This post comes from Lyn Lavery, director of Academic Consulting in Auckland New Zealand. Lyn established Academic Consulting in 1999 following a successful career in the tertiary sector. Her 20+ years background in education, combined with a PhD which examined self-regulated learning at a tertiary level, and her extensive consultancy practice have equipped her with fingers on the pulse. She shares some valuable resources.
These times of uncertainty and disruption bring significant challenges for all of us. In addition to the more obvious issues of adjusting to life in self-isolation, there are several unique challenges for researchers. Access to software, resources and equipment has become more difficult, regular support networks (such as thesis supervisors) may have limited availability, and there are many researchers whose data collection plans will require a considerable rethink.
Given these challenges, I’ve been increasingly impressed and heartened by the generosity of many businesses and individuals in responding to the needs of researchers and doctoral students at this time. Before sharing these resources with you, however, I do want to make a point – please don’t feel that you should be upskilling, rescheduling data collection plans, adjusting ethics approvals or engaging in any of the other (probably numerous) tasks that the present situation demands. Take the time you need to catch your breath, look after yourself and your family, and do what you need to adjust to the unexpected circumstances we all find ourselves in (you’ve probably read lots of resources on this theme already, but if not, my favourite is Why you should ignore all that coronavirus-inspired productivity pressure).
Having said that, if you’d like to use the next few months as a chance to upskill, there are plenty of opportunities for research-related training. Here in New Zealand, Academic Consulting has made recordings available for our 12 most popular webinars for postgraduate students and other researchers – everything from data analysis and writing tips to NVivo and Microsoft Word. These are available at no charge for you to watch and hopefully learn from. If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth, Sage Campus is offering a 50% discount for its online data science courses. Do find out what online training your university is offering also – many of them are now running their regular face-to-face workshops online.
In terms of offerings from software companies, QSR International (who make the popular NVivo software) have recently run two webinars relating to fieldwork: ‘COVID-19 and Doing Virtual Fieldwork’ and ‘When the “Field” is Online: Qualitative Data Collection’. The recordings for these are to be available on their website. If you’re stuck without access to SPSS while in isolation, there is a trial version of the software available until June 15; if you’re using Zotero for any research related to COVID-19, they have kindly offered to waive their usual storage charges.
On the referencing front, if you need to get up to speed with the latest updates to APA referencing – the American Psychological Association has made the APA 7th Manual (along with the 6th edition) accessible to students and academic staff for free. They also provide some useful advice for referencing cancelled conference presentations if your 2020 conference plans have been thrown into disarray.
The amazing Pat Thompson (@ThomsonPat) and Anuja Cabraal (@AnujaCabraal) have joined forces from opposite sides of the world to create a Twitter account specifically to support Doctoral students. Follow them at @virtualnotviral or visit their Virtual not Viral website. You may also find some of their recent blog posts helpful: You were planning on in-person data collection? This might help and Managing research risks – riding the wave of #phdpandemic. Another useful looking support site for doctoral students is SIPS Central (SIPS stands for social isolation prevention sessions). Depending on your time zone, their writing sessions may be a little late at night, but as Cally mentioned in her recent blog, you could always start your own online writing group.
If you’re struggling with focus while working at home, I’m a huge fan of Focus@Will (a neuroscience-based subscription service that uses playlists to improve productivity) – they currently have 50% off all plans. If you need a hand calming the mental chatter and worry that’s distracting you from your writing, my two favourite meditation apps, Headspace and Calm are both offering free meditations via their websites (so there’s no need to sign up for the app if you’d like to keep things simple).
From my social isolation bubble here in New Zealand, I’d like to wish you all the best for the coming weeks and months. I’m often quoted as saying that the one thing you can count on in a research study is that things won’t go to plan. While this seems like somewhat of an understatement given the current situation, it’s worth remembering that research rarely goes to plan, but doctoral theses get finished despite this. Also remember that we’re all in this together, so if you have resources that you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments.