LDC Development Support for PhD researchers during Covid19

How solid are your plans for coping with the coming period of isolation due to COVID19? Are you confident of continuing with PhD work? What support would you like to receive from LDC Development over the coming period?

The University has recently announced the cancellation of all face to face workshops as part of the University’s response to COVID-19. In consequence, all face-to-face workshops in the LDC development programme are cancelled for the remainder of the Academic year.

Working at home for long periods can be a challenge, especially for those students who are used working on campus. The University encourages students to use Microsoft Teams to maintain formal meetings. Social contacts with peers and colleagues should be maintained online, too, to help us all retain the motivation and general well-being. Have you already arranged your support system? We would love to hear from you about different approaches, and to discuss them with other researchers, enabling everybody to stay engaged.

We are currently looking at how we can enhance our online programme. We would be very interested to hear your thoughts too! What kind of online programme would you like to see? Are there any topics we could add to our programme that would ensure further skills development? Please do get in touch and let us know what we can do to support you in this period.

Meanwhile, we are making significant changes to our programme as an immediate response to COVID-19 situation, which will include a greater range of online sessions as outlined below:

  1. Discussion-based webinars.

Webinar: Managing your PhD work during Covid-19’ 31 March 2020 12:30-13:30

This is a first in a series of webinars on maintaining research activities and social engagement throughout this unusual period. The focus will be on sharing problems and finding solutions. The idea is to move beyond just a presentation format and to encourage wider participation. There will be ample opportunities to ask questions and to share and discuss each other’s needs and experiences.

The webinars in this series will always take place around lunchtime, to give you enough time in the morning to focus on work but also to encourage you to take a well-deserved break!

2. Online careers events

Webinar: Developing effective CVs and applications 2 April 13:30 – 14:30

We are replacing the Workshop on Career Networking on the 26th March with a longer version of the webinar ‘Promoting yourself through networking’ and this will include additional exercises. The presenter, Sally Beyer is exploring options to provide additional online advice on career. More details will be announced soon.

3. Further online workshops

Many of our external presenters are offering to produce online versions to replace the longer workshops in our timetable for this summer that will no longer take place. We hope to announce further details soon.

4. Online writing retreats

Online Mini Writing Retreat 1 April 2020 09:45 – 12:00

During the period of Covid-19, we are moving our meeting online. We still hope that, by setting out specific and protected time for writing, the session can provide structure to your working day and a degree of community support. Please register for further details.

5. Online presentations

Many of you will be missing out on essential opportunities to give early presentations. Perhaps you were hoping to give a first talk at the ‘Your Voice’ PGR conference? The online environment is different, but we may be able to help you to deliver your talk, with accompanying slides and possibly an audience! Don’t forget that some people have to deliver their conference presentations online and that some job interviews are also done online.

We are looking to offer two forms of events:

  1. Practice session – similarly to ‘Academic Presentation’ workshops, the aim would be to give each participant 5 minutes to present their research. After the presentation, the participant would receive friendly comments on the communication, slides, voice etc. 2.
  2. Lunchtime short conferences with each talk lasts 10-15 minutes followed by questions from audience (other participants).

We understand that many conferences have been cancelled, therefore, if you have already prepared your presentation or paper maybe this is a good opportunity to share it. We are also exploring the possibility of organising mini-online conferences for different Faculties, or different field should there be wider interest. If you were wondering about your friends’ research maybe this is the right time to encourage them to apply and share their findings with you and others.

For these sessions you need to be able to access your microphone and send us your slides in advance. The session could be recorded, but with the recordings shared privately.

If you are interested in either of the above options, please email me, Shirley Cooper, shirley.cooper@liverpool.ac.uk with your proposed talk and any questions (NB Please use your University email as I need to know who you are!)

More details about all the proposed activities will be available soon. But should you have more questions please get in touch.

Similarly, should you have any other ideas or needs, please let us know! We can provide further support and discuss your ideas! Follow us on twitter, read our blog and keep an eye on our webpage (to be updated soon). All changes and new activities will be announced through these channels.

Shirley Cooper, shirley.cooper@liverpool.ac.uk

PGRs and Supervisors – what makes a good relationship?

Do you feel that personal disagreements between you and your supervisor are hampering your research? Do you want to improve your working relationship with your supervisor?

Responding to challenges in the supervisory relationship 25 March 2020 12:30 – 13:30      

A good relationship between postgraduate researchers and their supervisors is widely agreed to improve both the quality of the research and the student’s ultimate career prospects. Recent Postgraduate Research Survey 2019 Results confirm that that supervision is a top driver of PGR satisfaction. A good working relationship can generate long-lasting benefits for both the PhD researcher and supervisor. Hence, PhD students should review their relationship with the supervisor from time to time and consider if it evolving in the right direction.

How can you improve the chances of building a good relationship with your supervisor? Here are some advises and tips that you might wish to consider:

  • Check the institutional PGR  Code of Practice to see how the University defines the role of student and the role of supervisor. This formal document provides advice on the needs of the student, the skills required in supervision and the appropriate behaviour expected. For example, the supervisor is expected to provide feedback, but, the feedback should be delivered in ‘a constructive and supportive way’ (PGR Code of Practice, Appendix II – Policy on Research Student Supervision) Know your rights, but don’t forget responsibilities! 
  • Talk to your peers and try to find out how they manage their relationship with the supervisor. Try to establish what appropriate relationship means, what is a good practice, and how they have overcome any difficulties in the working relationship. Remember, it all depends on personalities, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve your relationship with the supervisor. 
  • Get to know your supervisor and allow the supervisor to get to know you, as a person! It is very important you both understand each other’s habits and personal preferences. Honest communication is vital for any relationship, and particularly in a close working relationship.

Webinars and workshops

There is a scheduled webinar on the relationship with the supervisor. Do apply and join us to discuss the challenges of the relationship and appropriate responses. 

Responding to challenges in the supervisory relationship 25 March 2020 12:30 – 13:30      

Further support: there are several related texts available, and you might consider the following:

The opinions expressed here are their own, but you may find ideas that can be applied to your own experience.

The LDC Development Team has developed a short online support page, with advice on the local support available.

Mate Subašić and Shirley Cooper

LDC Development Team

Research Writing – how to overcome challenges?

Empty Notebook

Most PhDs often have concerns when it comes to writing. What is a good writing? How to maintain the writing pace? How to structure, edit or revise your paper or thesis? It is hard to give definite answers – writing is a personal process.

Each individual will need to approach writing differently, as you may have found when discussing writing with your peers. It is important to find out what suits you best. So, it is important to seek out advice to help you feel comfortable about your writing. Here are a few tips to begin:

  • Check the institutional requirements. These are formally defined in the University’s PGR Code of Practice, Appendix 7, which includes advice on the formatting and presentation of the thesis. The editing process might take much longer if you do not consult this early. However, you should also check out any departmental advice for your subject area, for example they may have recommended minimum word count and advice on publishing your data. You could also view previously submitted thesis within your Faculty, School, or Department and see how their thesis and the arguments are structured!
  • Write as much as possible, as often as possible. Writing is not just about the thesis! Try to practice your writing when, for example, taking notes or preparing a presentation. Write down your thoughts occasionally. It will help you structure your sentences and arguments. Good writing comes with extensive practice.
  • Don’t be afraid of feedback, ask for it, and accept the need for revision. Article or thesis editing is a continuous process, and it will follow you from the start of the thesis until the submission moment (and possibly throughout the whole career). 

LDC Team has developed a webinar series to support your writing. The timetable for these sessions follows common challenges as they appear throughout the writing process.

Research Writing – Finding motivation and making a start  09 March 12:30-13:30 

The focus of this webinar is on the initial stage of writing. Topics include overcoming procrastination and different approaches to starting the process of writing. 

Research Writing – Producing an academic document      16 March 12:30-13:30, 

The focus of this webinar is on the construction of academic document and the ways you can build a strong and convincing, yet easy to read, arguments. 

Research Writing – Managing the editing process         23 March 12:30-13:30

The focus of this webinar is on improving clarity and fluency of writing. The topics will include the development of effective editing system and different approaches to reviewing the whole document. 

Writing retreats

LDC Development hosts regular retreats for postgraduate researchers, both two hour mini-writing retreats and full day writing retreats. Together we bring our laptops and collectively write together to accomplish our writing goals. It’s a great way to avoid procrastination and gain writing confidence. Many PGRs have attended the retreats previously, with positive feedback

‘I found that without interruptions, my productivity went up.’

‘I have had trouble focussing on my work recently and feel that attending the workshops would make me set aside time for writing/planning my project.’

‘It enabled me to work better on my writing tasks as I had peers around me doing the same thing in a quiet and conducive environment.’

There are still available places for the Mini writing retreats in March and April:

Mini writing retreat                              18 Mar, 10:00-12:00

 Mini writing retreat                        27-Apr 10:00 – 12:00

The LDC Development also offers   full-day writing retreats in May/June, with full refreshments provided for those who want an intensive day to make progress with their writing, whether you are working on the final thesis write-up, on publications, or your annual reports. The communal process also provides a chance to exchange practice and learn techniques from each other.

 One-day writing retreat                27-May 10:00 – 16:00

 One-day writing retreat              02-Jun 10:00 – 16:00 

 One-day writing retreat               09-Jun 10:00 – 16:00

Check our full programme timetable for details of all upcoming workshops.

LDC Development Team 

Invitation to events at Liverpool John Moores – New dates!

Postgraduate researchers have been invited to the following events offered by the Doctoral Academy Researcher Development Programme at Liverpool John Moores University.

Note these events are all moved to late April, not in March as originally advertised.

Monday 27th April, 14:00-16:00, Writing Reflexivity

Tuesday 28th April, 10:00-12:00, Getting to Grips with Method and Methodology

Tuesday 28th April, 13:30-15:30, Focus Group Skills for Researchers

All events are in this area of Liverpool – please see the Eventbrite registration form for venues. Please register using your University of Liverpool address.

* Organised by the Library at LJMU with speakers from across Liverpool including Fatiha Bouanani from the University of Liverpool.

Project Management and Academic Success!

Have you ever wondered if you could plan your PhD process better? Would it be easier if you knew how much time is needed to develop lab skills, or to prepare for data collection, or to get into the writing mode?

Would the PhD process be less stressful if you had a good plan? Proper planning is one part of Project Management practice, which represents a useful skill for research. Ultimately, the PhD may be the first project in a longer professional career, regardless of the career choice, within or outside academia.

There are many ways how you can improve your project management skills. Examples include:

  • Breaking your research goals into small tasks and setting clear goals to finish each task. For example, collecting data can entail several tasks that need to be well planned: getting your ethics approved, preparing questions for surveys, preparing for travel, or visiting the library, and so on.
  • Start using tools that help you schedule the activities. Once you break down your research project into small tasks, you will need to set priorities and time management is vital. Time is essential for any successful project.
  • Small tasks can reduce the level of stress for several reasons. First, you can always go back to your plan and revisit your priorities – the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the whole process. Secondly, a good plan can provide a good confidence boost. By reminding yourself of the boxes that you have already ticked, you will gain a great source of, sometimes much needed, motivation!

Project management is something you probably do in your mind automatically. But to improve your skills, the LDC Development team has prepared a resource offering tips about apps that can improve research productivity.

There is also an opportunity to learn more about project management and how to use project management skills through the interactive workshop:

Introduction to Project Management, Tools and Techniques. 10 March 9:30-12:30.

Do join us to gain ideas on how to manage a project well, make life easier for yourself and to boost your career prospects!

Of further interest, with booking to open 02 March:

Introduction to Project Management (by Fistral training) 8th June 09:15-16:00

To find about other ways to boost your career prospects, join us for other webinars and workshop focused on a different aspect of career planning:

PGR ‘Career Ready’ bootcamp 05 March 09:15-16:00

Webinar: Developing your interview skills 19 March 13:30-14:30

Also of interest this week is:

Webinar: Managing and Facilitating Meetings 26 February 12:30-13:30

Check the full list of available workshops and webinars see here.

Mate Subašić, LDC Development Communications Officer

Peers for PhDs: Tips to gain confidence and overcome imposter syndrome

An informal discussion led by Priyanka Sakhavalkar and Mohamed Hammad.

session logo

Thurs, 27 February 2020
17:30 – 19:30 GMT

Taylor Room, Sydney Jones Library

Please register here!

‘Imposter syndrome’ is a feeling of inadequacy that persists despite evident success. If not recognised, it can cause further anxiety and stress. ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is frequently reported by PhD students. Are there times when you think you don’t belong to the academic environment? Or that most of your colleagues are better than you are? Do you ever think that only luck has brought you where you are, rather than your work, commitment and personal success?

If you feel any of these, or other similar issues, you are in the majority of PGRs. This session, led by the Peers for PhDs team, aims to encourage PGRs to open up and speak about the ‘Imposter Syndrome’. The goal is to seek mechanisms that can help us recognise the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and to build our confidence.

Peers for PhDs is open to all PhD students at Liverpool. Contact the Peers for PhDs team to the join mailing list or come along to a session to find out more.

**Peers for PhDs is a student-led project aiming to improve PGR wellbeing at the university. We’re a welcoming and supportive group that hosts monthly meetings and regular social events with the support from Liverpool Doctoral College (LDC)**

The LDC Development programme offers two workshops with advice to help researchers overcome ‘Imposter Syndrome’ as they prepare for their ongoing career, within or outside research:

27 Feb  09:15 – 12:30  Pushing beyond imposter syndrome       (Fully
booked)
2 July 09:15 – 12:30  Pushing beyond imposter syndrome     Booking   
opens soon

Further Peers for PHDs events this year:

26th March Thursday  Supervisory & Other Working Relationships in the PhD
30th April  Thursday  Wellbeing, mental health and sleep hygiene
28th May  Thursday  Networking, communication and negotiation 
25th June  Thursday  Stress relief with mindfulness

Chasing down the opportunities – thinking about career possibilities!

Do you ever think about a future career? How do you imagine it? What can you do now to help move towards your dream career? 

Straight after submitting your thesis and surviving the Viva, career prospect becomes the next big issue. What can you do to mitigate the stress of the transition period? There are ways that you can prepare throughout your PhD (and without neglecting the PhD itself).

The preparation in the early phase of your career planning may focus more on exploring the opportunities. This phase will help you obtain the information to inform your early career decisions in a more relaxed, less stressful, timescale.

So, what can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Engage in a range of activities to build your CV and acquire relevant skills. Check the Research Development Framework to get an idea of what you might demonstrate in your CV. Review that skills that you have developed and your current strengths.
  • Talk with your peers and see how they envisage their career options. You might seek out external contacts through your research or at external conferences. Consider also talking to junior members of staff within your department to ask them about their transition period to becoming a Lecturer or research staff 
  • Make a casual exploration of the job market to see what is currently available. When you find jobs of interest, check the requirements to see what you need to do to gain a similar position. 
  • Get additional advice on good practice in the preparation and application process. You can get that, and other useful insights in LDC Development career workshops. Don’t hesitate, join us! Get yourself ready for the job you want!

The What Next?’ Video offers one way to start your career exploration and preparation. This video includes expert interviews and case studies that illustrate your options after the PhD, covering routes both inside and outside academia.

LDC Development Careers  programme

If you are approaching the end of the degree and need practical guidance to start the applications process, join us for the: PGR’ Career Ready’ Bootcamp  5 Mar  09:15 – 16:00   

This full day Bootcamp will help you make well informed and considered choices about the next steps. Last year’s participants found the workshop very useful:

‘Great session for thinking about career goals and for putting in place a plan of action for career planning/preparation.’

‘An engaging workshop to get you thinking about your career options. Very thorough and really helpful!’

 Further related workshops and webinars will be of interest to researches at any stage of the PhD. The dates coming up include

19 Mar  09:15 – 12:30 The career wise researcher
19 Mar  13:30 – 14:30 Webinar: Developing your interview skills
26 Mar  09:15 – 12:30 Effective career networking
2 Apr  09:15 – 12:30 Shining at interview
2 Apr  13:30 – 14:30 Webinar: Developing effective CVs and applications

Making the most of Academic conferences

What do conferences offer to new researchers?

  • A chance to learn of the new exciting research in your area?
  • Opportunity to meet the big names’ in your research area?
  • Chance to network with peers undertaking similar research to your own?
  • A chance to make contacts to promote your future career interests?
  • Chance to present your work to a wider audience of subject specialists?

First-time participants might feel uncomfortable joining an academic conference, with rooms full of confident academics who all seem to know each other. However, it is crucial to keep two things in mind. Firstly, all academics were once first-time participants, and they know what it will feel like for a new postgraduate researcher. Secondly, proper preparation can help you gain confidence to benefit more from the experience.

Some ways that you can prepare for conference attendance:

  1. If you are presenting a poster or paper, these will need preparation. You might ask, what can you do to help your contribution stand out? Who are the likely audience and their research areas? What they will be interested in and what questions they might ask?
  2. As an attendee you can review the  research of key speakers, maybe undertaking background reading to help you gain most from their talks and possibly ask questions. Before or nearer the time you might view attendance lists to see if there are attendees who you wish to contact.
  3. You can prepare a ‘pitch’ to support your networking, to be ready to summarise your research in a brief but convincing manner, and with enthusiasm, when you meet researchers from other institutions.

LDC Development programme opportunities

The LDC Development Team offers support for those soon to attend their first  Conference. If you find it hard to structure a presentation well, or if you have difficulties engaging in conversation with established academics, you might begin with our online resources helpful. For example, ‘The ‘Good Networking Video, for example, deals with issues related to networking and includes thoughts and experiences from PGRs and established academics. (University of Liverpool password required). Further online resources support your preparation for poster and talks:

The LDC Development Team also offers a series of Webinars and workshops in these areas. Join us to learn ways to fully engage in the Conference experience and gain practical tips that can help you prepare well for your presentations or networking.

Webinar: Preparing a Conference Poster  10 Feb       12:30 – 13:30
– An interactive session  reviewing what makes a good conference poster?

Webinar: Preparing an ‘Elevator pitch’   17 Feb          12:30 – 13:30
– An outline of the essentials to create a good elevator pitch for your networking.

Webinar: Making the Most of Academic Conferences   19 Feb         12:30 – 13:30
 – A view of conference attendance from the PhD perspective and delivered by two current PGRs .

 Pushing beyond imposter syndrome     27 Feb          09:15 – 12:30
– A workshop to help you understand your fears and develop techniques to overcome them.

Effective Networking at Conferences   3 Mar             13:00 – 16:00
  – A practical session focussing on conference networking and now to approach this, including practice to help you develop the important networking pitch!

Sessions focussing on Presentations skills

Further sessions will help you improve your presentation skills, prepare and even practice in advance of  a key presentation:

11 Feb  09:30 – 12:30   Planning and Preparing an Effective Research
Presentation
18 Feb   09:30 – 12:30   Delivering Academic Presentations
– repeated on the 17 March, and  28 April.
24 Feb   09:30 – 12:30 Webinar: Enhancing your Research Presentations
1 – defining your message
2 Mar  09:30 – 12:30 Webinar: Enhancing your Research Presentations
2 – delivery

New to PhD Research at Liverpool?

  • Are you feeling confused and disorientated at the start of your PhD?
  • Are you seeking opportunities to connect with other researchers in similar positions?
  • Are you aware of what the LDC Development programme has to offer?

Starting the PhD can often be a bewildering process as you try to find a structure and make sense of what you need to do, not just to start your research, but to manage all those various administrative processes. Unfortunately, there is no generic roadmap for the PhD.

I liken the start of the PhD to setting out on a sea voyage in an unfamiliar boat, to an unknown destination and with limited charts. You might have some guidance from your supervisor, some supervisor can be very helpful but others may have limited time. Your first trip out usually involves considerable trial and error; you will need to learn many general skills and gain new knowledge, how to handle your ‘boat/research’ , how to communicate with the ‘shore/work with collaborators’ as well learning the navigation/research skills. The first destination may not be where you expected, as research is about exploring the unknown, but, the first voyage will give you a much better idea of how to approach the next trip.

Remember; Many other PhD researchers do feel  ‘in the same boat’ !

The Liverpool Doctoral College provides a range of induction material for new starters, including the LDC Handbook, and your School or Institute should also provide an induction.  The PGR Toolbox includes the Record of Supervisory Meetings, a tool that all PhD researchers must use. There is a range of online help for this tool.

For more information see Essential University Links and a video Introduction to the LDC Development Programme

LDC Development programme

The LDC Development programme also offers sessions with opportunities to network with  researchers from across the  University and share experiences. In particular, we offer two events of specific interest to those just starting the PhD at Liverpool:

  • Webinar: Effectively Using the PGR Toolbox  5 Feb  12:30 – 13:30 – learn more about this essential tool and an opportunity for questions.
  • Taking Ownership of your PhD 11 Mar         09:15 – 16:30  – a day of activities and discussions to help you understand the processes and milestones in the PhD, working with your supervisor, planning your own professional development and starting networking.

The programme includes a range of further workshops and  webinars to help new researchers develop the wider skills, particularly in communication and productivity to succeed as a researcher. See our programme timetable for details.

Peer Support – PostGrad Society and the Peers for PhDs group

Finding support from your peers can be valuable early on in the PhD, so that you build on their experiences. You will probably find it useful to both seek both communities within your department/school or subject area and with mixed communities from other areas.

There are a couple of University PhD student groups that offer frequent meetings on campus and are open to all PhD researchers; look out for events run by the PostGrad Society and also the Peers for PhDs group, who offer facilitated discussions to share  experiences and plan to move forward.