Writing together with your doctoral student

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By Claire Aitchison

You write, I correct, you fix and return

Mostly, supervisors expect doctoral students to write somewhere else, away from them, and then send the written work back so they can then give feedback. Typically, the next step involves the supervisor and student coming together to discuss the supervisor’s feedback. These discussions may involve the student asking for clarification, the supervisor elaborating on their critique, occasionally students and supervisor will debate the feedback and perhaps renegotiate what needs to be done next. And mostly meetings will end with a list of tasks for the student to take away and do—again, on their own—before returning to the cycle yet again. This practice requires the student to be able, and motivated, to get on with the writing between sessions. Continue reading

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Top Terrors for PhD supervisors–things that make us wake in fright

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By Claire Aitchison

It’s scary being a PhD supervisor.

Whatever the reason, there would be few supervisors who have not experienced anxiety and self-doubt at some point.

This post is about some of the ‘night terrors’ that can afflict doctoral supervisors. What scares you the most? Please feel welcome to add to this list—and share remedies!

Am I asking too much of this student?

During doctoral candidature there are inevitable ups and downs. Emotional turbulence for both student and supervisor can have their origins in the challenges of the research itself; the stresses around writing and giving and receiving feedback; or perhaps have nothing to do with the research and instead arise from financial, family or work concerns. Life gets in the way, damn it! It isn’t easy to know when to ease off and make allowances, or when to maintain the right level of pressure so that the PhD stays on the boil. How does one balance the personal vulnerabilities and demands on individual students against the institution’s completion-focussed priorities? Furthermore, sometimes the needs of supervisors come into the equation — we too have lives, challenges, workloads and vulnerabilities! Continue reading

International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education and Training (ICDDET), Malahide, Ireland, April 8-9, 2019

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By Cally Guerin

This post reports on the Fourth International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education and Training (ICDDET) held in Malahide, Ireland on 8-9 April 2019. The theme for two days of intensive conversations was ‘Examining the impact of structured training programs’. While the conference was not specifically focused on doctoral writing as such, there was much that is of interest to any of us supporting doctoral writers. As motivations for undertaking a doctorate, the form of doctoral programs and the outcomes expected on completion continue to shift, there are accompanying changes required of doctoral writing. Continue reading

Writing conference presentations: think about the audience

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By Cally Guerin

I’ve been fortunate to attend several Higher Education conferences lately and have been thinking about the research writing in the papers I’ve listened to. There have been a broad range of presentation styles, giving me contact with norms outside my usual disciplinary connections. Most of the presentations have been fabulously stimulating, and it has been wonderful to spend time with people who are passionate about their research, socially engaged and working to make the world a better place. I have also been reminded of just how important it is to think about communicating with the live audience in the room. Continue reading

Postgraduate Supervision Conference, Stellenbosch, March 26-29, 2019

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The 7th Postgraduate Supervision Conference (26-29 March), hosted by the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, takes research about supervision from strength to strength. This year the conference took “The Global Scholar: Implications for Postgraduate Studies and Supervision” as its theme. Focusing on the “global” led to rich and engaging presentations and discussions that explored a huge range of topics from the perspective of supervisors, postgraduates and administrators. Continue reading

Thinking about writing a thesis by publication? Some reasons for and against

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By Cally Guerin

 While the thesis by publication is very common in some disciplines and in some national doctoral systems, debate continues to rage about this model. On the whole, I’m in favour of the article-based/compilation format reporting on research done during candidature, but with some important caveats. Here I outline some reasons for and against presenting doctoral work as a series of publications. Continue reading