By Kate Meakin
A research project like a PhD can be a long and arduous process, with hurdles and barriers (such as doing research in a pandemic!) and highs and lows along the way. One of the best ways to make the research process more enjoyable is to think about creative ways to present your project. These creative means might be about making your ideas more accessible for a non-academic audience, breaking down your thesis into a visual format, or simply a way to process your ideas or methodology. Below are five different ways that I’ve found useful to process, present and publicise my research.
PhD Mind Map
I did this mind map in 2018 during the early stages of my project. Although much of the historical framing and methodology has since changed, it was really useful to summarise my research in a succinct and visual way, and to make some connections between these areas when the project was just beginning. I’m happy to say that my aims and theoretical framing have remained largely the same and it’s really useful to reflect back on 2018 researcher me!
Collaging is one of my favourite forms of expression. You don’t need to feel like an artistic person to be able to cut out some striking images, position them in an appealing way and stick them down! Sharing your research in ways like this can also open doors that may not have been possible otherwise. I publicised this on social media, and subsequently got an invitation to give a keynote speech on creative research methods at the University of Hertfordshire!
I created this storyboard during a zine workshop with MJ Barker, a writer and independent scholar, after I had clarified my key case studies and texts for my research. My research question(s) were becoming much clearer in my mind and this helped me to think about how I might structure my thesis, and present my project to communities outside of academia.
Following my storyboard above, and after I had clarified the theoretical strands shaping my thesis, I decided to bring these ideas together into a zine around narrative, affect and futurity that I can share with researchers and non-researchers alike. As you can see, my project has now shifted from dystopian to speculative fiction and this zine helps to present the key concept that has come out of my thesis: ‘feminist speculative activism’!
Thesis on a Postcard
Now I’m nearing the later stages of my research, I’ve finally felt confident enough to fit my entire thesis onto a postcard! This was a collage I created for the recent Research Hive Thesis on a Postcard competition. Thinking about how protest works alongside challenging dystopias and imagining utopian alternatives was a really fun way to showcase my research to other researchers. Now I just need to find ways to include all these images in my thesis…
Kate Meakin is a doctoral researcher in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities