis-or-bust’, then writing this blog post would itself be a fine example of virtuous procrastination, and that can’t possibly be right.

Join in the Remote Retreats, running most days of the week, using the hashtag #remoteretreat. You can follow Edward on Twitter (@edwards_mills); thoughts, comments and cute GIFs are all very much appreciated.

Elsevier’s Early Career Researcher UK Awards 2018

Catherine is a PhD researcher in the Centre for Research in Ageing and Cognitive Health (REACH) at the University of Exeter. Her PhD research examines how people with dementia use social media. In 2016, Catherine graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc (Hons) degree in psychology. She is a cyberpsychologist interested in online communities and health research. She is also interested in internet-mediated research ethics, digital methods, and body image. Catherine is also the Vice-Chair of PsyPAG, a national organisation for postgraduate psychologists.

On Thursday 4th October, I attended Elsevier’s Early Career Researcher UK Awards ceremony at the Royal Society. I attended this event because I had been shortlisted for Elsevier’s Researchers’ Choice Communication Award. Elsevier’s Early Career Researcher Awards recognise and reward outstanding early career researchers who make a significant contribution to their field of research. I felt extremely honoured and nervous to attend this event as I was the only PhD student who was shortlisted for the science communication award. My nerves soon subsided after I met everyone, who are all friendly, like-minded people with a passion for research. Attending the event gave me the opportunity to meet a number of early-career researchers, professors, and people working for Elsevier who were able to advise me on my career. Meeting these inspirational people reinvigorated my love of research and boosted my confidence to pursue a career in this field.

What is Science communication?

Science communication is a fantastic way of enhancing public awareness of science and provides us with the opportunity to engage with and consider different perspectives (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, & Medicine, 2017). Scientific findings should be available to all and by communicating the findings of our research, we can ensure our findings aren’t limited to a journal which is only accessible to fellow academics. There are many different ways of engaging in science communication such as using social media, engaging with journalists, giving public talks, and using the arts.

Why was I nominated?

I was shortlisted for the award because of my research which examined the culture of bonespiration – an online trend that encourages social media account holders to achieve extremely thin bodies (Open access paper available via Following a number of radio interviews and discussions with journalists, my research received international media attention. I also worked with Devon-based artist Phillippa Mills to produce an exhibition which was influenced by my research. This was a great way of relaunching my work. It was incredible to see my research translated into art where so many people could look at the issue I highlighted from a different perspective.

Dr Caroline Ardrey, Dr Joanne Jordan, and I were shortlisted for the award. Dr Caroline Ardrey is a a lecturer in Modern Languages at the University of Birmingham. Caroline is currently in the process of putting together a new project which uses Social Network Analysis techniques from statistics and the social sciences to analyse the creative networks of Paris in the 1860s and 1870s. Through a range of events, including the launch of an augmented reality smartphone app which simulates engagement with archival materials, and a series of hackathons for school pupils, this project seeks to make research findings accessible to a wider audience.

The winner of the Researchers’ Choice Communication award was Dr Joanne Jordan. Dr Joanne Jordan’s project ‘The Lived Experience of Climate Change’ is based on research looking at urban climate resilience and how land tenure affects adaptation to climate change in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The project engaged residents of an informal settlement in the research findings, and built awareness and action on their everyday accounts of living with climate change through an interactive theatre performance. Subsequent theatre performances, documentary films, educational programmes, and public events were then used to engage a much wider set of international and national audiences. Joanne has brought her work to over 235,000 people including study participants, policy makers, practitioners, academics, students and the public.

Attending this event was a fantastic opportunity and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I would like to extend my congratulations to Caroline and Joanne. Even though I didn’t win the award I am extremely grateful to have been shortlisted. I hope this blog post will encourage postgraduates to not shy away from science communication!

References: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Communicating science effectively: a research agenda. National Academies Press.

Written By: Catherine Talbot, PhD Researcher in College of Medicine and Health. You can find out more about Catherine and her Research by following her on twitter @Catherinetalb