SETTING UP A READING GROUP: AN INTERVIEW WITH BALJIT BAINS

reading group pic

How many of you are considering starting a reading group? It can be a bit daunting and stressful- but you are not on your own!

Today we are posting a quick interview with a 1st year PhD researcher, Baljit Bains, who just set up a reading group. We will also ask her to share her thoughts once the group is already running, to see how her experiences differ (or not!) from her initial expectations.

The first reading group for cultural studies will be next Wednesday 17th October 2018 – 15:30-17:00 in Silverstone SB 327. The group will start with Postcolonial Contraventions – chapter 7: Theorising race, racism and culture: David Lloyd’s work. The book is available (as a pdf) from the university library. Come and bring your friends! It is an important and timely topic! 

  1. What is your motivation behind setting up a reading group in the very first term of your PhD?

My motivation behind setting up the reading group was initially to get people together to form a network. Reading is a great tool to bring people together and meet people you otherwise wouldn’t because of how diverse everyone’s research is. Also it’s a great way to connect with people who are further along their research journey. Organizing the group itself motivated me to speak to 2nd year students for example who had experience in organizing reading groups and attending them, so it’s been motivating for me to ensure that there is a reading group for cultural studies for that purpose.

  1. How, do you think, the topics and interests will develop throughout this term?

I think inevitably they will develop. Based on some of the suggested readings that were put forward, people have chosen readings that are seemingly specific to their research, but I think that this will become much more diverse throughout the term because ideas will also develop, links and connections between different readings may become apparent and useful and most importantly, reading groups encourage dialogue, and this provides scope for different ways of thinking about our research (hopefully!)

  1. Any expectations regarding student attendance?

I’ve actually been encouraged not to hold any expectations regarding attendance! Reading groups aren’t for everybody and this is the first time I’m organizing one, so only time will tell!

  1. How, do you think, your personal research will benefit from the group?

I think my personal research will benefit from the group because through conversation  with other researchers and academics, I’ve already started thinking about readings which I’d never thought might be relevant to my research, and I guess this is the whole point of the reading group. You never know how useful reading materials are going to be to you or others until you actually read and have discussions on them.

  1. Is there anything you worry about prior starting the group?

I’m not particularly worried about anything. I think organizing can be a bit stressful because you want to make sure that it’s accessible, but people are talking and connecting and through collaboration, it’s a little easier to not feel so worried about it.

Thank you for the interview! We keep our fingers crossed for your group, Baljit! ❤

THE RESEARCH HIVE SCHOLARS’ WELCOME EVENT

pic poster final

Research Hive would like to invite all members of the doctoral community- and especially the new bees to the Research Hive’s welcome afternoon to kick star this academic year, introduce first year PhD researchers to the research hive and the new hive scholars: Abigail, Thabani and Karolina. But don’t shy away from coming if you have attended Research Hive inductions in the past! The event is also open to existing PhD students- come along to tell us about your progress and simply hang out with us!

The event will begin on the 16th of October at 4pm at the Research Hive with an informal hashtag game to get to know each other, each other’s academic interests and simply have a bit of good old fun. Hashtags can start a movement but tonight we’ll just be making new friends. We all use keywords to describe our research, but they also connect bigger ideas- let’s see how many connections we can make!

A couple of students will start by listing keywords/hashtags of their research, one by one, on the glass wall at the Hive. If anyone shares the same keyword/interest aka hashtag will be asked to join the person with the hashtag, or wait until a relevant keyword appears on the glass. All participants are fee to join in or leave whenever they please. If the group runs out of ideas for hashtags, the next person starts with their hashtag.

The game aims to emphasize common interests PhD researchers from different departments and disciplines share, and create a platform for future discussions or even collaborations.

After the game and a quick round of introductions to the Hive, we will all head to the IDS bar for a round of drinks: there will be drinks vouchers provided for people who come to the event.

Please, register at EventBrite so we have a rough idea of how many of us are going to be there!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-research-hive-scholars-welcome-event-tickets-51144569785

See you all there! ❤

PHD IS LIKE AN AVOCADO: BE PATIENT AND SHARE IT

avocado

A couple of weeks ago I was tempted to buy a basket of avocados at the Brighton open market. £2,50?! What a steal! But then it got to me: what am I going to do with so many avocados?

You can find plenty of lists with tips and tricks how to survive your PhD, top 5, top 10, top 20- in fact, we just shared one of them one week ago. READ IT, and try to follow it 🙂

But the truth is that no matter how many times you read it, you will always forget one of the points. I mean, you already have enough to remember anyway, don’t you? Hence, today I have a different approach for all of you, tangled in never-ending list of rules: PhD is like an avocado. Everyone loves it, although it may seem quite hard to open it up at first. But what next? Seems counter-productive to share it. Yet way too big, too rich to have on your own.

A similar thing happens with our PhDs. PhD can be too rich- Intellectually, emotionally, socially. Very early on we find out that it is no one else but us having to be responsible for everything. We have to be constantly innovative, independent, on top of the game, masters of our own topics. Overwhelmed by all that we lose boundaries between our private lives and working time- which apparently are gone anyway, as the traditional idea of ‘work-life balance’ has been replaced by daily ‘work-life integration’. (http://futureofwork.bene.com/lazy/)

So, here are a couple of ideas to help keep you sane:

SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES- BOTH JOYS AND STRUGGLES

We are a community of highly educated individuals who too often choose not to share that richness of knowledge and experiences, because we think that we don’t have time to do anything else but work. As a result we lose confidence in our skills and expertise. We lose a little bit of that richness. But if I can say what I’ve learnt throughout my first PhD year is that that academic richness can only be fully savored when shared- when we immerse ourselves in the academic culture, see and learn what other researchers do. This is often when we discover that our projects, our drives, interests and struggles are not unique, but actually quite common!

SHARE AKA SPREAD YOUR RESEARCH: TWEET, EMAIL AND ASK FOR HELP

It may seem daunting to talk about your research, especially at the beginning of your PhD. But it is worth remembering that the final standard of your work is the standard provided by people you ask for help. Make lists of questions you still need to answer about your project, and try to identify what groups of people can help you answer them. First of all, there are your supervisors- obviously- but there are so many other ways to ask for help and confront your progress and ideas with others. Research in Progress sessions usually organized by departments/schools, conferences and academic workshops where you can talk to experts in your field, but you might also want to try tweeting/micro-blogging about your research and ask directly for help.

BE PATIENT, SLOW DOWN

Everyone knows about peculiar avocado timings, and the golden hour of avocado ripeness. Ideas also need time to develop, to ripen, if you will :P. So don’t worry if things do not always go as planned, you might need just a bit more time, perhaps some rest, for all the things you work on to start making sense. Developing ideas is a long process, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that all good things take time. So does your PhD, and avocados.

You might also want to have an avocado once a while- apparently they are actually quite good for you…

SURVIVING ON THE GROUND: TIPS FROM A ‘FIELDWORK SURVIVOR’

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 10.26.40For those like me who are not based in labs, one of the most important aspects of your PhD is the fieldwork period. After months slaving over a research outline, you can finally get out of the library and on to the more exciting experience of asking your questions, testing your hypotheses, and gaining data to fill gaps in the literature. Fieldwork can be an easy process for some, but for many, it becomes a difficult experience depending on various issues between the research itself, the sample, and the location. Here I will share some of the highlights of my fieldwork period and my hope is that this will benefit those who are yet to go on fieldwork or those who are currently on fieldwork and struggling.

Having an idea of my sample while still writing up the outline was very useful for me. By so doing, I started making contacts within the circles and networks I was hoping to interview so that it would be easier for me to get everything going once the ethics clearance came through. Which brings me to another issue: ethical clearance. The University of Sussex takes clearance very seriously and it’s critical to apply for it as soon as your outline is approved. And since the committee only sits once per month, applying earlier in the month and at least two months before the anticipated start date of fieldwork could be the difference between starting your fieldwork on time or not. But while waiting for the University’s bureaucratic processes to finish, you can already begin reaching out to the networks you want to use in your data collection.

Once in the field, sticking to your timetable is key. Things often start out slowly, that’s why it was useful for me to have those already established networks. Outreach became more straightforward– I simply reconnected with people I’d already been in touch with previously. In some cases, these contacts also put me in touch with their own networks which was exponentially helpful.  Despite the fact that we all want to finish our fieldwork quickly, it’s important to bear in mind that most people we want to interview also have busy lives and may not be quick to give you their time. This is another benefit of being introduced to the prospective respondent by somebody they know already– it makes the process easier and a positive response more likely. When conducting the interviews, be sure to prioritize your own safety. Meeting in public or professional places is often the best bet, as opposed to someone’s home or private lodgings.

And finally, always carry a notebook and a pen when you’re on fieldwork (or keep a running tab of notes on your phone). You never know when the next great idea might hit you, and in the case of those doing ethnographic research, note-taking is an essential part of the observation process. Your field notes will eventually help you fill in gaps in your writing and they provide context as well. And be sure to take care of yourself while on fieldwork.  After spending the first year of your PhD on campus, being thrust into individual fieldwork might feel a bit isolating. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of any resources provided to you by your department, peers, and supervisors. Hopefully, you all find these few tips useful, and good luck with your fieldwork!

Thabani

Five things we wish we’d known when we started our PhDs

Doubts are a natural part of being a doctoral researcher. What am I doing here? Is my thesis any good? Who do I think I’m kidding? How am I going to write all that?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

That’s what the Research Hive is there for. We’re here to support and encourage you, as well as providing a really nice place to work.

We’re all part of the same research community.

So here are a few tips to get you through the first few months – things we Hive scholars wished we’d known when we started.

  1. Your thesis will evolve, especially during your first year: The hardest thing to do in your first year is to hammer down your research proposal. Don’t worry if you read it one day and it’s nothing like the proposal you submitted when you applied. That was just the germ of an idea. What you are now doing with your supervisors is moulding a thesis out of that wet clay. It might take you in directions you never considered. That’s absolutely normal, go with it!
  2. It’s never too early to get organised: At the beginning, you’ll be off into your research like a puppy into long grass. You’ll read every book, every article that’s remotely related to your subject. That’s great. But whether you’re in the sciences, social sciences, humanities or arts finding a way to keep track of your research is something you need to do as soon as possible – because it piles up quickly. You can find loads of tips on the Researcher Development page.
  3. Write often, write early: It can be scary getting words onto the blank page. Try setting yourself a daily word count. Graham Greene used to set a daily target of 500 words a day though you probably shouldn’t follow the example of Westworld creator Michael Crichton because then you’d have to hit 10,000 on the word counter before knocking off. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the Thesis Bootcamp.
  4. It doesn’t have to be perfect: Following on from the second point, remember that whatever you write in your first year is just the first draft. You will edit your thesis, with the help of your supervisor, probably many times before the final draft is ready to be submitted. Just get that first draft on the page.
  5. Sometimes you just need to have fun: Every now and then all of us need to get our noses out of our research and have a bit of time off. At the Hive we’re always looking for ways to bring our research community together. We host social events as well as networking ones where you can meet other members of the Sussex research community, share your research with a wider audience and have a bit of fun.

INTRODUCING THE NEW HIVE SCHOLARS: Abigail

3. Abigail

 

Hive-head-shot-Abigaiil

Starting a PhD can be a daunting process. Starting a PhD when you have a full-time job can seem like a mountain to climb.  I know, I’ve done it. My name is Abigail and I’m in the second year of a part-time doctorate in History. I’m delighted to be a Hive scholar this year because the Hive has been a real help to me since I started my research. The regular events and friendly welcome gave a sense of community that can be hard to find if you normally work odd hours, off campus. If you’re a part-time researcher juggling a job or other commitments do come and say hello when you can make it into the Hive.

So a little bit about me. I’ve had a bit of a career change over the past few years. In my previous life, I was a journalist and broadcaster. I covered the criminal courts in Dublin for almost a decade and wrote two books about the trials I covered. Looking for a subject for my third book I stumbled upon a 19th-century murder case. Five years and a lot of archives and libraries later I had started presenting papers at conferences as an independent scholar but the book still hadn’t materialised. There’s a fine line between research for its own sake and oddness because you’re not actually doing anything with that research. People started suggesting a doctorate but it wasn’t something that I’d ever considered so I hesitated. By the way, my first academic article is about that research and it’s just been published in Media History. I’ll just turn this from a shameless plug into telling you about the facilities by letting you know it’s available with a Sussex library login on BrowZine, which if you haven’t tried it yet is a brilliant little app that gives you access to all the library’s journal subscriptions on any of your devices. Dead handy and not a plug at all! Old habits die hard so if you want to chat about writing or publishing I’m more than happy to share my experiences and recommend some of the support that’s available in the university.

So after my hesitation, I did start the PhD – obviously. I’m studying the evolution of 19th century Irish journalism through the reporting of the courts and crime. I’m interested in how technological and social changes across the century affected the development of the profession and also why Irish journalists were so successful (as they continue to be) once they left Ireland. My research has made me fall back in love with journalism – or at least, with the idealism that characterised so many of my subjects. This year I’ll also be teaching 20th Century Britain. I’m very much looking forward to getting to know my students. I know Thabani has already said he’d be happy to talk about starting to teach and I will be as well.

I live in Eastbourne with my husband and our elderly cat. I’m a horror and Sci-Fi geek, especially 60s and 70s stuff. I enjoy entertaining and spending time with friends and family although I do occasionally have to be reminded not to talk murder. I was born and raised in southeast England but spent 30 years in Ireland so at this point, I couldn’t tell you whether I’m more English or more Irish. They’re both my countries but in these bizarre times, it seems to matter a lot more than it used to.

I remember how daunting it was to start my PhD – especially coming back to university after many years away. So don’t worry if it all feels a bit overwhelming. Myself, Thabani and Karolina will be there if you need peer to peer support. I would recommend going to social events arranged by us at the Hive, and also by the Doctoral School. If you can’t face socialising then we’ll also have talks and discussions through the year. They are all great ways to meet fellow doctoral students. But the Hive isn’t just there for new students. Whatever stage of your research you are at, always remember you’re not on your own – it’s very easy to feel isolated when you’re working hard on a solitary project but we are a community. This year we all want to build a stronger research community and connect the different school. One of the Hive’s great strengths is that events are a chance for the research community to mix and get to know each other. That’s where collaborations and friendships start.

We’ve already got loads of ideas for a mix of fun and informative events throughout the year but it’s your Hive too so if you’ve any ideas either grab one of us during our shifts or write it down and drop it in the suggestion box in the Hive. We might also try the odd poll on Twitter or Facebook so keep an eye out. We want to be there for all our research community,

If you’re just starting welcome if you’ve been here a while hello. Here’s to a good year ahead – but if it’s not at least we’ll be able to get through it together!

INTRODUCING THE NEW HIVE SCHOLARS: Karolina

2. Karolina

A couple of weeks ago my eyes crossed an article on Guardian discussing fashion trends for autumn. A line that caught my attention and made me smile was ‘Heads for autumn are huge’. Isn’t how we always think about that so-called ‘back to school’ period? – I thought to myself. Of course, not in terms of fashion, as even the above mentioned article clarifies straight away ‘not literally, obviously…’, but post-summery time is always a ‘head’ period. We talk ‘beach body’ prior the summer holidays, and after that, bodies are to be hidden, we are back to professional, intellect-related topics. Almost as if our interests throughout the year were divided according to that famous body and mind dichotomy. This is just a blog post, not an academic paper, so please do not take this idea too seriously, but this, perhaps completely crazy- I do admit-observation made me think that this is exactly the why I struggled, and many of you may too at the beginning of our PhD courses. Namely: If it is fun it can’t be work! It’s either/or. And this is what we are here for- to WORK 😛 During our PhDs we get caught up in our own heads so easily- both literally and metaphorically. Heads of PhD students are truly HUGE.

huge heads

My name is Karolina, I am a Research Hive Scholar and I am a HUGE head. I constantly torment myself I do not work enough, and that I do not deserve to have fun, meet people, go out, do anything additional to my PhD project. But this year, my second year, I say: I refuse to be made miserable! Let’s have some fun! I do not want to be just one of the silent, bodiless heads floating in the Hive- heads that ignore each other, heads that always look down, awkward heads buried in books.

How about we move our bodies for a change- to meet new people, to travel to conferences, to exercise together, to enjoy all the great places Sussex has to offer. But most of all, to realize that although PhD requires a lot of intellectual work and strength, we as young researchers are much more than our heads- we are also bodies, moving bodies of interest that can share and collaborate, bodies that can embrace each other as we all go through similar struggles.

So on this note- don’t turn your head next time you see me at the Hive 😛 Come and say hello ❤

Here are some conversation starters/info about me:

#MFM #Media #2nd_year_PhD #ProtestMemory #PolishFeminism #populism #MnemonicResistance #Participation #PAR #Intervention

#Excursions_Journal #FAKE #FAKE_conference #deconstructed_conference

#RGU_undergraduate #SocialSciencesRule #LoveScotland #VibrantAberdeen

#MA_Warwick #Coventry #Film&Television #1960s_cinema #NewYork #AvantGarde #QueerCinema #FlamingCreatures

#artPerformance #ContemporarySculpture #PerformanceFestivals #curating #performing

#AMPolish #ImmigrantPower #REMAIN #tired

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