A toolbox for overcoming challenges and finding your way out of a rut

Kelly Louise Preece is the Researcher Development Manager for PGRs iand the Research and EDI Manager. You’ll recognise her face from workshops, her voice from WEBINARs, and her jokes from the 90s. You can follow her on twitter @Preece_Kelly and subscribe to her podcast for musings about researchers, development…and everything in between!  

 

 

 

Last week myself and my job share, Kathryn Coombes, travelled to Penryn to run a couple of face-to-face Lego Serious Play sessions. For those who haven’t attended one of our LSP sessions yet, LSP is a problem-solving methodology, developed by Lego. It is, quite simply, a tool to think through and reflect on problems. We use LSP to deal with some of the more challenging and ephemeral aspects of the PGR experience – for example dealing with writer’s block and finding your way out of a rut.

During the Finding your way out of a rut using Lego Serious Play session we develop a shared ‘toolbox’ for overcoming challenges. The toolbox developed in our sessions last week was particularly useful, and so we wanted to share it here.

  1. Before you start – stop and reflect. Rather than just diving in, think about the problem or challenge ahead of you and what you might need to do to overcome it.
  2. At this point, you may also want to identify your goal or outcome to help you focus on the problem more clearly. This may be setting a deadline, a particular ‘output’ (a presentation, journal article, draft of a chapter) or the answer to a question or problem.
  3. Break it down. Whilst have a goal is important, goals are often big and unmanageable – and therefore demotivating. If your goal is to write a draft of a thesis chapter, break it down in to smaller tasks – reviewing your notes, making a plan, writing individual sections. Smaller tasks are more achievable, less intimidating and help motivate us. You can find some useful resources on this in our Project managing your research degree online resource.
  4. Do your research. Use your skills and do what you do best. If you are stuck in a rut – perhaps you are struggling for motivation after your upgrade – do your research. What strategies exist for maintaining motivation? Can you undertake any training to help? (Hint you can – it’s called maintaining momentum and focus after your upgrade and you can watch a recording of the session on Exeter Learning Environment or access our online resources.)
  5. Talk to other people. Chances are someone in your immediate circle, one of your peers, a postdoc in your department, or even a friend of family member has experienced something similar. Talk the problem through with them. Ask them how they overcame it. What strategies did they develop? They may have helpful solutions – but sometimes just talking through a problem can help you think through a problem or feel less alone.
  6. Use your supervisors. Their role isn’t to solve the problem for you, but it is to guide you. They have oversight and perspective on your project or work as an outsider. Use it. They have also likely been through similar experiences – ask them how they dealt with it.
  7. Get creative. We tend to work in set ways, which work for us most of the time. You might have a set strategy for planning a piece of written work, for instance. But what can you do when it doesn’t work – if you get stuck? Do it differently. Simple tools like mind mapping, using post it notes, or even playing with Lego can help you visualise a problem differently, think critically and creatively and come up with solutions.
  8. Rest. We tend to think the answer to productivity or overcoming a problem is to keep working at it. But it isn’t. We need rest to recharge our literal and metaphorical batteries, but also to let our ideas percolate. There’s a reason why we have our lightbulb moments when we are doing something else – our brains are processing the information and making connections subconsciously. So having rest, and taking breaks, is one of the most important tools in your box. Kay Guccione calls it #TakeBreaksMakeBreakthroughs.
  9. As well as rest, relax. Rest and relaxation are not the same thing – something I have learned the hard way! Engage in activities that nourish and energise you – going for a coffee with a friend, binging the latest Netflix phenomenon, walking, reading, cooking, cycling…whatever floats your boat. For me, its all forms of crafting (knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery…) and building Lego.
  10. When it’s over – stop and reflect. We learn more in our personal and professional lives from when things go wrong than when they go right. When you have overcome that challenge or got out of that metaphorical rut, reflect. What happened? What strategies did you use to overcome it? How did you cope physical and emotionally? What helped you relax? Who did it really helped to talk to? Through reflection, you can refine your toolbox and build something bespoke to you.

Tanya’s final model capturing both her rut, and strategies to overcome it.

With thanks to Raul Di La Fuento Pino, Hao Lu, Tanya Venture and Kathryn Coombes for the discussions and insights captured in this blog post.

Supervising Neurodiverse PGRs

Kelly Louise Preece is the Researcher Development Manager for PGRs iand the Research and EDI Manager. You’ll recognise her face from workshops, her voice from WEBINARs, and her jokes from the 90s. You can follow her on twitter @Preece_Kelly for musings about researchers, development…and everything in between! 

 

 

 

 

One of the challenges of PGR supervision is that it is a bespoke form of teaching, directed towards supporting an individual. Every PGR, and every project, will need the supervisor to reflect and modify their approach to ensure the success of the student and the project. This ‘bespoke’ nature of supervision becomes more complex when it interacts with some form of impairment from outside of the research process.

I spoke to two of our neurodiverse gradutes, Dr. Jane May Morrison and Dr. Edward Mills, about their experience of being a neurodivergent PGR for my podcast Researchers, Development, and the In-Betweens. From this insightful conversation, I have distilled some advice for supervising neurodiverse PGRs.

Awareness raising

 An important part of supervising neurodiverse PGRs in raising your awareness of the challenges associated with different conditions. Information is the key. You can do your own research but be aware that the media and popular culture tend to feed into stereotypes rather than representing the nuanced experience of neurodiversity (for example, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory is a classic example a one-dimensional representation of autism). The best thing you can do is talk to your student. Every neurodivergent condition, and every individual’s experience of that condition, is different. Your student is the expert, so just be willing to listen and learn.

ILPs can help – but make use of the Supervision Agreement

Individual Learning Plans are a challenge for PGRs because they tend to focus on undergraduates. Traditional recommendations for extra exam time don’t apply, but that doesn’t mean a discussion of adjustments isn’t helpful. Supervisors could us the ILP alongside the Supervision Agreement to discuss individual needs. For example, a student with ADHD might need more structured deadlines, and a student with autism might need clearer more direct communication. Teasing out these challenges can help supervisors and PGRs deal with them more proactively throughout the research process.

Engage in meta-communication

Something you may need to do with neurodiverse PGRs is engage in meta-communication. There are ways we traditionally communicate in academia, for example when giving feedback, that can be vague and obtuse for students with autism. Talking through and reflecting on the ways you communicate can ensure that advice, directions and feedback is clear and understood! This isn’t just the case with neurodiverse PGRs – meta-communication would benefit all PGRs to ensure clarity and more productive ways of working.

Be prepared to challenge academic conventions and ways of doing

A lot of neurodiverse PGRs face challenges due to academic conventions. They experience a lack of flexibility, or willingness to do these differently, based on the idea that ‘this is just how things are done’. This perpetuates an ableist idea that maybe academic isn’t ‘for them’. Be prepared to question why we do things in certain ways, and to find different ways of working where necessary.

For further insight, why not listen to the podcast?

Why we will continue to Shut Up and Write

Many of you will have seen on Twitter that we have reached the end of out University of Exeter Alumni Annual Funded Supporting PGR Writing Project. But never fear – the practice, and the community it has created, is here to stay. You will have noticed a number of changes over the past few months – a rebranding as Shut Up and Write (SUAW), a new name and logo for the Microsoft Team, a new webpage, and a new Twitter account. In response to MANY requests, we’ve even got our own T-Shirt, which you can now purchase from Inkthreadable (sold at cost price!). These changes are to help us – and by us I mean tour amazing PGRs – better communicate what we do to University of Exeter PGRs, and the rest of the sector.

As part of this, I will be working with members of the SUAW community to write a collaboratively authored journal article. This article will share the initial aims for the project, and how it changed and evolved due to a) COVID-19 and b) the PGR community. A large portion of the article will be auto-ethnographic stories and lived experiences of the PGR community, and the impact SUAW has had on them and their research.

To prepare us for our first ‘writing day’ on Thursday 26th August (email k.preece@exeter.ac.uk if you would like to join us!) we are asking the SUAW community to describe SUAW in 3 words. We are using Menti to collect and visualise the responses, and will use them alongside a literature review to develop collaborative writing tasks for the day. So we have a request – can you describe SUAW in 3 words for us please? So far we have 30 responses and some themes are already developing. Given we have over 200 members of the SUAW ‘team’, we would love to get over 100 responses to give us some robust, representative data to work with. Here’s what we have so far…

I want to end by sharing my heartfelt thanks to the PGRs who have embraced SUAW as their own, and made it in to the kind of vibrant, supportive community we couldn’t have imagined when the project started. The impact these sessions have had, especially during COVID-19, has been transformational. The journal article is being written collaboratively to truly represent what this project has been – a collaboration, made possible by our amazing PGRs. Thank you.

Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager

Exploring the Key Components of Public Engagement

Megan Maunder is a third year PhD student in Mathematics, CEMPS at the University of Exeter. She is the beneficiary of an STFC studentship for a “Multi-Spacecraft Investigation of Solar and Heliospheric Plasmas”.  A strong believer in engaging the wider public in the scientific process, she runs a variety of outreach and public engagement sessions with the University’s Widening Participation Team and external groups. She is currently the Advocacy Team lead for the Royal Astronomical Society’s Early Career Researcher Network, working to creating more inclusive and accessible environments within Astronomy and Geophysics.

Throughout June the Researcher Development and Research Culture team ran events as part of a new series funded by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, exploring the key components of Public Engagement:

  • An Introduction Public Engagement and Evaluation for Engagement
  • Creative Engagement Methods
  • Co-production in Research
  • Impactful Public Engagement with Research

The four sessions were led by public engagement experts from across the University and showcased a range of disciplines, activities, and approaches including multi-disciplinary and co-produced public engagement case studies. A variety of career researchers attended, from those getting started to those looking to develop new projects and hone their expertise.

Here are some Top Tips from our sessions to help guide you:

  • Make sure to have an ‘elevator pitch’ Prepare a few sentences to describe your research in jargon-free language for a non-specialist audience. Having this ready to go is a good foundation for starting your public engagement journey.
  • Ask around, find out what projects already exist, and talk to those already involved. There are often meaningful funded opportunities for early career researchers to start their own projects or get involved in existing ones. Learning about what others are doing can be a source of inspiration and advice; there may be existing projects you can get involved in.
  • Focus on your audience. The ‘public’ is not a homogenous group; there are different types of publics, think about what group you specifically want to target, what you already know about them, and why they might interested in your research and how that fits in a broader context. Your sessions and plans should be aimed at this group. This is key to developing meaningful engagement.
  • Think about your motivations. Why you want to get involved in public engagement, what you hope to get out of it? You may even focus on working with a group that can help you with your work and focus on creating co-produced research creating a clear two-way dialogue with your target group. Using Logic Models may help with this as you develop your plan.
  • Think about the logistics, not just costs, locations but evaluate how much of your time you can commit to a project. How much time is involved in preparation and development, delivering content and hosting events, and then time spent on post-production like editing and impact evaluation?
  • How are you going to evaluate the impacts of your activities? Think about what evidence you might need and how you are going to store and analyse any data, especially if this is required by your funder. Remember to check if you need ethics approval!

A huge thank you is extended to all our session presenters and to those who presented their work and case studies.

A suite of resources exploring these concepts in more detail, developed by Megan, will be available on our ELE page in the coming weeks.

How to survive a viva: new online resources coming soon

Edward Mills (@edward_mills) is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, working on the AHRC-funded ‘Learning French in Medieval England’ project. He completed his PhD at the University of Exeter in 2020, where he was an active member of the PGR community.

 

 

 

Regular readers of this blog will likely already be familiar with the range of workshops, and webinars that the Researcher Development and Research Culture team offers to PGRs. During the pandemic, a number of PGRs have been working with Researcher Development to add an asynchronous element to this suite of offerings, and have put together a wide range of resources for the Researcher Development ELE page on all aspects of the doctoral experience. These range from advice on working with your supervisors specific tips for writing journal articles; and as I write this, ten of these resources are available, with more to follow in the near future. All of these resources are built around the principle of being ‘by PGRs, for PGRs’; that is, they draw on our own experiences to ensure that they are as relevant and precise as possible. While (much to my surprise) I’m no longer a PGR myself, I have been delighted to be able to be involved with the project in a related capacity, and one that also draws on my own experiences: over the past few months, I’ve produced a virtual ‘workbook’ on the topic of the viva.

The resources will soon go live on the Doctoral College’s ELE site, and I’m really pleased with how they turned out. In putting my resources together, I tried very hard not to reinvent the wheel: since the viva’s such an established part of any research degree journey, there’s an enormous amount of fairly generic advice out there that can be found with even a cursory Google search, which didn’t need repeating in another format. Instead, I decided to focus in on the multimedia potential of resources on ELE, and chose to structure much of the resource around interviews with three experienced supervisors and examiners, interviewed by a recent ‘viva survivor’. Each of these academics — Bice Maiguaschca, in Politics, Jon Blount, in CLES, and Michelle Bolduc, from Modern Languages and Cultures — was incredibly generous with their time, and the end result is three fascinating conversations that really illuminate the more commonly-overlooked aspects of the end-of-thesis period. Is it possible to pass a viva if your examiners disagree with you? Does publising extracts of your thesis prior to the viva render you ‘intouchable’? How can you best handle in-viva nerves? Answers to all of these questions, and more, await your ears, and are available both as excerpts scattered throughout the the resource and as full episodes three episodes of Kelly Louise Preece’s podcast, R, D, and the In-Betweens.

I really hope that you find the resources useful, and that the podcasts make for interesting listening. As ever, feedback is more than welcome, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions, comments, or musings on all things viva-related!

Working with policymakers

Last week we ran a question and answer panel with some of our researchers about working with policymakers. Kelly Preece (Researcher Development Manager) developed the following infographics to summarise the key ideas discussed in the session.

With huge thanks to Dr. Jonathan Doney, Dr. Sariqa Wagley and Ellie Hassan for their contributions to the panel. You can also access a series of webinars on working with policymakers, developed by Jonathan, on our ELE page.

Dealing with Challenges Using Lego Serious Play

 

A couple of weeks ago we held another of our popular Lego Serious Play sessions on dealing with challenges during your research degree. The session enabled PGRs to talk through their experiences with their peers and share strategies for addressing these problems. Attendees also learnt how to use Lego Serious Play to think about problems in a new way, leading to creative and innovative problem solving skills. Here are some of the models produced as part of the session!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall feedback in terms of coping strategies and actions when facing challenges were:

  • To remember the motivation for why you started your research
  • Set small achievable goals as bigger picture can be overwhelming
  • It is useful to talk with your peers, as you are living a shared experience
  • The importance of self-care and looking after your mental wellbeing
  • Strategies to overcome imposter syndrome (don’t forget to check out our blog post on our Encountering Imposter Syndrome session!)

We will be running this session again in the Autumn term – why not come along and learn a new problem solving technique, discuss and share experiences of the challenges of being a PGR – and play with Lego!

Doing Interdisciplinary Research

Last week we ran a question and answer panel with some of our researchers about the challeneges and benefits of doing interdisciplinary research. Kelly Preece (Researcher Development Manager) developed the following infographics to summarise the key ideas discussed in the session.

With huge thanks to Dr. Victoria Omotoso, Issy Sawkins, Gemma Delafield and Léna Prouchet for their time and contributions to the panel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing non-academic job applications

This post is written by Cate Bennett, Researcher Development Manager (ECRs) and is part of our new PGR Career Planning Guide.

Just like your CV an application form is your personal marketing document. It is your opportunity to introduce ‘you’ to a potential employer and therefore your first opportunity to showcase the relevant skills, experiences and personal attributes that you have and that they are looking for.  Your key focus must be to tailor your application to the role.

Before you compose anything, have you …

1.    Carefully read the form, accompanying documents and instructions through from start to finish? Ask yourself: do I have all the information to hand that I will need to complete this form successfully?

The above may sound obvious, but you’ll be amazed at how many people don’t do this and then find they are wasting time hunting for key pieces of information, for example; key dates, names of qualifications, examining body details, employers’ addresses and strong examples to showcase evidence. Remember, follow instructions to the letter and don’t leave sections blank, unless you really have nothing relevant to say.

On top of all of this, many forget to seek the permission of their potential referees. It is vital that you ask whether they are happy to be your referee; if you don’t, you may find that a reference won’t be forthcoming!

2.    Carried out your research? Ask yourself: what do I know about this organisation and the sector it operates within?

Your research should not be limited to the organisation’s website and application materials. Often you can find out a lot about an organisation through following them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook etc. Read the press and sector specific magazines and journals.

You may, through reviewing your own network, identify individuals who have knowledge of your organisation of choice. Using LinkedIn Alumni may help you identify graduates from the University of Exeter who are working within the sector you are trying to break into and even the company you are applying to. Why not use your common experience of studying/researching at Exeter as a way to connect through LinkedIn and start a conversation!

Attending employer events and fairs run through the University and elsewhere will also provide you with opportunities to have key conversations with recruiters.

3.    Identified the key elements your potential employer is seeking? Ask yourself: if I was the recruiter what would make this application form stand out for me?

Pay very close attention to the advert, job description and person specification.

If, in the advertising materials for the post, you are offered the opportunity to find out more about the role before applying, embrace it! Make contact with the person listed and prepare for your conversation in advance. Don’t ask questions for which the answers could be easily found through the website, or application materials. Think about what you need to know to support your decision making around whether the role and the organisation are right for you and to help you target your application further.

4.    Explored and understood the language of the sector and organisation? Ask yourself: does this organisation use an applicant tracking system (ATS)?

An applicant tracking system helps companies organize candidates for hiring and recruitment purposes. These systems allow businesses to collect information, organize prospects based on experience and skill set, and filter applicants’. 

Although you may not be able to find out whether an ATS is used (currently, it appears to be large organisations that utilise them), taking time to do your background research and looking at the language in the recruitment literature and on the organisation’s web pages will give you the opportunity to use the language that an ATS will be looking for. Try to weave this naturally through your application form and remember:

  • No spelling mistakes! The ATS will miss important keywords if misspelled.
  • Consider the keywords, buzzwords, technical terms, experience and skills used in the organisation’s recruitment material and in the industry
5.    Identified your skills and personal attributes and the experiences you will use to evidence these? Ask yourself: what are the essential and desirable criteria for this role? What else have I learnt about this role through my research and discussions? What experiences will therefore allow me to evidence my most relevant skills and personal attributes?

Don’t just consider standard work or study based examples; what other things have you done or do you do that makes up who you are? Always keep in mind relevance; you are looking for examples across your various experiences that will allow you to evidence skills, experience, enthusiasm and potential. Don’t forget that some experiences that, on the one hand, may not seem related to the role, on the other may be ideal for showcasing the development of key transferable skills that you can’t showcase from more directly related examples.

6.    Considered the language you will use to confidently convey your potential and enthusiasm through the examples you use?

Make it positive, for example, don’t use ‘I feel’, ‘I think’, ‘I had to’. You need to confidently convey your actions using ‘power verbs’. You may find the information found via this link will help you get into the swing of this technique:#.

 

Now that you are ready to start composing your personal statement and/or answer questions posed by the employer on the application form, consider the following …

1.    If the application form comprises a personal statement section i.e. the blank box which gives you the opportunity to explain why you are applying for the role and why you are suitable, how will you design it so that it’s easy to see how you match the key criteria laid down?  Below is just one approach you could consider:

  • An introductory paragraph that sets the scene i.e. explains why you are interested in the organisation and role;
  • Followed by a themed approach to showcasing how you meet the essential and desirable criteria. i.e. can you theme the elements of the desirable and essential criteria into simple headings and then provide the relevant evidence as to how you meet the criteria? Although theming may not always be possible, where it is, it will may make it much easier for the recruiter to spot how you meet their requirements, rather than trawling through long paragraphs of text trying to identify them. Unless instructed otherwise, it is often suitable to break-up paragraphs with bullet points, allowing you to highlight the key elements you want to stand out. When providing an example to showcase skills and experience, consider using the STAR technique (see section 2 below for details);
  • Brief summary, but not a repetition, of your interest in the role and organisation.

Remember: make the recruiters life easy, don’t write a novel, use a logical structure, be succinct, to the point and provide evidence to back-up your claims. Follow instructions, including those relating to word count or number of pages! If there are no such instructions, often 2-3 pages of A4 is suitable, but if in doubt you can always contact the organisation for clarification.

2.      You may find that the application form contains competency based questions. To answer these successfully you’ll need to identify the specific competency/competencies sought. Where this/these may not be obvious, you may find it helpful to refer back to the person specification and job description. Your next step is to pick a strong example from previous or current experience that will help you evidence not only the skill, but the level of your competence in using it. Read the question carefully, if you are being asked for ‘an example of a time when you …’ use one example only.

To help you with structuring your answer and writing succinctly, try using the STAR technique:

S – briefly describe the Situation

T – briefly describe the Task (often you can combine the S&T)

A – clearly explain the Action you took. This is the section in which you provide the detail of what YOU did. Here you must talk about ‘I’. The recruiter needs to know what you did to be able to identify your skills and personal attributes. This is the part of your answer you spend the most time on.

– explain the Result/s of your action/s. Most people forget to include the outcome of their actions. Don’t skim over this!

Sometimes it may be appropriate to add a second ‘R’ = Review to explain what you’ve learnt or done differently since this experience to showcase your development.

Often competency questions are word limited – remain within the word count!

An infographic of the STARR technique - Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.      Strength based questions are more commonly asked at interview but may sometimes be asked on application forms. These questions are used to identify candidates whose own strengths and preferred working style matches the job role, therefore trying to ensure higher motivation and performance in successful candidates.

  • Utilise strong examples of when you have used the specific strengths asked for and     articulate, where appropriate, how they could be of benefit to the organisation
  • Make sure you draw on experiences from all aspects of your life – academia, voluntary work, clubs/societies, paid employment, gap year / travel etc.
  • Just like every other aspect of the application process make sure you answer honestly. If you pretend to be someone you’re not and are successful in securing the position it may not be a good fit for you. 

 

Final Words of Wisdom

  • Wherever possible, give yourself plenty of time to carry out the background research and the drafting of your application; it can take hours to write, so don’t put yourself under pressure. It is wise to take a break, once you’ve written your first draft, and then come back to it to read it afresh, you’ll often find that you can hone it further.
  • Whether the application requires a personal statement or answers to specific questions which are word limited, draft in Word first, then spell and grammar check; not every online form has a spell checker.
  • If you decide to copy and paste from a previous application form be very, very careful that you are copying the right information! It is more common than you think for applicants to copy across the wrong information, including the name of the previous organisation. It is often better to re-type than copy and paste from an old application form.
  • In Word use the word count checker for the elements of the form that are word limited, not every form will cut you off when you have reached the maximum words allowed. Anything written in excess of the word count is unlikely to be read!
  • Be aware that when copying and pasting into the online form, formatting may change. Make sure you give yourself time to go back through your text to reformat where necessary – visual impressions do count!
  • Don’t lie, be positive, clear and concise.
  • The careful use of bullet points can help draw the eye to key elements of your experiences. They can also help you stick to the facts rather than writing a novel. They help breakup blocks of text which are onerous to those who have very little time to read your application.
  • Proofread – you first then others.
  • If you would like to find out more about disclosing a disability at application stage, please visit the following web pages and listen to the podcasts.
  • Without fail, tailor your application and always follow instructions!

Why I go to Shut Up and Write

Sam Pullman is a second year PhD student in the Graduate School of Education.  After many years as a frontline social work practitioner, she has turned her attention to social work education. Her research explores the connections between sustainability as a wider concept and theory base to prepare social workers for practice.  Sam also enjoys volunteering with community groups and taking part in citizen science projects. She has a keen interest in ecology, people and place. You can contact Sam on: .

I initially sought out Shut Up And Write to provide a routine and structure during lockdown and working from home. I wanted to keep momentum regarding my upgrade paper, and dedicate a protected space to focus on my research. My aim was to engage in good study habits and shift my mindset from procrastination or looking for diversionary activities. I decided to use the sessions between 10 – 4 pm as my core hours.

The structure of SUAW was appealing because each session only requires 25 minutes of focus which, I felt was within my capability. Breaking a two hour session into short sections meant that I could realistically complete one task at a time such as, addressing feedback, focusing on a particular chapter of my paper, or editing.  Sometimes I would set a writing target for the whole session of 200 – 300 words.  SUAW became a time to reflect and be critical of my research. The key to success is that I only need to do this for a short time, and then use the five minute break to get a drink and just relax my thinking. I was surprised how well the sessions worked for me, and that I was achieving my goals. The small steps I was taking, led to the completion of my upgrade paper. I still use SUAW sessions when I really need to structure my projects and research.

SUAW Community

SUAW is an online space to work, but also to connect and informally network with other PGR’s. It reminds me of the bigger picture of a vibrant research community at the university. SUAW encourages users to enter in the chat box what they intending to work on during the session. There is some really interesting and exciting research taking place, and the chat box almost becomes a co-journey of PGR’s progress. I recognise that we are all at different stages of their research from planning, upgrade, and viva. There is great energy and enthusiasm which is reflected in the sharing of tips, hints, references and ideas are shared to motivate each other. I would definitely recommend that my PGR colleagues who are feeling a bit stuck in getting started come along to a SUAW session.

SUAW Facilitator

SUAW was only meant to be a short term option during lockdown. My intention was to dip in and out of sessions until campus options were up and running. However, I may not have gained the opportunity to become a facilitator and write this blog. I wanted to give back for the support I had received during the sessions, and I am genuinely interested in what people are researching and their progress. Facilitators run the session timers and it’s an opportunity to be creative with race names and engage PGR’s with the session. Facilitators also provide dialogue to the chat box in the five minute break.  I also think it’s really important to offer encouragement especially when PGR’s are struggling.  So why not come along to a session. I look forward to hearing from you in the chat box.