Wednesday Mar 16, 2022
Wednesday Mar 16, 2022
Wednesday Mar 16, 2022
In this episode of R, D and the Inbetweens I am talking to Dr. Jane May Morrison and Dr. Edward Mills about being a neurodiverse PGR in honour of Neurodiversity Celebration Week!
I have developed some advice for supervising neurodiverse PGRs from my conversation with Jane and Edward, which you can find on the University of Exeter Doctoral College blog.
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
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Hello and welcome to R, D and the in-betweens.
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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
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Hmm. Hello, and welcome to the latest episode of R, D in the In-betweens.
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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and I'm bringing you a special episode for Neurodiversity Celebration Week.
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So I'm going to be talking to two of our neurodiverse graduates about their experience of doing a Ph.D.
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So for those that don't know, neurodiversity is a way that we talk about variations or differences in the human brain.
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They may be regarding sociability, learning attention or mood, and we characterise those as differences rather than pathology.
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So rather than as something that's wrong with someone, it's just a way that they're different.
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Specifically, our guests today are autistic, so autism is a form of neurodiversity, but in and of itself refers to a very broad range of conditions,
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which can be characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours,
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speech and nonverbal communication, but not necessarily all of or just exclusive to these things.
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This episode is part of a new series where we're going to talk to researchers about
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their experiences of doing research with particular challenges such as neurodiversity,
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and hopefully produce some guidance for supervisors, for PIs
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for research leaders about how to best support and our researchers who have unique challenges within the research environment.
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Yeah, my name is Jane, and I'm originally from Glasgow, and I came to Exeter to do my PhD in human geography.
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I studied eco towns and whether or not living there is likelier to make you do green behaviours or not.
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I was late diagnosed with autism at 29, and I'm also going to speak a little bit about the kind of ADHD neurodiversity perspective here as well,
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because my husband also who has ADHD, got his Ph.D. a few years ago, so we had to neurodiverse doctors in this house.
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I love that phrase two neurodiverse doctors. It sounds like it should be a TV show.
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I'm Edward. Do you want to go next? Yeah, of course.
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So Edward Mills, I am a lecturer in mediaeval studies now at Exeter, but I completed my PhD back in 2021.
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I think it was, yes. And I am here representing the autism side of things specifically.
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I was also late diagnosed not quite as late as Jane at I think twenty three.
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That poses some challenges, but I've never really thought about.
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How autism interests with study until a certain point, during my PhD which I am sure we will discuss in detail later
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Yes, thank you both, and I think that's what's particularly interesting about this conversation actually is
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and is not just thinking about neurodiversity in general in terms of the PhD process,
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but also, you know. Late diagnosis of of neurodiversity and how that particularly is, you're kind of embarking on a research degree,
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how that impacts your approach and your support and your position as a student whilst your grappling with.
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The diagnosis, were you both diagnosed before you started your research degrees
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No, I wasn't myself.
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I was only diagnosed within the first few months of my Ph.D., which was news that I didn't expect, and it wasn't terribly helpful, to be honest.
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Yeah. So can you say something about that? About what? What do you mean by it wasn't terribly helpful.
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So I suppose in the long run, you could say it was helpful in the sense that it's better to know if you're having if you're struggling,
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if you're having some difficulties communicating, if you're having some trouble with some aspects of study and being on campus.
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It's better to know than not to know. I completely believe in that.
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That's I completely believe in having the right information to understand your own condition.
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On the other hand, you don't necessarily want to hear just as you start one of the most difficult kinds of academic challenges of your life,
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that you are also going to have to do it slightly with, you know,
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an added difficulty level there of having a condition you hadn't anticipated or not having to manage.
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So there are swings and roundabouts to knowing at that point. Absolutely.
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What about you, Edwards, different circumstances similar outcome
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I think so. I was diagnosed a while before I started my research degree.
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I was diagnosed the day before my graduation for my undergraduate defree
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but I didn't really do anything about it, so to speak, until about six months into my Ph.D.
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So the experience of coming to terms with what the diagnosis of, in my case, Asperger's meant.
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Wasn't something that I'd really had to tackle until it got to a point where I needed to do something about it.
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Yeah, so there's there's the dual challenges of, you know, the challenges of doing a research degree anyway,
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which let's face it, it's not the easiest of undertakings. But then also, you know.
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Coming, getting to grips with the diagnosis and what it means, and also, I guess what support is available to you and I'd be quite interested to know.
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And you know, quite honestly about the did you access any support from the university?
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As somebody who is neurodivergent or did you?
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Did you feel kind of comfortable to continue your studies kind of without support mechanisms or you know or were,
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you know, how were the support mechanisms in place were they beneficial or not, I guess is the, you know?
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Yeah, I see what you mean there. Yeah, I suppose that sometimes disability accommodations can be a little bit one size fits all.
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That can be a little bit of a nuance lost between figuring out the different conditions are really going to require different things.
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A lot of it is tailored towards undergrads. That's that's something I found in general.
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From speaking to other neurodiverse peers. They're not necessarily completely sure what to do with some of the situations that arise during the PhD.
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It's more about having extra exam time and things that are the things that would come up more in an undergrad course.
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That's not to say that there was nothing helpful on offer. I don't want to come down hard on that at all.
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But some of it wasn't as tailored towards actually autism as opposed to just, oh well, there is a general disability here.
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Therefore, you find academic life generally difficult, therefore have extra time on an exam.
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And yeah, and like you say, it's it's there's the.
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So there's the issue there of the kind of generic support for all disabilities and whether, you know,
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without getting into a debate of whether you consider neurodivergence to be a disability,
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but also let you say it's it's aimed towards undergraduates, so it's more time in an exam, which just does.
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It just doesn't apply in the in the research environment.
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Yeah, I mean, in my case, I found it difficult sometimes to tell the difference between struggling with something because of because of the condition,
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because of autism or just am I struggling with something because it's something that any PhD would struggle with and the people around me as well,
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like, how do we attribute that if there is a difficultly or if there's something, I'm finding tricky?
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How do we how do we kind of pass out if it really is something that I'm just finding difficult because of who I am?
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Or is it genuinely like, would anyone find this a tough situation?
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Hmm. Yeah. And like I said, if you are doing research degree is tough.
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Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm. Well, what if you go to say on that Edward in terms of your experience?
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So I think it's again not altogether dissimilar,
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certainly the way in which Exeter and a lot of institutions address the challenges that something like
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an autism or ADHD diagnosis might pose for students is some variant of something called an individual.
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Learning plans wasn't really applicable. It's through the ILP at Exeter, where you get things like adjustments for exam time.
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But in my case if I could give one piece of advice to a neurodiverse PGR it would be this.
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I was able to make use of the supervision agreements, which is something that is specific to PGR.
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So in my case, I actually had the almost the supervision contract.
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If that makes sense that every new PGR signed up to individually with their supervisors at the start of the Ph.D.,
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I mentioned it there and highlighted autism from the start.
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In that context, there wasn't really anything that an ILP tailored towards an undergraduate would necessarily achieve.
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So I didn't want to put that weight on the accessibility team next to manage that.
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So I found that going through that what is available to PGR specifically was quite helpful to take.
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So I guess that leads to two questions.
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Sure, we'll deal with. So stick with the support theme.
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To start with, one of which is so you know, you said. You know, you, Edward, you raised.
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Your diagnosis within supervision agreement that was is a PGR related process,
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and you've both reflected on kind of the individual learning plan model is that it's aimed at undergraduates.
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I guess my question then is what?
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What support could have been available if that process were less aimed at undergraduates and it was it was more aware of the PGR experience?
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Is there support that you think the university could have given you that it didn't?
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I think it's important to say that the support the university offers for neurodiverse,
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students isn't just an ILP, there were other areas of the university support for autistic students.
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In my case, I was able to access it, which I benefited enormously from.
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So, for example, there is the not at all oxymoronic autism social group, which I attended on a few occasions.
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That tends to be quite undergraduate heavy, but it's always nice to meet people whose brains work in a similar way to yours, regardless of age.
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The university did also offer autism mentoring, which you can tailor and you can use its something a lot of universities do
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You can tailor and you can iuse it any way you see fit, so. In my case, it was not about some of the concerns that undergraduates might have.
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It wasn't about sort of. Principles of very basic time management that you might be coming to for the first time if you were going to graduate,
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it was sort of more more complex ideas than that and my mentor was still able to to help out with that enormously.
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Yeah. So for me, a lot of it was simply awareness raising.
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I found helpful. Some accommodations are more to me of a safety net than something that is frequently needed.
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I found that having a tailored kind of ILP type document of requirements, especially for my viva, it was very good to have as a safety net.
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It was very good to know that they had been aware that if my eye contact wasn't exactly as another students might have been,
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it's not because I'm being shifty or suspicious or because I'm hiding something, you know,
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it's just a natural feature of autism that you don't always make eye contact in quite the same way.
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And simply having that level of awareness and also having the option of the things that were in it was things like being able to take breaks,
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when I needed or if I appeared to be getting overwhelmed, if there was any flapping and skimming going on.
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It's a sign that your autistic student is starting to get a bit agitated. Time to call a break and start again, things like that in it.
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In the end, none of that was necessary. The Viva went really well.
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No need for taking any breaks. I felt completely in control and enjoyed the whole thing.
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But the fact that it was there as a safety net was helpful.
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So sometimes even just knowing that your supervisors and the people who work with you are aware if you should become overwhelmed,
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if you should start to get into difficulties. I think it makes all the difference.
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Yeah, I really that really resonates with me, the the issue of awareness and also having, like you say,
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having those things in place if they are needed because they are not necessarily going to be needed, we're not dealing with with, you know.
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We're not dealing with fixed experiences. No, that's yeah, but yeah.
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Also from the from the kind of ADHD perspective as well.
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It's it's looking back in retrospect that things I think would have made the whole experience easier for those with attention deficit disorder.
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I mean, things like customised workplaces,
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because the science indicates that people with ADHD tend to learn better when they're a little bit in motion.
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So if they have the ability to pace up and down as they're studying, you know,
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that's why situations like hot desking in a quiet room where there's lots of people all together and everyone needs to be very quiet and considerate.
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if you can give the ADHD students a little bit of space on their own for some pacing and talking to themselves and waving their hands at a whiteboard,
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you know this is how we do it in our household. Maybe it's a little kooky, but it works, you know?
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And that's something that's specific to ADHD. Also, things like supervisors being able to.
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Stay quite on the ball. Stay quite strict with deadlines,
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because even though you would assume that a lot of people that I've talked to who are managing
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ADHD at university say that if the supervisor gives them to kind of vague or deadline and says,
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Oh, get it in whenever I don't really mind, I trust you. They say, Well, you know, how am I going to keep my concentration?
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I've got to keep my motivation high. I've got to have people you know that I can sign in with and check in with and talk to regularly.
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So, yeah, it's surprising that what does work for one condition? It's surprising how much it really doesn't work for another sometimes.
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Yeah, and so there's there's a couple of things in there which which are really important.
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One is like you say, it's the it's. Different people require different structures, and you've both mentioned it,
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so I wanted to bring up supervision and supervisors and specifically, you know where your saying, you know, awareness.
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Is key. What kind of.
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What kind of support did you have in place for most supervisors,
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how did you approach talking to them about the different support that you might need or the different structures you might need?
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And you know, how willing were they to accommodate, I guess, is the word I'm looking for.
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So shall I go first? Yeah. Go for it Edward. So obviously, I've given everyone supervisor envy on this podcast before.
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My supervisor Tom Hinton was wonderful about the whole thing.
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I think what I actually put on the supervision agreement because it's very much a document at least at Exeter that you draft with your supervisor.
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Was that Edward might misread social cues or.
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Possibly be a little too blunt when he didn't mean to be very standard, almost stereotypical things, really,
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but what tended to find was that sort of making a raising some awareness of that at the start was quite helpful in that.
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It's kind of a baseline, as we said,
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where there's an expectation which then we probably both found ourselves tailoring without really thinking about the as the relationship evolved.
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Yeah. So it's not a particularly complex point to develop from what was being said a moment ago,
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but it's the idea of being aware of being aware rather of your supervisor and the supervisor,
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being aware of what what they can do to help the supervisor work effectively with them as well.
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That can make a big difference from the outset and. What about you, Jane, what was your experience?
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It was a learning curve for both of us because I was as much in the dark really as they were.
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I had no understanding or training. I didn't even really know what Asperger syndrome was.
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Apart from a few stereotypes that you see on TV, and we all know those can be wildly inaccurate.
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So we were all kind of learning together, and I think the whole process evolved over time.
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I did have to change supervisors. And so that was part of the evolving that was part of the way that my degree changed over time.
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That was part of my degree journey. And sometimes it was sometimes communication differences and things were they were quite nuanced,
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they were to do with the sort of conventions of academia.
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So for example, situations where it's the academic convention to write in the margins to give helpful feedback.
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So I would have written this paragraph using X source. I would have emphasised Y Point differently.
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There's a little missing piece of the puzzle in the autistic mind, sometimes where the cognitive jump as to why he's writing that doesn't.
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It's not immediately obvious to us. I have come to understand over time logicking it out that, you know,
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he means you might like to try writing this paragraph using x source, and you might like to emphasise y point differently.
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My initial reaction is to look at it and go, Well, of course you would. You're a different human being.
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You'd have written a different thing to me because we do have these little misunderstandings that you just have to kind of, you know,
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the first few times and logic out kind of longhand and think right now,
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obviously it must mean that logically and then you come to an understanding and it becomes more commonplace, more kind of routine.
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Yeah, I had a few, a few moments like that. I don't think my supervisor typically wrote I would have written it this way,
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but there certainly were versions of that along the lines of me kind of having to,
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as you said, logic out something using the logical parts of your brain where somebody who is neurotypical might do that quote-unquote instinctively.
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So that's certainly an experience I can relate to as well. Mm-Hmm.
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So if I was struggling with a piece of feedback struggling to understand exactly what the change I should make really was,
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that could be difficult at times because my supervisor would then think, Well, this person is struggling because I'm being too harsh.
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I need to moderate my tone more, I need to make the feedback more oblique and indirect, because otherwise it'll be too blunt.
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And of course, this is this is the opposite of of what would have really worked for the situation,
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because the more vague and oblique and indirect it becomes, the less easy to understand the actual objection is.
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And so we all end up kind of missing each other in a way that was completely accidental and no one intends.
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But that was the kind of miscommunication error that we had to kind of overcome in the course of the degree.
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Yeah. Did you find yourself almost having a meta dialogue about?
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That sort of form of communication and feedback and all that sort of stuff to kind of.
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Tease out what what was was and wasn't working for both of you, I guess.
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I absolutely did with my supervisor. I think we did actually go on.
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I did discuss that on a few occasions that he did. He did very helpfully clarify that for me, it was that it wasn't feedback on me.
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It was what I what I'd written and how I could make it better because I have a tendency to take feedback very personally.
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I encountered some resistance to that. Obviously, I'm not here on this podcast is single anybody out at all?
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I'm just speaking honestly about it. Yes, there was some resistance from some quarters.
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There was a sense that I was asking for something very unreasonable and that when I confessed I was having some trouble communicating,
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there was a general meeting held to sort of say, Well, this is just the requirements of the degree we can't accommodate.
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It's got to be this way. So that was a little tough at first.
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I can't pretend otherways about that part. But, you know, ultimately in the long run, it all kind of evolved and it did work in the long run.
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We all came to a better understanding of communication. Yeah, and I think that there's two things that are really important,
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and one is is the importance of communication within within this and that kind
00:22:03,380 --> 00:22:09,100
of meta dialogue or meta communication and actually openness because.
00:22:09,100 --> 00:22:16,210
It sounds like you can only unpick because we're not talking about something as simple here as to go back to that classic example.
00:22:16,210 --> 00:22:20,950
More time in an exam, we're talking about something much more subtle, a much more nuanced.
00:22:20,950 --> 00:22:26,950
Yeah. And it sounds like to me what you're saying is that need that needs unpicking.
00:22:26,950 --> 00:22:32,750
Yeah, yeah. For that supervisory relationship to be able to work properly.
00:22:32,750 --> 00:22:37,750
It's like coming back to the awareness thing, even just knowing that that is on the table.
00:22:37,750 --> 00:22:41,110
The kind of meta unpicking option is on the table.
00:22:41,110 --> 00:22:45,700
If you want it to have a conversation about, you know, how can we talk about how we're communicating here?
00:22:45,700 --> 00:22:51,540
Is this working for you? Even just knowing that you could have that conversation is is helpful, I think,
00:22:51,540 --> 00:22:56,690
and I think setting that up from the outset is a very a very if you're able to do that,
00:22:56,690 --> 00:23:03,340
it's a very positive thing to do, certainly with my supervision agreement I was fornature enough to have that in place from the outset.
00:23:03,340 --> 00:23:14,370
And I think I you know and this is something that I harp on about quite a lot about, quote unquote adjustments is that, you know?
00:23:14,370 --> 00:23:19,080
That, I would say, is good practise in any supervisory relationship.
00:23:19,080 --> 00:23:26,900
I'm. It to be having those conversations about how you communicate and what works and what doesn't.
00:23:26,900 --> 00:23:36,020
Because I it makes the learning experience much more effective, and this thing that I wanted to raise was, I think that Jane,
00:23:36,020 --> 00:23:38,390
you found something really crucial as well for me,
00:23:38,390 --> 00:23:46,670
which is that we have systems and processes and ways of doing which aren't like the not regulations.
00:23:46,670 --> 00:23:51,200
You know, they're not things that we have to do them all kind of cultural norms, really.
00:23:51,200 --> 00:23:58,540
Yeah, the norms of the way that we do things and sometimes people find it really difficult to move outside of that.
00:23:58,540 --> 00:24:05,360
Well, that no, but that's the way that we do it, as if there's the fact that the way we do that, that's the way that we do.
00:24:05,360 --> 00:24:16,820
It means it's the right way and the only way which we're just not in a realm of, of the right way and the only way in so much of this work.
00:24:16,820 --> 00:24:24,380
And I think that that's a really important recognition as well is that it's it's a challenge to the norms of the system.
00:24:24,380 --> 00:24:33,590
Yeah, it's being changed in the undergraduate realm I'm thinking here about undergraduate assessment is often being has been
00:24:33,590 --> 00:24:38,060
radically changed in recent years in response to in response to COVID to change.
00:24:38,060 --> 00:24:43,070
Change is possible and change change does happen. Absolutely.
00:24:43,070 --> 00:24:48,960
But there's I think there is still a sense that the the Ph.D. as a.
00:24:48,960 --> 00:24:59,190
As a higher degree is still being held to a lot of very traditional norms with a certain a certain set of expectations, be placed upon it.
00:24:59,190 --> 00:25:03,600
Excuse me, strange accent? Yes.
00:25:03,600 --> 00:25:14,760
And I think that's really it's really important to recognise because the challenges to the system are crucial because it's challenging, you know?
00:25:14,760 --> 00:25:20,710
Well, why? Why does it have to work that way? Why does it be assessed that way?
00:25:20,710 --> 00:25:25,840
Why do we have to communicate that way? You know, why is it that that's the way that we do things?
00:25:25,840 --> 00:25:29,910
And what? Why can't we do things differently?
00:25:29,910 --> 00:25:35,070
And there might be a valid answer to that question that might be that the viva is an important.
00:25:35,070 --> 00:25:36,120
The way that we typically do it,
00:25:36,120 --> 00:25:45,420
viva is an important step in making sure that we are able to prove authorship of the thesis and if they and in speech but equally,
00:25:45,420 --> 00:25:54,750
there are changes that we can make. Yeah. And I know that for instance, and what we've done at Exeter on adjustments for vivas, you know,
00:25:54,750 --> 00:26:02,550
it's been quite challenging because one of the things that often gets suggested by accessibility is, well, couldn't you have the questions in advance?
00:26:02,550 --> 00:26:09,250
And you go, Well, it's it's not a case of the questions are set in advance because it's a conversation.
00:26:09,250 --> 00:26:18,090
And so you can't you might be able to provide some of that, but you can't provide all of it's not the nature of of what the examination is,
00:26:18,090 --> 00:26:23,790
but there might be other accommodations that you could make that would provide the same level of support.
00:26:23,790 --> 00:26:30,120
For instance, I know I've had we've had students, for instance, who have stutters,
00:26:30,120 --> 00:26:34,740
who have been who have been provided with some of the questions in advance so that they're
00:26:34,740 --> 00:26:40,290
able to write out responses so that if they are struggling to communicate within the viva
00:26:40,290 --> 00:26:46,080
that they have a response, but they only get that with, you know, within a certain time period or in advance and all this sort of stuff.
00:26:46,080 --> 00:26:51,450
So there were there were rules around it, but it's not that the accommodations can't be made.
00:26:51,450 --> 00:26:59,700
It's just that they've got to, I guess, honour the nature of the examination whilst also not kind of.
00:26:59,700 --> 00:27:04,230
I realise I'm contradicting myself slightly, because whilst also not kind of being,
00:27:04,230 --> 00:27:08,320
you know, I don't think you're contradicting yourself, I understand what you're saying. Yeah.
00:27:08,320 --> 00:27:12,840
No reasonable adjustments. I think that you're right, which is not really I mean,
00:27:12,840 --> 00:27:19,740
that really resonates with me because I had an added complication on top of the autism I also was diagnosed with.
00:27:19,740 --> 00:27:24,660
Obsessive compulsive disorder was actually so severe that I was hospitalised
00:27:24,660 --> 00:27:29,430
within the first few weeks of my PhD with it because it was it was quite extreme.
00:27:29,430 --> 00:27:36,000
So it has been very bad at certain points, and I know that that has added a layer of complication and difficulty,
00:27:36,000 --> 00:27:39,870
which I mean is something that you can you can kind of anticipate as part of
00:27:39,870 --> 00:27:44,010
disability services because it is normal for some conditions to cluster together.
00:27:44,010 --> 00:27:50,550
We all know statistically that it's much more common for people on the autism spectrum to have a diagnosis of OCD.
00:27:50,550 --> 00:27:56,910
So the fact that some of these disorders come in clusters will come together. You know, it's not a surprising thing.
00:27:56,910 --> 00:27:59,580
Well, it is a whole other layer of complications to manage.
00:27:59,580 --> 00:28:08,100
And I certainly was aware of the humorous irony, of a student trying to do a geography degree with periodic agoraphobia.
00:28:08,100 --> 00:28:14,340
So attempting to be on location and studying a particular location was having some difficulty
00:28:14,340 --> 00:28:19,560
leaving the house due to intrusive thoughts because obsessive compulsive disorder can catch you that way.
00:28:19,560 --> 00:28:24,960
Sometimes when it's when it's busy and I raise you autism in a modern foreign languages degree.
00:28:24,960 --> 00:28:33,990
Oh, I know you think that that wasn't helpful to have ended up with a situation of, you know,
00:28:33,990 --> 00:28:38,460
I'm going to I made out, obviously to my research location as often as I possibly could.
00:28:38,460 --> 00:28:45,180
But there were periods where the symptoms were very bad and it was difficult to get to conduct an interview, for example, face to face.
00:28:45,180 --> 00:28:51,600
And at that point, luckily, I say luckily in terms of a global pandemic, I wasn't lucky as such.
00:28:51,600 --> 00:28:57,150
But you know, everyone was starting to move towards this more Zoom model of doing things.
00:28:57,150 --> 00:29:01,620
Everyone was understanding that there was a kind of online correlate way of doing things.
00:29:01,620 --> 00:29:10,380
And even though I acknowledged at the time, I understand that it's not as not necessarily as effective as being face to face my question at the
00:29:10,380 --> 00:29:16,470
time to the university authorities was can it be effective enough for me to make progress on my degree,
00:29:16,470 --> 00:29:24,000
even if we do a kind of online way that is not as superior, it's not necessarily as good as face to face.
00:29:24,000 --> 00:29:31,230
Is it still 90 percent as good? Can we still make it as good as possible and it still be an accommodation that just about still works?
00:29:31,230 --> 00:29:35,520
And in the end, I did it half and half. I did some interviews face to face and I did some online.
00:29:35,520 --> 00:29:39,120
And because of the COVID situation, that was becoming not unusual at that point.
00:29:39,120 --> 00:29:44,250
So and I couldn't work in some circumstances.
00:29:44,250 --> 00:29:49,830
And I think that that in some ways is, you know, not not to in any way make light of a global pandemic.
00:29:49,830 --> 00:29:55,950
But that is some of the advances that COVID has given us is those sorts of things where we've gone will know it's it's inferior.
00:29:55,950 --> 00:30:04,410
It's not the same. It's not as good. We're not going to try or accommodate it because we were all forced into an environment where we had to actually,
00:30:04,410 --> 00:30:14,550
like you say, we've realised actually, you know what is 90 percent is good, actually, that's still valid and still useful and still,
00:30:14,550 --> 00:30:19,400
you know, helps us to create knowledge and do these things.
00:30:19,400 --> 00:30:25,410
It still has worth just because it's the same doesn't mean it's not.
00:30:25,410 --> 00:30:26,640
It's not worthwhile.
00:30:26,640 --> 00:30:33,990
I would challenge anyone looking at the side-by-side transcripts of the interviews done face to face and the interviews that I did online.
00:30:33,990 --> 00:30:37,560
I would really challenge anyone to see much of a difference in those.
00:30:37,560 --> 00:30:43,410
I think we used a tiny bit of the kind of nuance of communication, facial expressions, body language.
00:30:43,410 --> 00:30:50,460
However, for an autistic student, I did kind of point out in my degree when I reflected on how it had gone and said maybe for autistic students,
00:30:50,460 --> 00:30:56,610
that's not as big a loss that we might not have been looking at that very well anyway.
00:30:56,610 --> 00:31:05,040
So, yeah, 90 percent as good, you know? So the.
00:31:05,040 --> 00:31:11,400
I guess my next question is about what were the real challenges that you experienced
00:31:11,400 --> 00:31:15,730
throughout the process of doing a research degree as someone who was neurodivergent,
00:31:15,730 --> 00:31:23,100
are there particular pinch points in the process like the Viva or was it just like you, said Jane.
00:31:23,100 --> 00:31:29,430
When you know these are in some ways fluctuating kind of symptoms and fluctuating effect on your life?
00:31:29,430 --> 00:31:32,370
And so if you will be like, you know,
00:31:32,370 --> 00:31:40,300
you said about when your OCD was particularly bad that you know that that causes of the knock on effect and challenges in your studies.
00:31:40,300 --> 00:31:49,080
I just wondered kind of. Yeah, I guess for you in your experience, what the big challenges were.
00:31:49,080 --> 00:31:55,320
Yes. For the kind of OCD aspect of it certainly made concentration a little harder.
00:31:55,320 --> 00:32:02,370
You know, I was still able to produce a good result and like you say, sometimes you get the good result by atypical means.
00:32:02,370 --> 00:32:09,450
I think it slowed me down a little. I think that it was hard, harder to concentrate with intrusive thoughts causing a problem.
00:32:09,450 --> 00:32:17,700
But you know, you still get there in the end, you find ways of working around it, even if it goes a little bit slower than the conventional timetable.
00:32:17,700 --> 00:32:22,650
You can still get that. Yeah, that that for me was challenging.
00:32:22,650 --> 00:32:27,810
That was that was hard to bear sometimes because I didn't want to be dealing with it.
00:32:27,810 --> 00:32:33,660
You know, nobody else wanted me to be dealing with it. I was just. Whereas I think so.
00:32:33,660 --> 00:32:40,050
The analogy that's often used for having a neurodivergent condition is that you're
00:32:40,050 --> 00:32:43,350
running on a slightly different operating system than the rest of the world.
00:32:43,350 --> 00:32:47,700
So most of the world is running on Microsoft and you're kind of running on Linux.
00:32:47,700 --> 00:32:53,130
You might still you might use slightly different means to achieve the same tasks.
00:32:53,130 --> 00:32:57,750
OCD is more like a virus. OCD is more like a computer virus. It's not like an operating system.
00:32:57,750 --> 00:33:01,740
It's it's like something that stops the functioning of the system.
00:33:01,740 --> 00:33:05,210
So where's autism at something that can be worked with in academia?
00:33:05,210 --> 00:33:09,180
It can be really autism friendly. The OCD wasn't as much.
00:33:09,180 --> 00:33:14,220
That's a really, really interesting point, actually, and not one,
00:33:14,220 --> 00:33:19,950
not an angle that I I've thought about before, but certainly from an autism perspective.
00:33:19,950 --> 00:33:31,140
Your your brain running on a different OS is a very powerful model to take, and it's probably worth saying you mentioned some of the challenges,
00:33:31,140 --> 00:33:38,910
and I think I can echo the challenges coming up at certain points and being created by things other than necessarily purely PhD related things.
00:33:38,910 --> 00:33:46,620
So, for example, I really struggled living in a shared house in my first few months of the PhD,
00:33:46,620 --> 00:33:52,470
which is actually what kicked me into getting some autism support in the first place.
00:33:52,470 --> 00:33:57,840
But you mention that academia can also be autism friendly.
00:33:57,840 --> 00:34:05,490
And you're right in that if if autistic people can be running Linux when everyone else is running Windows,
00:34:05,490 --> 00:34:13,590
that means that you can do a lot of things much more efficiently than than other people can accept.
00:34:13,590 --> 00:34:19,170
Then you'll sometimes ask to do something that's really easy to do in windows, and you have to go, Oh no, hang on I've got to open up the terminal here.
00:34:19,170 --> 00:34:31,770
Just just, yeah, yeah. How far does this analogy extend? As brilliant as always, as a non Linux user, I'm already confused.
00:34:31,770 --> 00:34:36,990
So. And I find that analogy really helpful.
00:34:36,990 --> 00:34:47,620
Like, I think that it really clarifies it and the way to the extent to which you've taken Edward really helps, kind of.
00:34:47,620 --> 00:34:56,260
Understand what the challenges are and let you see how some things might be more efficient, also easier.
00:34:56,260 --> 00:34:59,470
But then things that seem might be simple, as you said,
00:34:59,470 --> 00:35:06,550
simple in windows and then actually more complicated in Linux because we're continuing with this analogy.
00:35:06,550 --> 00:35:13,320
I wondered what? Based on the kind of the challenges and particularly.
00:35:13,320 --> 00:35:17,010
What you seem to be saying is, is kind of it's it's.
00:35:17,010 --> 00:35:24,090
It's less about the process of doing the research degree and more about kind of basically how life intersects with it.
00:35:24,090 --> 00:35:32,640
You know, life happens and, you know, in whatever form and that creates, you know, challenges.
00:35:32,640 --> 00:35:42,060
What advice would you have for supervisors in supporting neurodivergent students?
00:35:42,060 --> 00:35:46,440
With these challenges, shall I go first on this one?
00:35:46,440 --> 00:35:52,770
Yeah, go for it. I think the main piece of advice I'd give supervises.
00:35:52,770 --> 00:35:58,460
It would be. Empathy.
00:35:58,460 --> 00:36:08,510
This sounds like a really obvious point to make, but being willing and able to listen from the start can make a huge difference,
00:36:08,510 --> 00:36:14,720
both in making the supervisor feel comfortable and ultimately new as a supervisor,
00:36:14,720 --> 00:36:20,360
making what's probably going to be a significant investment of your time over the next sort of three,
00:36:20,360 --> 00:36:26,790
three and a half, four years or longer, it'll work better and work more productively.
00:36:26,790 --> 00:36:37,880
So being willing from the outset to listen and to engage in what we call the meta dialogue earlier can make a huge difference,
00:36:37,880 --> 00:36:43,130
I think, from from the outset. So anything you wants to add to that, right?
00:36:43,130 --> 00:36:50,450
Oh, right. Yes. I think it comes back to a lot of what we were saying earlier about the willingness to communicate.
00:36:50,450 --> 00:36:57,230
I think what you made with some great points there, what I think empathy is certainly something that would be helpful and their willingness to
00:36:57,230 --> 00:37:02,210
communicate and the willingness to talk like you was saying on that meta level as well,
00:37:02,210 --> 00:37:11,390
to communicate about communicating, to ask, how is it going to actually ask what kind of ways of getting an idea together would be the most helpful?
00:37:11,390 --> 00:37:18,470
And if the current ones that we're using are working, you know, so you even just being able to talk on that meta level is also useful.
00:37:18,470 --> 00:37:25,010
But I found that the raising awareness and simply laying out kind of expectations
00:37:25,010 --> 00:37:29,390
or laying out an understanding of autism was at the beginning of things.
00:37:29,390 --> 00:37:32,270
It does change the whole dynamic. It does change the whole tone.
00:37:32,270 --> 00:37:38,990
If you go into it knowing that that's something that is going to be in the room with you, that you have to manage.
00:37:38,990 --> 00:37:45,520
You know, it no longer surprises people. People understand that if your eye contact, for example, is a little bit off to the left,
00:37:45,520 --> 00:37:52,160
no, it's not a sign that something is wrong or that someone is uncomfortable. It's just what's normal for that student.
00:37:52,160 --> 00:37:57,430
It really does make a huge difference as we sort of.
00:37:57,430 --> 00:38:07,160
Bring us up to a close, I wondered, actually if we could flip that around from advice to supervisors, what advice would you have for?
00:38:07,160 --> 00:38:14,810
Either the current neurodivergent PGRs or people who are neurodivergent, who are considering doing a research degree.
00:38:14,810 --> 00:38:23,780
We got any kind of things that you wish you knew or kind of advice that you wish you'd been given at that point in time.
00:38:23,780 --> 00:38:28,340
Yeah. Well, I think when it comes to this kind of self-knowledge, like knowledge is power.
00:38:28,340 --> 00:38:33,140
The more you can articulate what's going on in your head, the more you can communicate.
00:38:33,140 --> 00:38:34,970
I know ironically, this is about autism,
00:38:34,970 --> 00:38:43,370
but the more that you can communicate your needs and the way that you operates and what kind of things that you need from others,
00:38:43,370 --> 00:38:53,120
you know, that's very helpful. Read up on your condition. Ask others or attend the very helpful support group that they have here at Exeter.
00:38:53,120 --> 00:38:54,860
You know, that's very useful stuff.
00:38:54,860 --> 00:39:00,770
You connect with other people who have the same condition that you have and see what kind of commonalities you've got.
00:39:00,770 --> 00:39:06,080
And then, you know, that's a helpful springboard to work from because the more you know about yourself and your needs,
00:39:06,080 --> 00:39:15,380
the more you can advocate and the more you can be precise and clear about what it is you're going to need during the course of your degree.
00:39:15,380 --> 00:39:21,420
I actually found a role for myself within the social group, which was sort of.
00:39:21,420 --> 00:39:27,600
Almost somewhere between a facilitator and a member, I suppose, I mean, I might be misreading that somewhat,
00:39:27,600 --> 00:39:34,650
but I ended up I ended up running a kind of an informal autism lending library whereby all the books applied over the previous years.
00:39:34,650 --> 00:39:38,130
I just lent them out to autistic undergrads did, too.
00:39:38,130 --> 00:39:42,340
I took home a couple from you once. Oh, you're pretty sure. I think I did.
00:39:42,340 --> 00:39:46,920
Yeah. Did I get them back. Oh, oh no.
00:39:46,920 --> 00:39:53,640
That's that's a challenging question. I'm quite sure that it's pretty sure I'm quite conscientious about that
00:39:53,640 --> 00:40:06,280
And if not, I've got the spreadsheet. But the the I would give to to students incoming PGRs is
00:40:06,280 --> 00:40:15,880
Not just know as much about yourself as possible, but but certainly I echo a lot of of what Jane says about going to support groups,
00:40:15,880 --> 00:40:19,690
even if you don't think at the start that you necessarily need them.
00:40:19,690 --> 00:40:32,210
It was a the university made it very easy, but it was inherently an unpleasant experience having to go in my second term in Exeter.
00:40:32,210 --> 00:40:40,040
Falling as it felt to well-being, saying, Hi, I'm a 25 year old.
00:40:40,040 --> 00:40:46,400
Researcher who sits somewhere awkwardly between staff and a student, you know,
00:40:46,400 --> 00:40:57,700
but I'm struggling with something that feels like all the undergrads just get. Help us in the all the undergrads get full stop help exclamation mark.
00:40:57,700 --> 00:41:06,520
So what what I would say is get the get the support mechanisms set up as soon as possible.
00:41:06,520 --> 00:41:10,150
It's it's it's something I say to undergraduate students actually,
00:41:10,150 --> 00:41:19,150
as a personal tutor now is if you know that you might benefit from support, put the steps to get it in place way.
00:41:19,150 --> 00:41:25,360
Put put the steps underway now rather than waiting for a crisis because you will make your life
00:41:25,360 --> 00:41:33,040
so much easier if you are comfortable and if you are aware of what might happen before it does.
00:41:33,040 --> 00:41:40,650
Yeah, because. And neurodivergent conditions will.
00:41:40,650 --> 00:41:42,840
Make your experience different,
00:41:42,840 --> 00:41:51,990
and the earlier that you can acknowledge that and lean into both how that can make you experience good and also how we can.
00:41:51,990 --> 00:41:57,240
Create problems that you'll need to deal with the better. Yeah, yeah.
00:41:57,240 --> 00:42:01,620
I mean, I would add even things like communicating on academic Twitter can be helpful.
00:42:01,620 --> 00:42:05,610
There is a little group of neurodiverse PhDs on there.
00:42:05,610 --> 00:42:13,080
We share tips. We share information. And like you say, even if you don't think you're going to need a kind of support group scenario,
00:42:13,080 --> 00:42:20,070
even if you don't think that you've got a particular interest in socialising with your own people,
00:42:20,070 --> 00:42:28,380
even if you, you know, even if you don't think that's of particular interest to you, you'd rather cluster around an interest or about something else.
00:42:28,380 --> 00:42:35,310
There were light bulb moments at the autism sort of social group at Exeter that I have.
00:42:35,310 --> 00:42:38,580
I think we were out on a social trip to the bowling or something.
00:42:38,580 --> 00:42:43,680
We were all walking down the road together and I looked around and was like, Wait a minute, we've all got the same walk.
00:42:43,680 --> 00:42:50,340
How does this happen? These moments of like, we've all got these particular commonalities.
00:42:50,340 --> 00:42:55,080
You know, we will do this thing the same way we all think about this thing the same way.
00:42:55,080 --> 00:43:02,040
And I was this little light bulb moment where I have realisations about myself and about the way I worked that I found helpful.
00:43:02,040 --> 00:43:08,580
Oh, for me with trying to work out how many how much of the surface area of Devon you could cover if you took all of the baked beans that ever been made?
00:43:08,580 --> 00:43:18,130
We did the maths on it all classic. Yeah, in a hundred and forty years, no 400 years to cover Devon in baked beans.
00:43:18,130 --> 00:43:27,700
I am afraid I'm going to have to draw us to an end. Thank you both so much for your time and your candour.
00:43:27,700 --> 00:43:42,180
And and just for sharing your experience because I think like, you know, you're both saying about awareness and about.
00:43:42,180 --> 00:43:51,300
About learning from others and all of those sorts of things, and I think that hopefully for anybody listening that this will be really useful.
00:43:51,300 --> 00:43:56,040
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe.
00:43:56,040 --> 00:44:23,157
And join me. Next time we'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Feb 23, 2022
Wednesday Feb 23, 2022
Wednesday Feb 23, 2022
In this episode of R, D and the Inbetweens, I talk to Dr. Catherine Talbot, Lecturer in Pyschology at Bournemouth University about dealing with failure and rejections.
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
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Hello and welcome to R, D and the in-betweens.
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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
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Hmm. Hello, and welcome to the latest episode of R, D and the In-betweens.
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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and this episode, I think, is possibly one of our most important episodes so far.
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So in this episode, I'm going to be talking to one of our wonderful doctoral graduates from the University of Exeter,
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Dr. Catherine Talbot, who is now a lecturer in psychology at the University of Bournemouth.
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All about failure and rejection, and about how it's perhaps unseen and under-discussed area of academic life.
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And one we hope by the end of this conversation, we can normalise a little bit for you.
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Yes. So my name is Catherine Talbot, and I actually did my Ph.D. at the University of Exeter and finished a few years ago in medical studies,
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and now I'm a lecturer in psychology at Bournemouth University.
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Most of my research is in the area of cyber psychology, so I specifically focus on social media and how people with dementia use it,
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the barriers they face, the challenges and also the benefits. So.
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What we're going to talk about is failure and rejection, and we're going to sort of undermine those terms as we talk.
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But, you know, acknowledging I think that for a lot of people that by the time they get to a research degree,
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they tend to have been high flyers throughout their academic education,
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and they tend to have been people that have done really well and been really successful and not
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necessarily having had experience of quote unquote failing or being rejected for something.
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And then when that does start to happen through publications, through funding,
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through conferences, various different things, it can be a really difficult thing.
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But at the same time, it's. It is a kind of cornerstone of the academic experience.
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So I wondered if you could say something about your kind of first your first experiences of of sort of failure or rejection as an academic,
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whether as a Ph.D. student or as a lecturer. And really what that what it was and what that felt like to you, if that's OK.
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Yeah, of course. I guess by now, I feel a bit like an expert in failure and rejection, to be honest.
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So I just really identify with what you were saying.
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So when I first came to my research programme was a Ph.D. student.
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You know, I'd done really well at university. I had a placement.
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Year, I was looking to publish a paper. All very exciting stuff.
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So I didn't really have that experience of rejection.
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And then it came to my p h d and submitted the paper to a journal for the first time.
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And yeah, just having the reviewers comments back and then really just really tearing that paper apart.
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It's something that I just put my heart and my soul into.
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And I remember receiving those comments and just crying, just go and having a little cry and thinking, I'm the worst researcher ever.
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I can't do this. I'm going to fail my PhD
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Everyone, you know, and just completely catastrophize and really from there.
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So, yeah, I just I've got much better at dealing with that now.
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Yeah, I you're saying now I'm remembering this always comes back to my memory randomly the first time.
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And so when I started my research degree, I submitted part of Masters for publication at my sort of supervisor's suggestion and it got rejected.
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And I read about two sentences of that feedback.
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And it was it felt so brutal. I didn't want to read anymore, so I filed it in my email.
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And by the time I got up, the courage to try and read it it had been archived and I couldn't get it back.
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So I never actually read the feedback.
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I just literally like, I couldn't handle it, so I dug my head in the sand just as like, No, I'm not going to deal with this I'm not
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gonna think about it, which it's very difficult, but it is so, so difficult, especially how those emails start as well.
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You just think, Oh, I'm rubbish, I'm the worst. Yes. And it very much.
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And that's the thing. I think it's it's twofold.
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It very much feels like a personal failure and you and catastrophizing what you say, you think, Oh, I'm not going to I can't do this.
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I can't do it because, you know, because of this one thing where they've said, No, not this time.
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Essentially, you know, you feel like everything is over and you can't do any of it, which of course, is not true, but it feels so real at the time.
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It feels so overwhelming. Yeah, definitely.
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And also, you do I've noticed I do tend to focus on the negatives as well that are in there.
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So even if I receive well as an example, actually, I wrote a paper recently which got accepted for publication,
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but I didn't actually realise it had been accepted because I picked up on all of the negative comments within the review.
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I didn't read that one sentence that was like, If you make these changes,
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I'm happy to accept that it just it says something really significant about our mindset and and the way that we're that,
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the way that we're both used to and respond to critique.
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We're all it's that kind of perfectionism and imposter syndrome. I think like we're always assuming that we're going to get found out.
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And so we're always trying to like looking for the negatives or looking for the flaws and not necessarily looking for the sentence that says.
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We want to accept this for publication. Yeah, exactly, exactly.
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Always looking for that critique and that criticism. And I think it is important to go back to the idea of.
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Of it feeling like a a personal failure, because one of the things I always try and say to people is,
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you know, you have to try and and I'm not saying I can't do this or I'm good at it, by the way,
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but you have to try and take a step back and realise that even though you put your heart and
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soul and all of this work into your publications or applications or anything that you're doing,
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that is not you, and that is not the sum of you.
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And so when that is rejected, whatever reason, that isn't a rejection of you, it's a rejection of whatever is on that piece of paper.
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The tiniest snapshot. Yeah, I agree. And it can just feel so personal that this is an issue with you as a person, as you as a student as well,
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when actually, you know, they're just critically appraising the work, which is what they're meant to do.
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And there will be some good bits in that. And usually reviews do add some nice little positive bits as well,
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or ultimately just seeing This as right, I can take this information and I can go and improve my work.
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And because people, they have taken the time to, to look at your work, to engage with that and to provide comprehensive feedback.
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So they're viewing it more in that way as well. But I think what you said there, Kelly, and was really interesting actually,
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because I think maybe this relates to how we see ourselves as Ph.D. students as well,
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because I know at that point in my life that was such a big part of who I was as a person was the name of a Ph.D. student.
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And that's kind of how I evaluated myself. So when having that negative feedback or that experience of rejection,
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it can be quite hard not to take it personally because that's such a big part of who you are.
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So like I was saying at the start, I think if you're if you've been, like, really academically successful.
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And most people, you know, that come of certainly through a traditional route to a research degree or a PhD have been
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you're not you're not used to it, you're not used to not doing well at things and it's a privileged position to be in.
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But it's still, you know, it's a learning process of how to deal with critique and how to deal with rejection and how to turn that into.
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Into the positive that you're talking about, actually turn that into a.
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How do I use this to improve my work to make it better rather than just going kind of falling into an existential hole of.
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Why am I doing this, why aren't you know? I'm not I'm not good enough to do this.
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I'm. So. I wonder if you could say a little bit about how, you know, a few years on.
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How you deal with any kind of failure or rejection?
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In your professional life now, like, you know, compared to that first paper when you started the Ph.D.
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If you have something now, what do you do? How do you try and and and respond to it in perhaps a more positive way?
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And how and how do you cope with the emotions that you feel associated with it?
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Yeah. So it is difficult. And I will say that I think I've got better with time and just kind of as you get more experience of it and this rejection,
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unfortunately being quite a normal part of academia, you do. You do you kind of get a little bit used to it, I guess.
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But it's still hard when you spend lots of time on something and you've got that rejection.
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And you know, initially what I found is I do feel upset or I feel angry.
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So what I do is I read through the rejection letter, so if it's a paper,
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I'll look through the reviews and then I'll just allow myself to feel the emotions that I'm feeling right.
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We shouldn't be suppressing those emotions just accept how I'm feeling.
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And then I just move those reviews to a different folder in my inbox.
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And I think, right, I'll return to those in a couple of days. And what I found actually is that when I return to that, those reviews in a few days,
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they seem they make a lot more sense and they, you know, they seem a bit kinder than when I initially read them.
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So I find that is one helpful thing to do.
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Yeah, I think that's really crucial and really important is letting yourself feel that and letting yourself have an emotional response to it,
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particularly as you put so much into, you know,
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whether you're writing an article or you're putting together a funding application, you know, these are colossal pieces of work.
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And you dedicate a huge amount of time amd yourself to and to then get that email, as it tends to be now that says no is it's really hard.
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And as you as you rightfully said, unfortunately, it is a sort of no, it's a normal thing in academic life.
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It's the mainstay, you know? The nature of what we do is you try things, whether that's, you know.
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Particular research or, you know, trying to publish something or trying to get some funding.
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You know, you try things, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and.
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Given how competitive it is, unfortunately, you tend to lose more than you win, and that's normal.
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Yeah, I was going to just add to that, actually, that I've have, and this is the same for professors and, you know, world leaders in the field.
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They have admitted they have had far more grants rejected than they've had accepted, and that's certainly the case for me.
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And you know, it's just the nature of it, and it's about almost being able to just dust yourself off and say,
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Right, what can I do with this information to improve and to succeed in the future?
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Absolutely, because there will be something in there, some nugget of wisdom that you can take forward with you to the next one.
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And you know, it is a little bit of a revolving door of.
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Right. Not that journal. Let's look at the feedback. Let's look what they said unless, you know, let's try again somewhere else.
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And it is a bit like that, and sometimes it's just it's not it's not the right place,
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it's not the right time, you know, if the research isn't quite developed and you know,
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the ideas aren't quite developed enough, it's all sorts, all sorts of reasons,
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none of which are anything to do with you or your ability as a researcher.
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Yeah, I was just going to add as well.
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There is it's also recognised in that there is that element of luck there as well, and that's something I've certainly found.
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So as a qualitative researcher submitted to journals,
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it's the most frustrating thing where you get someone who uses quantitative methods reviewing your stuff and just doesn't understand it and therefore,
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you know, suggests that it's rejected and then it gets rejected. So maybe also think about is, is this fair?
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Is it is it fair or is it that I need to find somewhere else to send this somewhere?
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That's and what I'm doing a little bit more.
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And like you say, you know. There's an element of luck in this and timing.
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There's an element of I mean, it's hugely competitive,
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I remember when I was an undergrad applying for funding for my masters and I applied to the Arts Humanities Research Council,
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the AHRC for funding and my application got rated excellent priority for an award.
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And I did not get any money because the.
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There were so many applicants. I was just going to say it is just so competitive with all of these grants fellowships,
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and there's lots of really excellent researchers all applying for the same funding with excellent proposals.
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And just the chance of success is so, so low. Yeah, and that's.
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And I say that not to discourage people, but just just to recognise the reality of it, and I say the same with academic jobs as well.
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You know, I see a lot of of PGRs coming through and applying for postdocs or for lectureship.
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And not getting interviews or getting interviews and not getting the roles and saying,
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Oh, you know, they gave it to someone and they've got more publications.
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than me they've done this many more conference presentations or they had funding for that,
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you know, and kind of starting to do this, do this exercise of right.
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These are the things I've done and these are the things that they've done. And these are all the ways they've done things.
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They've done more things than I have done better things than I have.
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And the thing that always strikes me when people do that is that they write this list of all the things somebody
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else has done that they haven't and they don't think about the things that they've done that somebody else hasn't.
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And the experience that they have that somebody else doesn't.
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They totally devalue what they have and go, well, that person's better because they've done X, Y and Z, and I haven't done that.
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That's such a good point. I'm definitely guilty of that. It's and it's hard not to do it.
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But, you know, there's all sorts of reasons why that person might be the person that gets a job over you
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They may have all of these things because they're not because they're further along.
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You know, they may be three years out of their research degree and you're only one.
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So they've they had more experience. They've had more time. You know, that's not a reflection on you.
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That's just the reality of having had more time to develop these things.
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But exactly, and we can't just judge people just based on these singular criteria,
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when we're all very different, I guess different disciplines, we have different approaches to doing research.
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You just can't really compare yourself. I don't think either. No.
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And it's it's, you know, it's like we said about the kind of, you know, an article or an application being a snapshot, you know, a job application.
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Again, it's just a snapshot. What? What's on? A piece of paper or an online form is not the sum of everything that you are.
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And somebody has got to make a judgement based on what is what they have in front of them, which is.
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So far from the sum of its parts, you know, it's so far from representative of all that that person is and all that they do.
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And so they're not, you know, they're not judging. That person is better than Person B, they're
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Looking at what they've got on a piece of paper to make a decision,
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and it's not a judgement on an individual, and it doesn't mean that that person's better than you.
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It just means that you say they fit a set of criteria and it was it was on the form that they needed.
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You know, it's. It's it's a strange way to make decisions, but it is nonetheless the way that we do it.
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Yeah, exactly. I mean, just on that point about jobs, I guess before my first postdoc, I applied well.
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I had interviews for three positions before actually getting that one.
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So getting rejected from these positions is completely normal.
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And actually, I think some of it as well is learning what to expect in an interview and actually learning how to write those job applications,
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which I've certainly got better at now and how to emphasise your skills and how to
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show that you do fit this criteria so that when a person goes through those forms,
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they can just say yes, they meet this criteria.
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Yes, they've published paper and just really trying to sell yourself, I guess, in the best possible way.
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And try and capture what you know that.
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That thing that makes you unique. You know, the thing that you know so and so might have X number more publications than you.
00:19:41,830 --> 00:19:46,990
But what do you have that they don't? Do you have more teaching experience that they than they do?
00:19:46,990 --> 00:19:50,830
Because actually, if you're applying for an academic role that might,
00:19:50,830 --> 00:19:58,050
depending on what the need is in the department at that time, that might be more valuable to them.
00:19:58,050 --> 00:20:06,910
Yeah, exactly. Such a good point. And also, when applying for the postdoc, your topic area might be a better fit than someone else.
00:20:06,910 --> 00:20:07,980
And you know,
00:20:07,980 --> 00:20:17,880
it's and also in terms of what other skills do you have in terms of networking and what kind of what wider network do you bring to the role?
00:20:17,880 --> 00:20:22,470
You might have some fantastic contacts and collaborations.
00:20:22,470 --> 00:20:29,740
Do you have experience with science communication and think about those other skills as well that aren't just publications,
00:20:29,740 --> 00:20:37,710
because especially if you're applying for a postdoc, you'll be publishing while doing the postdoc and you will get guidance and advice on that.
00:20:37,710 --> 00:20:45,040
Absolutely, and you know, it's important to remember that with all of these activities, none of it is a finished product.
00:20:45,040 --> 00:20:55,460
You know, it's not a finished researcher, you know, putting a box tied up with a bow, perfect number of publications perfect number of
00:20:55,460 --> 00:21:02,740
postdocs held. It's it's all a process, and you will develop within whatever role.
00:21:02,740 --> 00:21:06,460
You end up getting on you,
00:21:06,460 --> 00:21:09,700
and that will give you the opportunity to develop these things and to develop
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your publications and build from the bits of and all of these sorts of things.
00:21:16,220 --> 00:21:23,340
I wondered if you could say something about what I guess what you've learnt.
00:21:23,340 --> 00:21:27,810
From the process of failure, so, you know, we've said it's a common part of the academic experience.
00:21:27,810 --> 00:21:33,460
You get rejected and you get rejected more times than you'll get accepted.
00:21:33,460 --> 00:21:39,770
But so what have you learnt along the way?
00:21:39,770 --> 00:21:50,860
So while we've already touched on not taking it too personally, I've I've learnt that I've also learnt about it being a common experience.
00:21:50,860 --> 00:22:01,310
So for example, I've recently started collaborating with this amazing big deal researcher and they were sharing their experiences
00:22:01,310 --> 00:22:07,970
of failure actually and talking about all of these grants they've submitted and none of them getting funded.
00:22:07,970 --> 00:22:10,010
And I thought, Wow, OK,
00:22:10,010 --> 00:22:18,410
so it actually is a common experience that people who are these superstars are also experiencing it too I think that that's really important.
00:22:18,410 --> 00:22:27,770
And so there being an openness and talking about failure is really important because the more we talk about it,
00:22:27,770 --> 00:22:32,890
the more we normalise it and the more we create an environment that says, actually,
00:22:32,890 --> 00:22:41,100
you know, this is normal, this is something we're going to go through and.
00:22:41,100 --> 00:22:51,960
There are ways there are ways to cope with it. And you know that you have a community around you who've been through exactly the same things.
00:22:51,960 --> 00:22:57,360
Yeah, exactly, and I guess that's something that I try to talk about on academic Twitter.
00:22:57,360 --> 00:23:02,550
quite a bit is talking about experiences of rejection and being quite open about that.
00:23:02,550 --> 00:23:09,490
I mean, don't get me wrong, sometimes academic Twitter can make you feel quite rubbish because you see all of these people doing amazing things.
00:23:09,490 --> 00:23:17,160
And I sometimes think, Oh, I'm not doing that. But there are a lot of people speaking openly about rejection and failure on that,
00:23:17,160 --> 00:23:21,990
and it's such a good community, particularly for PhD students, I think.
00:23:21,990 --> 00:23:25,510
So definitely recommend making use of that. Yeah.
00:23:25,510 --> 00:23:36,600
And like let you say, I mean, because Twitter has historically been a kind of a publicity tool, let's say, for for academics.
00:23:36,600 --> 00:23:39,170
It can make you feel inferior.
00:23:39,170 --> 00:23:48,640
But but increasingly, there's more and more discussion of the realities, I guess, of being an academic and things like failure.
00:23:48,640 --> 00:23:53,310
And there's been an increase we've seen in people publishing failure CVs
00:23:53,310 --> 00:24:00,660
So the kind of opposite of a CV, all of the things that you failed at all of the things that you've been rejected from.
00:24:00,660 --> 00:24:09,090
To kind of bring to the surface, actually the thing the thing that you would submit to, you know, for a job application is all the positive things.
00:24:09,090 --> 00:24:12,720
But like you say, there's all of the kind of.
00:24:12,720 --> 00:24:20,160
The rejections and the failures behind that which outnumber, you know, the things that you would put on a CV for an employer.
00:24:20,160 --> 00:24:32,280
And I think that that's it's just really healthy to be for people to be sharing that openly and making it clear.
00:24:32,280 --> 00:24:34,110
This is normal, I'm not just saying it's normal,
00:24:34,110 --> 00:24:44,410
but like you were saying with working with a more senior researcher really showing and demonstrating in reality that his perfectly normal.
00:24:44,410 --> 00:24:52,360
Yeah, exactly, and I think what I've learnt the most is you've got to keep them up your motivation so that it can be so hard.
00:24:52,360 --> 00:24:57,760
But if you've got a grant application that hasn't been funded, yeah, that's rubbish.
00:24:57,760 --> 00:25:02,110
But think right? Where can I send this now? What is that?
00:25:02,110 --> 00:25:08,020
That's still useful. That will help me to grow as a researcher and really improve my skills.
00:25:08,020 --> 00:25:17,060
How can we still do this despite this rejection, are there other avenues and really thinking about those sort of things?
00:25:17,060 --> 00:25:22,790
You know, if you if you submit an article to a journal,
00:25:22,790 --> 00:25:30,090
the worst thing that happens is that you're going to be outright rejected, but you will get feedback.
00:25:30,090 --> 00:25:40,230
On how to improve. So there's always that kind of sense of of being able to move, move it forward.
00:25:40,230 --> 00:25:46,590
Yeah, and I didn't realise it as well, that people say, who do these reviews generally,
00:25:46,590 --> 00:25:53,940
I'm not going to say often, but generally people do want to be constructive and they do want to help.
00:25:53,940 --> 00:25:59,190
And there is this push as well now to be a lot kinder in reviews as well.
00:25:59,190 --> 00:26:05,230
So I know a lot of editors are giving that as outright guidance, but realising that these people,
00:26:05,230 --> 00:26:10,740
they have spent their time on it and that very often experts in that area.
00:26:10,740 --> 00:26:13,950
So it is a way for you to improve and to develop.
00:26:13,950 --> 00:26:20,970
And you know, if we're thinking about a publication, then you can actually end up with a much better publication as a result of that.
00:26:20,970 --> 00:26:27,750
So I know some of my own work from when I've submitted it to the first journal compared to, say, the third one.
00:26:27,750 --> 00:26:34,530
The paper changes so much and it's so much better, and I'm much happier with it with that final submission.
00:26:34,530 --> 00:26:41,940
So and something else I was thinking, which I find really helpful if I'm really annoyed about some reviewers comments.
00:26:41,940 --> 00:26:46,260
I will just meet up with my friends, say, go to the pub, go to the cafe,
00:26:46,260 --> 00:26:53,190
have a video call during COVID, and I will just rant about it for a good half hour an hour.
00:26:53,190 --> 00:26:59,810
Get it all out of my system and then I'll say, Oh, OK, I feel a lot better now and ready to talk about.
00:26:59,810 --> 00:27:05,890
Exactly how we'd process anything else. And I think that's what we've got to, you know,
00:27:05,890 --> 00:27:13,340
got to remember that it's how you'd process any other kind of emotion or not back if you had an argument with somebody,
00:27:13,340 --> 00:27:16,610
when someone's done something to annoy you. That's exactly what you would do.
00:27:16,610 --> 00:27:24,870
You would go and sit in a pub with your friends and go, Oh my, oh my God, you'll never believe what just happened.
00:27:24,870 --> 00:27:32,940
And that is cathartic. Exactly, and it's so simple, and I really value that pub time.
00:27:32,940 --> 00:27:42,180
Exactly. And that's why our and that's why our communities of practise and and kind of communities
00:27:42,180 --> 00:27:49,470
appears so important because actually they're the ones that kind of nurture and sustain us,
00:27:49,470 --> 00:27:54,060
share their experiences with us. You know, and say, you know, it's share.
00:27:54,060 --> 00:28:00,030
I've been through this too and kind of commiserate you when the failures and the rejections come in,
00:28:00,030 --> 00:28:06,510
but also celebrate with you when the when the successes happen.
00:28:06,510 --> 00:28:09,680
And I find that other people are very good at.
00:28:09,680 --> 00:28:18,740
When you kind of wallowing in self-pity, which I consider to be very myself, to be very, very good at is other people are very good at going.
00:28:18,740 --> 00:28:24,290
But what about that thing that you did? That's really good. What about that thing you did?
00:28:24,290 --> 00:28:31,790
That's really good. And getting yourself a group of colleagues and a group of people that will do that for you is,
00:28:31,790 --> 00:28:37,360
I think, so important as part of the academic experience.
00:28:37,360 --> 00:28:40,660
Yes, so basically find your cheerleaders, find them.
00:28:40,660 --> 00:28:46,480
They're out there and they'll be experiencing exactly the same stuff that you are ever.
00:28:46,480 --> 00:28:52,120
Pretty much everyone is experiencing those feelings, the failure ot rejection.
00:28:52,120 --> 00:28:57,490
So you just need to find your cheerleaders and you can be theres as well.
00:28:57,490 --> 00:29:01,000
Thank you so much to Catherine for taking this time to speak to me,
00:29:01,000 --> 00:29:08,230
but also for her candour and honesty about what are actually quite difficult experiences to talk about,
00:29:08,230 --> 00:29:13,510
but also admit to because it's not in academic culture to talk about these things.
00:29:13,510 --> 00:29:20,890
So I really value her honesty, both in this discussion, but also on Twitter.
00:29:20,890 --> 00:29:25,630
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe.
00:29:25,630 --> 00:29:39,770
And join me. Next time we'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
00:29:39,770 --> 00:29:52,731
Wednesday Jan 19, 2022
Wednesday Jan 19, 2022
Wednesday Jan 19, 2022
In this episode of R, D and the Inbetweens, I talk to Dr. Nicole Morrissey and Dr. Victoria Omotoso about their experiences of doing ajorr corrections after their viva.
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
00:00:09,220 --> 00:00:13,600
Hello and welcome to R, D and the in-betweens.
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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
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Hmm. Hello, and welcome to the latest episode of R D the In-betweens.
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We're back again talking about the viva and specifically about corrections and outcomes of post viva.
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This episode is all about major corrections. Now there's a lot of anxiety around major corrections.
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The what that means in reality, that it's something terribly bad as an outcome.
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And hopefully the experiences of two of our graduates, Dr. Nicole Morrissey and Dr. Victoria Omotoso,
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will allay some of these fears and actually help you understand what major corrections are in reality and that it's really not so bad.
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OK, so I'm Nicole Morrissey. I did my Ph.D. in medical sciences or more specifically, neuroscience,
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and now I'm a postdoctoral researcher at the Medical Research Council in Harwell.
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Fantastic, so the big question is when you after you did your viva, what kind of car did you get?
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And so while I was in my viva because I had what's known as an independent learning plan,
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they kind of say I was just it was described to me that my corrections were kind of like minor, but with extra time or minor/major.
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Well, officially on paper, I got given major corrections.
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So that meant that I had what like six months to do the corrections rather than three months.
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Yeah, exactly right. And I think what you've raised there is a really, really important point and important way in which minor major corrections are used,
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which is that it's about time that it will take you to do the corrections.
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And it's all sorts of reasons why people have what might be classified as minor corrections,
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but they get major corrections to give them the time to do them.
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You know, lots of people who are already working and therefore can't work on the corrections full time or that,
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you know, there's all, you know, there's all sorts of reasons.
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And of course, having an individual learning plan, that means you're not able to do it in that period of time.
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And it's really about the time it will take you to do the corrections rather than the corrections themselves.
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How did they talk to you in the viva and afterwards about what specifically they want to do to do so through the viva
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We kind of just started. So mine was during the lockdown,
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so it was virtually so we were kind of all of us looking at our screens I had two screens set up one with the thesis and one with the examiners,
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and we were just going through the thesis just like a chapter by chapter going through it,
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just discussing what I did and what they kind of they thought maybe needed to be corrected.
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So I made notes as I was going through it, but also then afterwards it took it was about.
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First, probably three or four weeks after the viva I received the official documentation,
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which is when the examiners had written down what the corrections are,
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how specific were they about in that kind of list that they sent you about what you needed to do to get the OhD?
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I mean, they wrote down what the page number of what their point that they were like making and
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whereabouts on the page like first paragraph second paragraph halfway through the second paragraph.
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So that made it quite easy to sort of go through one by one and correct it.
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But it was at least clear to you what the expectation of the examiners was.
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Yes. And I think that's where a lot of the anxiety for people comes is they think it's not going to be clear what they need to do and it might,
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you know, be open to huge amounts of interpretation, whereas actually.
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Examiners tend to be pretty, pretty clear and pretty specific about what what is needed.
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Yeah. Like, I felt like it was kind of like a to do list, that I went through and sort of tickd things off
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Yeah, I like that kind of concept of it. So when you see, you know, you tackled your corrections, you talk to your supervisor.
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You ticked off the to do list. And you when you finished that, what happened?
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What did how did you resubmit the thesis?
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So I had to email the postgraduate admissions office and tell them I was ready to resubmit.
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And similarly to how I submitted in the first place,
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they gave me a link to the online folder where I uploaded it in both Microsoft Word and PDF format because I thought both might be helpful.
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And what happened then? How long of a wait did you have before you
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Actually, you heard that the corrections have been accepted? Um, well, I had quite a long wait.
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I ended up having to like ask about what was happening.
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I think because it was a mix of the pandemic and I submitted my corrections probably at the end of May.
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So then it was also the summer and people were away. So I didn't find out about my corrections until beginning of August.
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Wow. Wow. So it was quite a few months, and then I had a second set of corrections to do.
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OK, so this is so this is something that people often ask about is, if you know,
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submit if you submit the first set of corrections, what if they come back with extra things?
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So can you talk a little bit about?
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About that, about how how you got that extra set of corrections, what kind of things they were, how you approached it?
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Yeah. So it was, I don't know, frustrating, is the right word or disappointing.
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But when I went through like the the examiner's report of the second set of corrections,
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it became clear to me that they had read the entire thing pretty much.
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Or most of it again. Wow. And most of the corrections were just spelling errors and then a few suggestions
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and change like statistical tests or corrections to my statistical analysis.
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A couple of things that I didn't really make clear during my first corrections
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So. I kind of went through it and was able to appreciate like the like the effort and help,
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that the examiners provided to make it the best, that my thesis, the best it could be.
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And. I think also having quite a bit of a break between submitting my second corrections no submitting my first corrections and receiving the second lot,
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I was able to look through my thesis and with a clearer mind.
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It actually kind of it made it a lot easier to kind of get into a good, sort of like the best version of it can be.
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And so although it was maybe disappointing, I it kind of it was again another good learning experience.
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It made it a lot better than it was from the first set of corrections.
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Absolutely. And so how did how did that happen?
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Did they email you and say, Look, we've got a few more, few more corrections we want you to do before we can pass it?
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And then how long did you did you have to do the second set?
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Yes. So I got another email. Similarly, like before saying that.
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So yeah, it was like, before that I got an email.
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The exact wording. It said something like to like.
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Further corrections or something. And again, it was like a to do list again, but a lot smaller.
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Yeah. And I was given four weeks to finish complete them in.
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And you said they were kind of mostly. Typing spelling like really tiny bits of work.
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Yeah, which is kind of I remember seeing on Twitter being like a meme or not a meme, but like it's a picture with words saying, you know?
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That not to worry about or make going through your thesis.
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Make sure the spelling perfect cause the examiners aren't actually going to read it.
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I was like, well, it was actually it was important.
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Yeah. And then my examiners definitely like, Read it. So yeah, I was like, That's funny, but it's also not true.
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I think there's something really lovely that you said in there about the, you know,
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the the way in which the examiners approached the thesis and the level of detail about second time around that they read it.
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But they that what you see, the way that you talked about it seemed to be with a kind of that there was real, there was real care from the examiners.
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You know, your thesis. I mean, I I really enjoyed the viva
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I mean, it was, you know, it was a good chat about my work.
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And I mean, my examiners kind of like, I think the way you look at it, it's all a learning process.
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So. You know, it's.
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I think it's to be appreciated the kind of the time and effort that they put in because it's it's towards your own development.
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Absolutely. And. I think, you know, goes back to the kind of thing that we always tell people, which is that, you know, your examiners wants you to pass.
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They want you to pass and pass and produce the best thesis that you have that you can produce at that point in time.
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And you know, that's everybody's goal, not just yours, their job isn't to catch you out in any way
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Exactly. And one thing that I often get asked by people about major corrections is if having had
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major corrections somehow negatively affects your opportunities that come after the PhD
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And I have a very specific answer to this and a very brief answer,
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but I wondered if if you as somebody that you know, has has been through, it could talk.
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Or just comment on if there's any kind of impact. Long term from having had major corrections.
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I mean, I don't think so, so I mean, I got my post-doc position like before I'd actually submitted my thesis,
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so it didn't impact that and I can't see it.
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I'm just like applying for new positions now, and I can't see it impacting me here because it's not something that you generally list.
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On your CV or
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And if someone asks, you kind of got a question why they're asking you, because it's not like with other examples university or school exams.
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It's not really a very standardised because it really just depends on the examiners
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that you have and how like I guess what they what they think should be corrected.
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So it is very subjective and very much depends on the viva and on the examiners.
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Yeah, and that's exactly what I tell people.
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Everything that you said for it, when it actually comes to getting out in the world, nobody really asks or.
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Exactly. And in that case, because you've got a you've got a Ph.D. or whatever research degree you've been doing,
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you know, you you've it's it's not like a first or a 2:1, it's pass or fail.
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It's it's that simple. And so once you're through that system, it doesn't matter.
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If you've got major corrections and I think it's important to take some of the stigma away
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from corrections being a negative thing because corrections are actually quite normal thing.
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Hi, my name is Victoria Omotoso I did my Ph.D. in theology,
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and my research was looking specifically at audience reception of Jesus in film.
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So looking at audiences in South Africa and in the UK and how they respond to Jesus in films.
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And currently I am working as a lecturer, teaching theology and Media, IMedia Studies.
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Fabulous, thank you. So can you tell us a little bit about a little bit about your viva experience, but particularly and.
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What you what you had in terms of corrections after the viva
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and whether they were classified as major or minor and how the examiners talked to you about those corrections and in the viva?
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Yeah. So my viva experience happened in 2020.
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So obviously it was during the time of heightened kind of COVID restrictions.
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And so it was an online viva,
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which actually which did not actually detract anything away from the overall experience of a lovely engagement, even online.
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And my examiners were lovely and gracious, and I had, you know,
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good support in terms of kind of prepping of what that might look like, say the Viva itself went well.
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And then when I think the next phase when I returned back into the virtual room, I was given.
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Major corrections and major corrections, it was classified as because of the time they had given me,
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I was given six months in terms of the nature and you have to remember everything is
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kind of specific to the nature of your research and of what they require of you.
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So of course, everyone's kind of specific specific recommendations will be different.
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But in my personal case, it was to kind of go back on one thing,
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but they had given me enough time to gather all the extra extra kind of literary resources that I needed to do it.
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And at first, it was a bit harrowinfbecause I wasn't sure about what that meant.
00:15:25,810 --> 00:15:29,970
Like, you know, do I get a Ph.D. or what has happened?
00:15:29,970 --> 00:15:36,690
But it was only after a few kind of frantic calls to my supervisor and to kind of the chair.
00:15:36,690 --> 00:15:40,590
So there's always like a chair that, you know, sits in even online,
00:15:40,590 --> 00:15:48,120
and they were able to kind of explain properly what the process of these corrections meant and
00:15:48,120 --> 00:15:54,540
which then after I was a bit more calm and not too worried about like I will get my Ph.D.,
00:15:54,540 --> 00:16:00,540
but this is just what they require. And you know, at the end of the day, it makes it better at the end.
00:16:00,540 --> 00:16:09,140
So don't be like so disheartened when you feel like you have majorcorrections because the examiners at the end of the day do just want your best.
00:16:09,140 --> 00:16:18,190
They just wanted your best interests and will make a more stronger Ph.D. at the end of it.
00:16:18,190 --> 00:16:20,740
Yes, and I think that's really important what you just said there,
00:16:20,740 --> 00:16:25,930
because people do hear major corrections and they sort of shudder slightly because what
00:16:25,930 --> 00:16:30,400
they were imagining for major corrections is is a rewrite of the PhD essential
00:16:30,400 --> 00:16:37,750
which is not in any way what it is and not you like you say, rightfully put it, it's much more to do with the time it takes.
00:16:37,750 --> 00:16:46,360
It will take you to do the work. And so because you get up to three months of minor corrections and up to six months for major.
00:16:46,360 --> 00:16:53,560
So I wondered if you could say a little bit more about what your your corrections were, what kind of work that you had to do?
00:16:53,560 --> 00:17:01,210
Yeah. So yeah, like like you said, it was about the time. So I was given six months essentially and it was all on one chapter.
00:17:01,210 --> 00:17:05,350
It was one. I mean, I wrote six chapters and they were fine with the other six.
00:17:05,350 --> 00:17:13,930
But it was one chapter that they really wanted me to hone in on to get more kind of, you know, more kind of scholarly knowledge about the field.
00:17:13,930 --> 00:17:17,530
And it was it was a chapter on whiteness and whiteness in film.
00:17:17,530 --> 00:17:20,530
And of course, you know.
00:17:20,530 --> 00:17:29,110
This kind of day and age, you need to be up to date anyway with those, if you're going to kind of go to these kind of topics, say in itself
00:17:29,110 --> 00:17:32,290
That's what they told me to do. They gave me a list of books,
00:17:32,290 --> 00:17:46,030
a list of authors to go and resource and add those list of authors to my existing bibliography and add that already to the work I had already done.
00:17:46,030 --> 00:17:50,830
So it's important to note that it is having major corrections. It is the time.
00:17:50,830 --> 00:17:56,590
So, you know, by the time you get the resources six months goes quite quickly. Actually, in terms of resourcing,
00:17:56,590 --> 00:18:00,610
the authors going to different libraries getting the books you need and then
00:18:00,610 --> 00:18:05,200
taking the time to actually read through them and edit what you need and take in.
00:18:05,200 --> 00:18:10,060
You know, just kind of shifting things around six months goes by really quickly.
00:18:10,060 --> 00:18:14,500
So it was really helpful to actually have those six months in three months.
00:18:14,500 --> 00:18:21,790
I think it would have been a bit of a scramble. And so with the major corrections on the six months timescale actually was very helpful.
00:18:21,790 --> 00:18:31,810
And yeah, just even my own like personal like health issues as well that help me also spread out more,
00:18:31,810 --> 00:18:35,980
especially for, you know, people that have kind of, you know, different things.
00:18:35,980 --> 00:18:43,960
Life is just really hectic sometimes. So having that extra time actually was a blessing because you were able to kind
00:18:43,960 --> 00:18:49,810
of spread out a bit longer and make sure that you do the work properly and.
00:18:49,810 --> 00:18:54,310
You know, in the time they had given you so that was essentially what my corrections were
00:18:54,310 --> 00:19:01,190
was to add more and more kind of literary works to what I had already written.
00:19:01,190 --> 00:19:04,420
And so that is why I spent six months doing looking for the books,
00:19:04,420 --> 00:19:14,770
getting the books and reworking parts of that chapter that had now had all these new and more updated authors into them.
00:19:14,770 --> 00:19:23,140
Yeah. And so, you know, the overall from the sounds of it the corrections you had to do is to kind of further develop the literature and one chapter.
00:19:23,140 --> 00:19:28,270
But also it seems from what you're saying that they didn't just say that is the correction.
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They were actually very specific in what what they wanted you to read and to
00:19:32,860 --> 00:19:37,930
incorporate in developing the this kind of scholarly debate in that chapter.
00:19:37,930 --> 00:19:43,450
Could you say a little bit more about how prescriptive they were or weren't about what they wanted you to do?
00:19:43,450 --> 00:19:51,400
Yeah. Yes. So about a month after the Viva, the PhD report comes through
00:19:51,400 --> 00:19:56,420
The report, of course, gives a very detailed description of what they wanted.
00:19:56,420 --> 00:19:59,290
So there was kind of one.
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You know, there's a few other things actually, apart from the one chapter they wanted me to say to add a bit more of my personal views.
00:20:09,100 --> 00:20:13,960
So kind of my own positionality in the research say kind of.
00:20:13,960 --> 00:20:21,250
I mean, I did it and I added about like two, maybe three paragraphs, but they wanted more.
00:20:21,250 --> 00:20:28,630
And the thing is, it was really good because then I was able to actually sit down and write six extra pages talking about myself.
00:20:28,630 --> 00:20:38,710
Wow. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, from three paragraphs to six pages of my positionality, which is what they wanted, you know?
00:20:38,710 --> 00:20:44,980
So at the end of the day, it makes, you know, like I said, the end result makes for a much stronger Ph.D.
00:20:44,980 --> 00:20:48,880
So that was the other thing that they wanted me to do apart from the chapter, but it was all very detailed.
00:20:48,880 --> 00:20:54,130
It was like, you know, speak more about your positionality in this research
00:20:54,130 --> 00:20:58,180
And then kind of these are the authors that we'd like to add.
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You know, if you're going to talk about, you know, having more as well, you know, doing like, add more, you know, BAME authors.
00:21:03,790 --> 00:21:09,720
And they gave me names and books, specific books and authors to kind of go and seek out.
00:21:09,720 --> 00:21:17,530
And so, you know, they were they were quite gracious in the fact that they were taken the time to actually say,
00:21:17,530 --> 00:21:23,650
OK, it's not just, you know, go and add more, but actually these are the books we want to see.
00:21:23,650 --> 00:21:31,510
And these are the names we want to see to make sure that you have kind of covered all the bases of what we had asked of you.
00:21:31,510 --> 00:21:35,620
So they were very detailed in that respect.
00:21:35,620 --> 00:21:39,100
And then, of course, you always get those are the major ones and then you always get, you know,
00:21:39,100 --> 00:21:45,700
the little kind of, you know, minor grammatical ones that they said there was not many of those.
00:21:45,700 --> 00:21:51,280
But, you know, they also add that to the overall report in terms of, you know,
00:21:51,280 --> 00:21:57,890
you could have made the sentence a bit shorter here or ass a comment that there's kind of just like minor ones.
00:21:57,890 --> 00:22:04,870
And but overall, it was, you know, it was helpful to kind of just go through each point and say,
00:22:04,870 --> 00:22:10,360
OK, this is what they want and then kind of respond to that.
00:22:10,360 --> 00:22:13,960
And you know, there were there were moments where you could where, you know,
00:22:13,960 --> 00:22:18,840
you could, I guess, kind of push back a bit and, you know, say to the examiners
00:22:18,840 --> 00:22:22,900
You know what? This is what I meant when I said this kind of things like that.
00:22:22,900 --> 00:22:26,770
So, you know, it is, it is, you know, a dialogue anyway, that's going on.
00:22:26,770 --> 00:22:32,590
And at the end of the day, you know, like I said, they were all working towards the same goal,
00:22:32,590 --> 00:22:38,590
which is, you know, to have an end product that you will be proud of.
00:22:38,590 --> 00:22:43,360
Your supervisor will be proud of and the examiners themselves and will be just really happy to be like OK.
00:22:43,360 --> 00:22:46,960
They've done the work that they that we told them to do, and they've done it.
00:22:46,960 --> 00:22:55,610
So yeah, that was just the main kind of process of just kind of going through that report step by step.
00:22:55,610 --> 00:23:01,090
And with that as well. And it was great because my supervisors also see they get a copy of the report as well.
00:23:01,090 --> 00:23:02,830
So, you know, for the next six months,
00:23:02,830 --> 00:23:11,590
it was just the three of us really just going through this report and making sure that we kind of ticked all the all the boxes that they wanted.
00:23:11,590 --> 00:23:15,190
So that was made easier because, you know, OK, wait, one, they want to this.
00:23:15,190 --> 00:23:20,590
Have we done that? yeah, they wanted this? Have we done that? So it was just, you know, an easy list,
00:23:20,590 --> 00:23:25,090
kind of just going through and make sure that you tick the boxes and then you could kind of submit
00:23:25,090 --> 00:23:30,740
this corrections with confidence knowing that you've answered all their questions.
00:23:30,740 --> 00:23:38,240
Yeah, and I think that was, you know, like you say, it's not it's it's not as generic as you need to develop the literature in this chapter, you know,
00:23:38,240 --> 00:23:43,880
and it's not even as as as vague as you need to include more BAME authors, you know,
00:23:43,880 --> 00:23:50,870
a list of people for you to go about and think about, including and I think that that's, you know, that's what's really important.
00:23:50,870 --> 00:23:56,060
And for people to know is that you're getting a level of specificity in this,
00:23:56,060 --> 00:24:02,380
they're going to be very, very clear and specific about what they what they want and need you to do.
00:24:02,380 --> 00:24:08,760
Yes, to enable you to get it to the level that. Will get your Ph.D.
00:24:08,760 --> 00:24:14,040
What then happened with submitting those corrections? What was the process and how did you find out?
00:24:14,040 --> 00:24:19,950
You know, whether or not they'd been approved yet? So the process again was pretty simple.
00:24:19,950 --> 00:24:24,960
It's pretty much the same way you'd submit it first time round.
00:24:24,960 --> 00:24:30,210
You kind of submit that and try to just remember, did I submit?
00:24:30,210 --> 00:24:33,550
Yeah, I think I submitted one.
00:24:33,550 --> 00:24:44,770
With the comments say, I kind of did kind of two versions of that where I had one, where I'd kind of put the comments to say, OK.
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Page 12, Line 16. It was because that's how they were in the report.
00:24:49,630 --> 00:24:54,360
And I put that, Oh, I did this, that this author's now added.
00:24:54,360 --> 00:24:57,280
So I had all the list of all these comments in there
00:24:57,280 --> 00:25:08,860
And then I also had another copy that had no comments, but the corrections were made, so I submitted the one anyway, just in case,
00:25:08,860 --> 00:25:16,040
as a backup, the one that had no comments and they just submitted it exactly the same way to a email address the same.
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I submitted the first one and then it's kind of a waiting game there after.
00:25:25,270 --> 00:25:40,700
And then you kind of just get an email saying that you, you know, the examiners have reviewed your thesis and the exam board are happy to kind of.
00:25:40,700 --> 00:25:48,590
I guess, you know, award you with a Ph.D. and that's it for this episode.
00:25:48,590 --> 00:25:51,710
Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me.
00:25:51,710 --> 00:26:18,370
Next time we'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Nov 10, 2021
Wednesday Nov 10, 2021
Wednesday Nov 10, 2021
In this episode of R, D and the Inbetweens, I talk to Dr. Connor Horton, Dr. Daniela Lazaro Pancheco and Dr. Edward Mills about their experiences of doing minor corrections after their viva.
00:00:09,220 --> 00:00:13,600
Hello and welcome to R, D and the in-betweens.
00:00:13,600 --> 00:00:32,720
I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
00:00:32,720 --> 00:00:38,300
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the latest episode of R&D and the In-betweens. I'm your host, Kelly Preece,
00:00:38,300 --> 00:00:41,450
And today we've got another compilation episode for you.
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So a number of you have been asking to do an episode on corrections, so corrections after you've had your viva.
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So I have spoken to recent graduates about both minor and major corrections, and for this episode,
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I'm going to be talking to Connor, Daniela and Edward about their minor corrections.
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Yes, so my name is Connor. I used to study - well did a PhD in - cell biology at the university between 2015 and 2019, and then came out into the
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COVID 19 job market, and have now found a job in medical communications where I'm writing for an agency in London.
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So I guess the first question is: what was your viva experience like,
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and what did you get in terms of corrections afterwards? Yes, so my viva was actually a really good experience, actually.
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I was always told that old adage, it's the only time that anyone's going to be really interested about your work,
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so you should enjoy it because you're never going to get as many questions about your work again.
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So, yeah, mine was was really good. I had a really good external assessor, and a good internal assessor.
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And I think the whole process took around two and a half to three hours.
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So my viva corrections were minor corrections, which was which was good because you would have that.
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worry going in. You know, like how much am I going to have to actually don top of this?
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But it was really things like, you know, adding in more sections of things they wanted included.
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So I had to put those in, remove certain figures or change figure legends.
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And then most of it was kind of grammatical and yeah, just punctuation and capitals and things like that.
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So it wasn't actually too much, which was just great. Yeah.
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And I think that's reassuring for people to hear that minor really does mean minor.
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And you know, it's it's has to be stuff that can get done within within three months.
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But for many people, it's stuff that can be done within a couple of days.
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Yeah, when you see minor and you actually see what the revisions are, you're like, 'actually, it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be.'
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So it's not as bad. And I was going to say, how were the revisions and the corrections communicated to you?
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So it was quite nerve racking when I went into my viva because of course,
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I did it in the time before COVID, where we did it all with physical copies and in person.
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And you see examiners come in with a copy of your thesis that is just absolutely covered in Post-it Notes and you're like,
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Oh my God, like, was there that much wrong with it? A lot of it is comments that they have or things that they want to touch upon.
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But I think when I received my final set of corrections, it very much was, you know,
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a kind of a table of how the whole thing went and my kind of like, 'overall
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satisfactory' or like the kind of comments that they had about the viva process.
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And then underneath was a list of like what page number there was and then what needed changing and what line and things like that.
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So it's very much it's very quick to do because it corresponds to, yeah, it's two specific pages,
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so you can just quickly whizz through it and and find the bits that they're talking about and correct them.
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And I think, again, that's another thing that causes people anxiety, it's that sense of, well,
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you know, 'am I going to be in the dark about what it is they actually will want me to do?'
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whereas actually examiners tend to be pretty specific and prescriptive about what the changes are that they want to make.
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Yeah, I don't think it was unfair at all and what they said, and I think everything was quite clearly put across.
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But I think you've also got to remember that that they're not looking for excuses to fail you, that they're looking for a lot of reasons to pass you.
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And you know, they want you to do the best that you can. And that really came across in the discussions that we had.
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They were really encouraging and they really wanted to encourage a great discussion and really kind
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of tease into the knowledge that I had and allow it to come out and they're not trying to trick you,
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which I think is another thing. You know, a lot of people think that it's like a good cop bad cop routine when you go in. They were both,
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you know, really pleasant in my experience, really wanted to talk about the science.
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And I think everything that they gave me was corrections was entirely fair. And yeah, they were incredibly transparent, which is good.
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So. And how did you approach that period or the kind of time you took to undertake those corrections?
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Did you just kind of print off a list and tick them off as you went through; you know, how did you actually go about it?
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Yes, so I think I did what most people did and came out the viva and was like, 'Oh my God, thank God, that's done.'
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My viva was in November, so I was very much like, 'Oh,
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I'll have Christmas and I'll sit on these for a bit and you know, I'll do it in the in the new year.'
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But I think it's fair to say as well that there was an element of burnout that I was kind of experiencing after my Ph.D.
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I think like,
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you're always operating at incredibly high level for (I think my PhD was four years) and you're always operating at maximum capacity.
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And yeah, you get you finally finish and, you know, everyone tells you, oh,
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you got to submit your thesis and then you submit your thesis and then you'vew gotta have a viva and then you have your viva,
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And even then it's it's still not over.
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So mentally, it was kind of like, 'when is the final bits?', you know, and when you get to the corrections, that is very much the final section.
00:06:02,590 --> 00:06:09,490
But I think mentally for me is just never really see the end in sight because every time you have an ending, there's another bit to be done.
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And so to approach the corrections, yeah, I had the list, went through,
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ticked them off, mase sure that everything was like absolutely perfect before sending it back.
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And then even when you send them back, you're like, 'Oh, will my examiners agree with the corrections that I've made?'
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Or, you know, there's still an element of uncertainty.
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It wasn't until I actually got my certificate in the post that I could actually kind of relax a bit and be like, 'Oh, it's it's over.'
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You know, it's done. And did you hear quite quickly that your corrections had been accepted?
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The whole process was very quick, actually. So I submitted my thesis in September, my viva was in November.
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I submitted my corrections in January and I think a week later I got an email saying that it had been approved by the Senate of the university.
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And that a PhD would be awarded.
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So I kind of look back on that and I was like, I don't know why it took me so long to do that because it could have been done before the new year.
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But I think, yeah, you've got to have that kind of aspect of - mentally,
00:07:09,100 --> 00:07:13,020
You've also got to do what is right for you as well, and you have three months to turn them around.
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So. Yeah, and I think that's really,
00:07:16,810 --> 00:07:22,600
really important actually that you recognise that the kind of the impact of the burnout and that you've got three months,
00:07:22,600 --> 00:07:27,070
it doesn't make any difference to anybody other than you,
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You know, if you submit within a week or within at the end, the end of those three months,
00:07:32,290 --> 00:07:39,790
it's how you manage your time depending on what other responsibilities you have or you know what other pressures you have,
00:07:39,790 --> 00:07:43,360
but also, you know your well-being. Yeah, exactly.
00:07:43,360 --> 00:07:48,490
Yeah, that's probably a take-home message from this, I think, is, you know, look after yourself first.
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And I was very lucky to have supervisors that kind of agreed to me on that and very supportive for the whole process.
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My name is Daniella Pacheco. Right now, I work as a postdoctoral research assistant at the engineering department.
00:08:04,450 --> 00:08:11,860
My research is currently focussed on the study of the intervertebral disc in order to improve the testing
00:08:11,860 --> 00:08:21,040
for new therapies that eventually will lead to treat degeneration in the spine and low back pain.
00:08:21,040 --> 00:08:25,510
So I did my viva back in 2019.
00:08:25,510 --> 00:08:29,140
It was quite a good experience, I would say.
00:08:29,140 --> 00:08:40,840
Fortunately, the outcome of my viva, I passed with minor corrections. Once we completed the viva and my viva lasted almost three hours,
00:08:40,840 --> 00:08:49,450
I - they mentioned that they will send a report with all the notes and the recommendations for me to to make the corrections.
00:08:49,450 --> 00:08:59,380
And what I received was a very detailed list that was numbered with very specific parts to be corrected on my thesis. More than content,
00:08:59,380 --> 00:09:07,240
it was a week of editing, a week of going into more detail having some explanations and very little technical
00:09:07,240 --> 00:09:13,600
corrections in terms of the content of what I wrote for my dissertation or for my thesis.
00:09:13,600 --> 00:09:17,680
I waited around a month for my list of corrections.
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To be honest, I thought it was quite a long proces: I emailed asking when I'm going to receive this.
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In that case is a little bit tricky as well because I was an international student back then.
00:09:31,480 --> 00:09:37,360
So all these processes linked to my visa and my time started to apply or go back
00:09:37,360 --> 00:09:43,810
to my country or where my - where I'm allowed to take any extra work as well.
00:09:43,810 --> 00:09:48,760
So time is also something that you should pay attention on.
00:09:48,760 --> 00:09:53,230
If that's something that you worry about, like, you communicate that to your department.
00:09:53,230 --> 00:10:02,590
That's probably my recommendation there. So I received this document Word lwith, as I mentioned, a numbered list. In my case,
00:10:02,590 --> 00:10:12,930
There were around 20 lines or 20 corrections. As I mentioned before, they were very specific in terms of 'Line 16,
00:10:12,930 --> 00:10:22,860
Page - number of the page, number of the paragraph', and then a little bit description of what they wanted for that paragraph to change,
00:10:22,860 --> 00:10:25,380
for what they want, if they require more detail,
00:10:25,380 --> 00:10:35,470
if they want, if they say it wasn't clear enough that the content was okay based on their discussion on the viva, but it required some rewriting.
00:10:35,470 --> 00:10:38,620
And so are some rewording in some cases,
00:10:38,620 --> 00:10:47,140
they ask at part of my conclusions to add content and be more explicit on my suggestions or recommendations for future work.
00:10:47,140 --> 00:10:52,450
So I will say some of them were very editorial that were very easy to address.
00:10:52,450 --> 00:11:00,070
And in terms of content they were, they were quite descriptive of what they expected based on our discussion.
00:11:00,070 --> 00:11:04,810
I mentioned that there were around 20 corrections on this list. There were two pages in a Word
00:11:04,810 --> 00:11:10,390
Document, so even where there were quite a lot of corrections suggested there,
00:11:10,390 --> 00:11:15,640
They were easy to address and they were briefly but clearly descripted.
00:11:15,640 --> 00:11:19,810
It took me around probably three hours to do the whole corrections.
00:11:19,810 --> 00:11:26,470
So in my case, it was very simple. Even when it took me three hours, which I was very glad,
00:11:26,470 --> 00:11:32,470
once the process - I spent a month before receiving a little a bit of stress and anxiety,
00:11:32,470 --> 00:11:37,510
and just thinking 'how long this is going to take?', even when I have three months and they were more than enough.
00:11:37,510 --> 00:11:45,490
And even because I was applying for different visas and I was checking where my opportunities were in terms of jobs,
00:11:45,490 --> 00:11:50,020
I waited till the last week to submit my corrections.
00:11:50,020 --> 00:11:56,500
So I sent the I sent the corrections to my internal examiner through an email.
00:11:56,500 --> 00:12:02,740
It was quite a very informal but clear process to follow there. Hello, my name is Edward Mills.
00:12:02,740 --> 00:12:12,860
I am a lecturer in medieval studies here at the University of Exeter, and I completed my viva in October 2020.
00:12:12,860 --> 00:12:18,770
So can you tell us a little bit about your corrections? So you got minor corrections, is that correct?
00:12:18,770 --> 00:12:20,390
That's correct, yes. Minor corrections.
00:12:20,390 --> 00:12:28,940
So first of all, can you tell us a little bit about how your examiners talked to you about your corrections in the viva?
00:12:28,940 --> 00:12:32,870
So my examiners gave me minor corrections at the end of viva life.
00:12:32,870 --> 00:12:41,600
They were very helpful actually in distinguishing, both in the viva and in the report they sent to me afterwards, thesis corrections
00:12:41,600 --> 00:12:48,380
which would need to be completed in order for the thesis to be accepted on revision
00:12:48,380 --> 00:12:55,880
and then possible future corrections if the thesis were to be published as a book.
00:12:55,880 --> 00:13:05,870
They made it clear that the corrections to have the thesis accepted for the first part of those two were fairly minor,
00:13:05,870 --> 00:13:10,940
but they were clear from from the end of the thesis - from the end of the viva onwards.
00:13:10,940 --> 00:13:15,710
So when you say they were fairly minor (yep), can you elaborate on what that is?
00:13:15,710 --> 00:13:19,730
Because I think for a lot of people, until they go through it,
00:13:19,730 --> 00:13:24,470
They don't actually know what minor corrections entail.
00:13:24,470 --> 00:13:30,500
So minor corrections for me meant corrections that could be achieved within a period of about three months.
00:13:30,500 --> 00:13:38,750
So my viva was in October, and I had until, I think, mid-January to actually submit those corrections.
00:13:38,750 --> 00:13:44,450
I'm actually looking now at the spreadsheet I made with all of the corrections that I was given on it.
00:13:44,450 --> 00:13:52,370
And they ranged from picking out particularly
00:13:52,370 --> 00:13:59,570
Unclear or problematic single phrases that I've used, so I've got one example here, which says simply,
00:13:59,570 --> 00:14:07,490
I've talked about 'reductive modern understandings', and I was asked to unpack that debate, make it a bit clearer what that precisely meant.
00:14:07,490 --> 00:14:17,000
Another example of something similar to that: I was asked to provide my definition of the term 'didactic', however broad it might be.
00:14:17,000 --> 00:14:20,840
I just use that term and left it hanging. I was asked to clarify that slightly.
00:14:20,840 --> 00:14:25,830
So we're talking about really, really specific things.
00:14:25,830 --> 00:14:31,920
Yes, I think everything in my minor corrections was within an individual chapter.
00:14:31,920 --> 00:14:38,400
There was nothing that cuts across the board of chapters. And so how were these corrections communicated to you?
00:14:38,400 --> 00:14:42,570
So in two ways, I think. The first was during the viva itself.
00:14:42,570 --> 00:14:51,270
I, it became clear as the examiners went through my thesis - and they did take a fairly linear approach during the viva -
00:14:51,270 --> 00:14:55,170
which bits they returned to and where I could probably expect comments.
00:14:55,170 --> 00:14:58,830
But the main way in which I got corrections was in the Examiner's report,
00:14:58,830 --> 00:15:05,310
which I received about three or four weeks after the viva. Which I should say is completely normal.
00:15:05,310 --> 00:15:12,280
Yes. It does take some time and your correction period.
00:15:12,280 --> 00:15:17,340
Whatever it is, three months for minor, six months for major, et cetera, doesn't start until you get that report.
00:15:17,340 --> 00:15:22,060
It doesn't start on the day of the viva. It does make for a slightly nervous three weeks after the viva.
00:15:22,060 --> 00:15:27,760
Yes. Yes. Worth pointing out. But when I got the report back.
00:15:27,760 --> 00:15:31,190
The thing that I noticed it was for me, it was a PDF document.
00:15:31,190 --> 00:15:36,310
And the thing that I noticed when I looked at it was it was - I was given effectively page reference,
00:15:36,310 --> 00:15:42,100
possibly a quote from my thesis and then a question.
00:15:42,100 --> 00:15:46,290
So for example, 'are you making assumptions here?'
00:15:46,290 --> 00:15:55,910
Question mark. And the expectation was for me to answer that question or clarify or resolve something that I left hanging.
00:15:55,910 --> 00:16:00,860
So there was nothing ambiguous about the corrections that they wanted you to do.
00:16:00,860 --> 00:16:07,250
No, they'd made it clear to me that I couldn't go back to them directly, but that I could go through my supervisor once.
00:16:07,250 --> 00:16:11,670
But I think, what I mean more is the list that they gave you.
00:16:11,670 --> 00:16:18,230
It's very clear what they expected you to do to. Resubmit and pass.
00:16:18,230 --> 00:16:21,560
Yes, I would. I think I was very fortunate in that respect.
00:16:21,560 --> 00:16:28,580
And I think it's fair to say with with minor and major corrections, actually there is, you know,
00:16:28,580 --> 00:16:33,800
There's a level quite a level of specificity of what it is the examiners want you to do.
00:16:33,800 --> 00:16:38,420
Yes, I've actually got one example here on the spreadsheet, which is perhaps a little detailed,
00:16:38,420 --> 00:16:42,830
but I'm going to give it because it's a really good example of a single minor correction.
00:16:42,830 --> 00:16:52,010
OK. So on Page 304, for example, the examiner has asked the question, 'French is indeed a language of court and cloister,
00:16:52,010 --> 00:16:59,120
But why does this make it ambivalent as a language?', which is a really specific and also a really good question.
00:16:59,120 --> 00:17:06,040
And then I fixed that by changing the term from 'ambivalent' to 'polyvalent'.
00:17:06,040 --> 00:17:14,020
That was an example of a super-specific correction. And so you mentioned a spreadsheet.
00:17:14,020 --> 00:17:18,950
Yes. So this is something about how you - how you managed and responded to your corrections.
00:17:18,950 --> 00:17:24,820
Could you tell us a little bit more about that? Yes. So the simple answer to that is:
00:17:24,820 --> 00:17:32,980
I went and made a spreadsheet because I noticed that all of my comments on things to fix came in the form of questions,
00:17:32,980 --> 00:17:38,980
I thought the easiest way of doing it would be to copy and paste the entire document
00:17:38,980 --> 00:17:45,100
into an Excel spreadsheet and break it up so that for each row in a spreadsheet,
00:17:45,100 --> 00:17:51,550
I would have a page reference, whether it was a minor correction for the thesis or future one,
00:17:51,550 --> 00:17:56,590
and I would focus on the kind of minor corrections for resubmission.
00:17:56,590 --> 00:18:06,700
I then had a box next to it, which said, 'changed?' with an X on it when I done that and then details as well. The details column said
00:18:06,700 --> 00:18:14,170
Something like, for example, 'added a note on Page 248 to clarify this' or 'fixed awkward phrasing.'
00:18:14,170 --> 00:18:22,120
And so was this just for your own benefit or was this something you had to submit, or ... I didn't have to submit it, actually, but I chose to.
00:18:22,120 --> 00:18:26,890
It was mainly for my own benefit so that I could make sure that I'd done everything.
00:18:26,890 --> 00:18:34,660
The other thing to note is that as I added a little bit of material (and I did tend to find that the process of making corrections involved
00:18:34,660 --> 00:18:41,050
adding a little bit of material to the thesis here and there), the page numbers would go out of whack.
00:18:41,050 --> 00:18:48,730
So it allowed me to say things like 'fixed awkward phrasing (brackets was on page 247 in the original; now page 249.)
00:18:48,730 --> 00:18:55,660
And that meant I could go and check things very quickly. I then made the decision when I was.
00:18:55,660 --> 00:19:00,430
Resubmitting - well, not resubmitting, when I was submitting the revised thesis, I should say,
00:19:00,430 --> 00:19:05,560
with the minor corrections incorporated - to send in the spreadsheet alongside it.
00:19:05,560 --> 00:19:13,210
There's no requirement to do that, but I thought it might improve my chances of not being sent back again with corrections.
00:19:13,210 --> 00:19:22,330
And indeed I was actually told that my internal examiner very much appreciated that, specially because it made her life a lot easier.
00:19:22,330 --> 00:19:27,040
So that was my next question: so what happened when you'd done the corrections?
00:19:27,040 --> 00:19:34,570
So when I'd done the corrections, there was a period of waiting. So you submitted them again, but just directly to the internal examiner,
00:19:34,570 --> 00:19:38,830
was that correct? I actually submitted them to the postgraduate administration team.
00:19:38,830 --> 00:19:47,480
Yes. Rather than to the Examiner directly. It's their job then to to pass that on and indeed to manage the process.
00:19:47,480 --> 00:19:50,660
And then you had another period of waiting. I did.
00:19:50,660 --> 00:19:57,290
I had a slightly longer period of waiting than the period between the the viva and the and the report,
00:19:57,290 --> 00:20:00,320
which is perhaps understandable because it's the way these things work.
00:20:00,320 --> 00:20:10,340
Again, it's a perfectly normal thing because at some point your examiner, internal examiner, needs to sit down and read the corrections.
00:20:10,340 --> 00:20:19,310
And, you know, depending on how minor they are, you know, even if you know they are the kind of things that you're talking about,
00:20:19,310 --> 00:20:24,680
it will take some time for them to read and digest and reflect.
00:20:24,680 --> 00:20:28,100
And so it's not something that can be done kind of ad hoc.
00:20:28,100 --> 00:20:32,450
It's something that they need to kind of focus on. So sometimes it will take a few weeks to get back to you,
00:20:32,450 --> 00:20:38,240
although it might be worth thinking about how you can make your life easier for your internal examiners if that one of reviewing it,
00:20:38,240 --> 00:20:43,130
such as, for example, with a spreadsheet, because that would help the internal examiner to track their progress as well.
00:20:43,130 --> 00:20:46,130
And that may have from a purely selfish perspective made them a little better
00:20:46,130 --> 00:20:50,150
disposed towards me while they were making those comments on the corrections.
00:20:50,150 --> 00:20:53,570
I'm yeah, I'm not sure it can influence their decision, but it shouldn't -
00:20:53,570 --> 00:21:03,570
But it for certain can't hurt. Exactly. So. So how did you find out that the corrections have been approved? Via email,
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Actually! I got an email saying that my corrections had been approved and I had been recommended for an award.
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Effectively the the next meeting of the appropriate committee would review things and hopefully approve it.
00:21:18,900 --> 00:21:24,180
That went through, I think, on something like the 8th or the 9th of February.
00:21:24,180 --> 00:21:28,230
And then on the 11th my birthday, I actually got confirmation.
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I got the infamous email that begins 'Dear Doctor Surname'.
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So 'Dear Dr. Mills'. What a birthday present! I know, right?
00:21:37,230 --> 00:21:46,980
Thank you so much to Connor, Daniella and Edward for their time and insight into their process of receiving and doing their minor corrections.
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But of course, minor corrections is only part of the story.
00:21:51,750 --> 00:22:00,750
In our next episode, we'll be talking to researchers about the process of doing major corrections. And that's it for this episode.
00:22:00,750 --> 00:22:03,900
Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe, and join me
00:22:03,900 --> 00:22:30,552
next time, where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers, development, and everything in between.
Wednesday Oct 13, 2021
Wednesday Oct 13, 2021
Wednesday Oct 13, 2021
Are you just starting out with qualitative research? Or perhaps you have experience in other forms of qualitative research but want to learn a bit more about Thematic Analysis specifically? You’ve come to the right place. In this podcast we (three early career researchers) talk about our understanding and experiences of conducting Thematic Analysis (TA) with the help of NVivo Software. We delve under the umbrella term of TA to ask, what is TA? Why did it appeal to our different research projects? And, of course, no research project is complete without a few stumbling blocks along the way, so we talk about those as well.
To polish off and add a little extra shine to the podcast we include a short interview with Dr. Katherine Ashbullby, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Exeter, who shares her knowledge and experience of TA with the benefit of her experience in the field.
NVivo QSR International (2021)
For more information about NVivo and a range of training resources visit the NVivo website:
Sandelowski M, Barroso J. (2003) Classifying the findings in qualitative studies. Qual Health Res. 13(7):905–923.
Braun V, Clarke, V (2019) Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11:4, 589-597, DOI 10.1080/2159676X.2019.1628806 [this paper was referred to as ‘the 2016 one’ by Emily in the podcast]
Braun V, Clarke V. (2021) Can I use TA? Should I use TA? Should I not use TA? Comparing reflexive thematic analysis and other pattern-based qualitative analytic
approaches. Couns Psychother Res.;21:37–47. https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12360
Victoria Clarke has tweeted a useful twitter thread on the Big Q/small q qualitative distinction, which be accessed through the following link: https://twitter.com/drvicclarke/status/1444258228439764993?s=20
YouTube videos by Victoria Clarke on Thematic Analysis: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLBw6Qig8KBId9YuIMzAg7w
Kiger M.E., Varpio L. (2020) Thematic analysis of qualitative data: AMEE Guide No. 131, Medical Teacher, 42:8, 846-854, DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2020.1755030
Contact and Feedback
This podcast is supported by the GW4 institutions – Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, and Exeter – as part of their NVivo Resource Development project, a pool of resources for researchers wishing to get started with NVivo software.
We hope that you enjoyed our podcast. We’d love to hear how you found it. Share your feedback with any of the GW4 doctoral college Twitter accounts:
@ExeterDoctoral @DoctoralBath @bristoldc
Thank you for listening!
A big thank you from us, Ailsa Naismith, Merve Mollaahmetoglu and Emily Taylor, for listening and we wish you all the best in your research endeavours.
00:00:09,210 --> 00:00:20,730
Hello and welcome to R, D and the In Betweens, a fortnightly podcast where we talk to guests about research, development and everything in between.
00:00:20,730 --> 00:00:31,380
This week is a special episode with three guest hosts, Ailsa Merve and Emily from the University of Bristol and Exeter.
00:00:31,380 --> 00:00:39,050
You're listening to a podcast on thematic analysis and how to tease meaning from qualitative data.
00:00:39,050 --> 00:00:41,960
If you're interested about thematic analysis,
00:00:41,960 --> 00:00:50,480
keep listening for some insights from three researchers from the University of Exeter and Bristol who have been through the process.
00:00:50,480 --> 00:00:58,160
We're also going to hear a little bit from an expert on thematic analysis who shares their key tips on the process.
00:00:58,160 --> 00:01:03,380
I'm Ailsa and I work at Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.
00:01:03,380 --> 00:01:13,400
I'm here with Merve working in psychology and Emily, who works in the College of Medicine and Health, and both are at the University of Exeter.
00:01:13,400 --> 00:01:17,940
Hi there. Hi. Great.
00:01:17,940 --> 00:01:24,230
So lovely to chat today. And let's make some introductions.
00:01:24,230 --> 00:01:33,590
I myself am a volcanologist, and I started using thematic analysis to study how people remember past volcanic eruptions.
00:01:33,590 --> 00:01:41,930
How did both of you get into the topic from what backgrounds? Yes, my name is Merve and I'm in the psychology department.
00:01:41,930 --> 00:01:48,560
So I started using thematic analysis to understand experiences of people who were being ketamine for the treatment,
00:01:48,560 --> 00:01:52,790
who were being given ketamine for the treatment of alcohol use disorders.
00:01:52,790 --> 00:02:02,240
Yeah. How about you? I'm Emily and I use thematic analysis for my project looking at independent and older people.
00:02:02,240 --> 00:02:07,370
And this was a mixed method analysis. So I was using quantitative and qualitative data.
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So I found thematic analysis with some of its flexibility was really quite helpful for that.
00:02:13,860 --> 00:02:21,690
That's really interesting. It sounds like we're coming from very different backgrounds and using thematic analysis in different ways,
00:02:21,690 --> 00:02:35,220
but for those people who for those listeners who are not so familiar with thematic analysis, how would we define that message to them?
00:02:35,220 --> 00:02:36,480
That's a really good question.
00:02:36,480 --> 00:02:45,420
And I think one thing to understand is that thematic analysis is not a single method, but it's used as an umbrella term for a family of methods.
00:02:45,420 --> 00:02:52,980
And as Emily mentioned, it can be flexible in both theoretically, but also in the way that it can be used with inductive.
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So data driven and deductive, so theory driven approaches and approaches to coding.
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And it can also capture both semantics, explicit or latent implicit meanings and data.
00:03:06,150 --> 00:03:07,860
So what is actually thematic analysis?
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So it is a pattern based qualitative method and it's considered to belong to the phenomenological or experiential qualitative research tradition.
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So it tries to understand exploration of participants subjective experiences and making sense of their.
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I think the only thing I can think to add is some people would say it's sort of in the middle in terms of descriptive vs. interpretive.
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Some people would argue it can go any place on the scale depending on how you use it.
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But I think it can you sort of sit in the middle? Yeah, and I definitely agree with that.
00:03:44,730 --> 00:03:51,570
And I think that ties in with what Merve says about it could be an inductive or deductive
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approach that you kind of start with a you start with a theory of what you're expecting to see.
00:03:59,160 --> 00:04:03,990
And you might find that in your research you confirm that, or conversely,
00:04:03,990 --> 00:04:11,040
you might start with almost kind of no expectations of what you're going to find in your research.
00:04:11,040 --> 00:04:15,900
And then you build up your themes as you as you go along.
00:04:15,900 --> 00:04:23,340
And I think that that is one of the really good things about thematic analysis,
00:04:23,340 --> 00:04:32,100
the flexibility that you mention, Emily and Merve, you use this term of pattern based methods.
00:04:32,100 --> 00:04:39,710
I'm kind of interested in that. How could you elaborate on that pattern based, similar pattern based?
00:04:39,710 --> 00:04:45,150
I'm referring to qualitative analysis methods that focus on analysing patterns
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of meaning across data items or cases and a qualitative qualitative data set.
00:04:50,170 --> 00:04:54,510
So what I mean by data items are cases. I'm referring to participants.
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So call it a thematic analysis is one approach, one pattern based approach that others, such as qualitative content analysis,
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IPA, grounded theory, reflexive thematic analysis, the one I just mentioned, and also a pattern based discourse analysis.
00:05:12,960 --> 00:05:19,590
I guess pattern based methods are different than other qualitative methods that examine,
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for example, the more fine grained or interactional work of speech,
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such as conversation, analysis, or it's also different from methods that focus on biographies or stories such as narrative analysis.
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So that's how we can distinguish thematic analysis from other types of qualitative analysis approaches.
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Emily, did you have anything to add? No. Again, I think you've put it really well.
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I think one of the things about it being pattern based, so it also lends to it being a useful foundational tool for for other qualitative methods.
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So grounded theory and an IPA, I think both kind of expand on and of some of the concepts of thematic analysis,
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although thematic analysis is definitelu argued as a standalone method in itself.
00:06:14,320 --> 00:06:19,130
I just realised we haven't quite defined what it is, and for me, I initially forgot,
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well, not forgot, but it's quite a long road, so we should probably specify that.
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I think it's interpretative phenomenological analysis, just as a note to the listener.
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Yeah, good point. Very nicely pronounced. I'm always like shying away from saying it because it's such a long one.
00:06:38,530 --> 00:06:47,400
But yet when we say IPA, that's what we're referring to. Got you got you, not the IPA beer
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That would be a great type of uh. I'd be very interested. Yeah.
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Emily, I really liked what you picked up on in that thematic analysis can be kind of standalone,
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but it also is the foundation for a lot of different other types of analysis.
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I think that's really key and that for me in my research was something I instinctively felt.
00:07:10,990 --> 00:07:21,730
So I haven't done any other types of qualitative analysis than the analysis, but it kind of feels when you're doing it that it's so,
00:07:21,730 --> 00:07:27,970
so powerful and so flexible that you could really use it for and other other methods.
00:07:27,970 --> 00:07:35,500
And yeah, I wondered I mean, like I've said, I haven't done anything else apart from thematic analysis.
00:07:35,500 --> 00:07:47,350
But I wondered if you had both worked on some of these other methods that that you mentioned Merve and whether you wanted to kind of
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briefly elaborate on on how perhaps whether you liked them and whether thematic analysis itself really informed those other methods.
00:07:57,070 --> 00:08:06,820
So I will I am I have only really used thematic analysis, although I didn't really realise that it was counted as thematic analysis,
00:08:06,820 --> 00:08:10,570
because going back to the comment you made earlier is an umbrella term.
00:08:10,570 --> 00:08:18,340
So I actually use framework analysis, which if you go by and Clarke's definition,
00:08:18,340 --> 00:08:22,840
that would be counted as sort of a code book type of thematic analysis.
00:08:22,840 --> 00:08:30,280
And so that's just it's not as rigid as another form, which is coding reliability,
00:08:30,280 --> 00:08:40,660
which is very keen on having accurate codes that are repeatable and have different researchers.
00:08:40,660 --> 00:08:48,760
So that's kind of the key quality of coding reliability. And then you've got the bottom part version of reflexive analysis,
00:08:48,760 --> 00:08:56,830
which is much more recognising the generation and and sending of the researcher and the impact to the researcher on things.
00:08:56,830 --> 00:09:02,530
So a code book, which is where mine sits this framework is sort of in between those two,
00:09:02,530 --> 00:09:09,220
because it does have a framework which has some sort of deductive codes coming in to start with.
00:09:09,220 --> 00:09:16,040
And for me that was useful because that related to the mixed methods sort of side of my project that I,
00:09:16,040 --> 00:09:24,700
I did want to explore and sort of the more abstract and deeper kind of meanings within my studies.
00:09:24,700 --> 00:09:30,910
But I also needed to relate it to the quantitative work as well. So then use the deductive side for that.
00:09:30,910 --> 00:09:38,230
Mm hmm. That's so interesting, Emily. And I think that kind of brings us to a point that I wanted to mention about this,
00:09:38,230 --> 00:09:44,950
because we defined we said that thematic analysis is an umbrella term, but we haven't really quite defined what sits under that.
00:09:44,950 --> 00:09:51,280
And you refer to these sort of three main approaches within themantic analysis that Braun and Clark mentioned.
00:09:51,280 --> 00:09:53,860
So, you know, you said the coding reliability approaches,
00:09:53,860 --> 00:10:03,870
the reflexive approaches and the codebook approaches with that continuum from coding reliability to reflexive themantic analysis.
00:10:03,870 --> 00:10:08,080
And, yeah, I think that's an important distinction to make.
00:10:08,080 --> 00:10:13,930
And I think what I would add to that is that Braun and Clark refer to coding reliability.
00:10:13,930 --> 00:10:17,710
Thematic analysis is what's called a small q qualitative research.
00:10:17,710 --> 00:10:24,410
So when you use qualitative tools and techniques with a post positivist research values
00:10:24,410 --> 00:10:33,910
so sort of the research values that underpin quantitative research and emphasise sort of the objective and replicable knowledge as ideal,
00:10:33,910 --> 00:10:39,850
whereas the reflexive thematic analysis sits more within the big Q qualitative research
00:10:39,850 --> 00:10:45,640
which where qualitative research is not simply conceptualised as tools and techniques,
00:10:45,640 --> 00:10:49,350
what that means is qualitative, both in terms of techniques but also values.
00:10:49,350 --> 00:10:55,150
So I think that's a really interesting discussion. Yeah, that is an interesting discussion, rather.
00:10:55,150 --> 00:11:01,120
And I wanted to ask you a bit more about that, because I still find some of these terms a bit confusing.
00:11:01,120 --> 00:11:07,570
So you kind of said that the small q qualitative research is use qualitative tools,
00:11:07,570 --> 00:11:15,610
but you have values of, I'm guessing, understanding that there's maybe a objective truth out.
00:11:15,610 --> 00:11:16,750
There are things to learn,
00:11:16,750 --> 00:11:25,840
whereas the big Q qualitative would be both that you use the qualitative tools but also have a qualitative approach in that you say,
00:11:25,840 --> 00:11:30,910
well, the truth is subjective and this is my interpretation of what you said,
00:11:30,910 --> 00:11:36,350
but perhaps you can elaborate because it's always it's good to hear in your own words.
00:11:36,350 --> 00:11:42,220
I've just got a note here that the big Q is around encompassing the philosophy and procedure.
00:11:42,220 --> 00:11:51,460
And so sort of what you were saying. Yeah, I guess the point to make here is that there's the what is referred to as small q qualitative research,
00:11:51,460 --> 00:11:56,830
which uses maybe the quantitative research values within a qualitative method.
00:11:56,830 --> 00:12:04,870
And then there's the big Q qualitative research which where the methods and the values are aligned in qualitative research.
00:12:04,870 --> 00:12:08,320
Yeah, that's a really good way of putting it actually.
00:12:08,320 --> 00:12:15,670
And I guess you can see where you sit within this continuum of thematic analysis or qualitative research more generally,
00:12:15,670 --> 00:12:20,170
depending on what the needs of the research that you're conducting are.
00:12:20,170 --> 00:12:25,120
And I think the reference for that is from Sandelowski and Barroso in 2003,
00:12:25,120 --> 00:12:29,200
just from reading this morning that we might be able to put that in the notes.
00:12:29,200 --> 00:12:31,720
And you've also both mentioned Braun and Clarke.
00:12:31,720 --> 00:12:39,190
So I think this would be this is a really key article to it, kind of in reference for people to be able to look back on.
00:12:39,190 --> 00:12:45,910
It seems that I think all of us have found that a really useful resource from our very different backgrounds.
00:12:45,910 --> 00:12:51,820
I think one of the really interesting things about Braun and Clark is that they do they have the original paper in 2006,
00:12:51,820 --> 00:12:56,610
but they have done lots of papers since and encourage you to read those papers because they.
00:12:56,610 --> 00:13:05,790
You reflect on what how they've learnt to learn from teaching about as well, and I think that makes and is really helpful,
00:13:05,790 --> 00:13:15,420
but also quite informative for a new researcher to realise actually there was all this reflection and all of this has gone before.
00:13:15,420 --> 00:13:22,710
Yeah, definitely, if you're just starting with qualitative research, don't just go and read their paper from 2006, that was 15 years ago.
00:13:22,710 --> 00:13:28,650
And there they have so many more papers come out since then that are really informative.
00:13:28,650 --> 00:13:33,210
So I think that's one of the most referenced papers in the whole world.
00:13:33,210 --> 00:13:35,580
I'm not entirely sure it's about hundred thousand times.
00:13:35,580 --> 00:13:43,540
But, you know, I think they also emphasise that things have moved on from the their understanding at that time.
00:13:43,540 --> 00:13:51,470
So I would definitely recommend reading some of their most recent papers, which we can link in the show notes as well.
00:13:51,470 --> 00:13:57,710
This is a mad numbers of references. Yeah, it's crazy, but it's also, I think,
00:13:57,710 --> 00:14:07,220
confidence building that these people who have written such a seminal resource have also shown that in their subsequent papers,
00:14:07,220 --> 00:14:09,260
they've been pretty reflexive.
00:14:09,260 --> 00:14:21,890
The because this is kind of a theme or a common feature of thematic analysis itself that's kind of going over and and refining looking back on.
00:14:21,890 --> 00:14:29,070
So to have some of the most prominent practitioners of it do it in their own work and in their own understanding,
00:14:29,070 --> 00:14:37,910
that's pretty, pretty great, I think.
00:14:37,910 --> 00:14:48,770
I just want to say one other aspect perhaps that we haven't discussed in terms of thematic analysis is, is the issue of method versus methodology.
00:14:48,770 --> 00:14:55,700
And I think before I started doing qualitative research, before I started being involved with qualitative research,
00:14:55,700 --> 00:14:59,210
I kind of assumed method and methodology were the same thing.
00:14:59,210 --> 00:15:07,110
So I kind of used interchangeably. But they actually refer to different things and I think it would be really useful for people to know.
00:15:07,110 --> 00:15:15,690
And so the way methodology is defined is that methodology refers to theoretically informed frameworks for research.
00:15:15,690 --> 00:15:21,470
So this include things like IPA discourse, analysis, and on the other hand,
00:15:21,470 --> 00:15:29,000
method refers to technically it's sort of not technically, theoretically independent tools and techniques such as thematic analysis.
00:15:29,000 --> 00:15:38,630
So, you know, from the examples that we've given earlier about pattern based methods from pattern based methods and methodologies,
00:15:38,630 --> 00:15:45,140
thematic analysis and qualitative content analysis are are considered pattern based methods.
00:15:45,140 --> 00:15:54,020
So these offer people, researchers, tools and techniques that are either a theoretical or theoretically flexible in the case of thematic analysis,
00:15:54,020 --> 00:16:01,610
for example, and things like IPA, grounded theory, discourse, analysis, these are considered methodology.
00:16:01,610 --> 00:16:09,230
So these have theoretically informed framework's research. That's an important distinction to clarify for people.
00:16:09,230 --> 00:16:18,590
Yeah, Merve I think you nailed it. I mean, I, I still struggle with method versus methodology, but I think that's that's quite clear.
00:16:18,590 --> 00:16:22,630
And for me, it's kind of useful, you know, like what's in an ology
00:16:22,630 --> 00:16:34,700
Like, what's the difference that I think I think I mean, one one one thing that's just occurred to me as as you describe that Merve is that,
00:16:34,700 --> 00:16:40,010
you know, the set method, as I understand it, is theory.
00:16:40,010 --> 00:16:45,510
So you said it's the theoretically independent. So I could approach that with different research philosophies.
00:16:45,510 --> 00:16:53,240
Yes. And the methodology is is informed by a particular research philosophy.
00:16:53,240 --> 00:17:00,290
I think in a way like what Emily said was really helpful in understanding that themantic analysis is theoretically flexible because, you know,
00:17:00,290 --> 00:17:06,290
she said how she adapted it to suit the needs of her research project in the
00:17:06,290 --> 00:17:11,330
sense that she still needed things to be reliable and replicable in a sense.
00:17:11,330 --> 00:17:18,740
So she didn't use perhaps the reflexive thematic analysis, which doesn't necessarily concern itself with reliability.
00:17:18,740 --> 00:17:26,750
And it understands that themes are quite subjective. So it doesn't try to reduce that research researcher bias.
00:17:26,750 --> 00:17:33,360
So, you know, she's adopted the thematic analysis to her research values and philosophy.
00:17:33,360 --> 00:17:35,430
00:17:35,430 --> 00:17:45,270
Yeah, yeah, I really I keep coming back to that that that thing you said the start, I believe, how you liked the flexibility of thematic analysis.
00:17:45,270 --> 00:17:52,030
And I also in my research, that was a really big pool for me because I had this this.
00:17:52,030 --> 00:17:56,580
Yeah, I just I just wanted to have a powerful tool that could do what I wanted it to do.
00:17:56,580 --> 00:18:08,760
So, yeah. And I wanted to ask if there were other other appeals of thematic analysis that really led you to choose it to to analyse your research.
00:18:08,760 --> 00:18:16,830
That's a good question, I think. It sort of led me on to think of something else, which may not be quite answering the question,
00:18:16,830 --> 00:18:25,770
but I think it's sort of relevant and I don't want to ask again, I think it's a 2016 paper.
00:18:25,770 --> 00:18:32,970
They talk about and using it as a tool to be used flexibly, but also with knowingness.
00:18:32,970 --> 00:18:38,190
So and thinking about although it can be flexible with the very thinking about
00:18:38,190 --> 00:18:42,750
what I still think about what's underpinning it and how you're using that.
00:18:42,750 --> 00:18:46,650
And for me, this it just worked.
00:18:46,650 --> 00:18:52,470
And I think the conversation it was having going on in my research is looking
00:18:52,470 --> 00:18:58,440
at the quantitative and qualitative and how they speak to each other or not,
00:18:58,440 --> 00:19:05,610
and the fact that I could use a guess sort of deductive and inductive within that analysis.
00:19:05,610 --> 00:19:09,150
And also the fact is looking at patterns so I can only see other patterns
00:19:09,150 --> 00:19:16,440
between the two types of data and what a contrast and just works well for me,
00:19:16,440 --> 00:19:25,200
I think. Mm hmm. I think what I wanted to also say is something that Emily said is that it can do both.
00:19:25,200 --> 00:19:33,930
It sort of sits between descriptive and analytical approaches. And again, that fits within more descriptive, more themantic approach,
00:19:33,930 --> 00:19:44,010
a systematic analysis versus more light and versus approaches that try to on the cover more detail and implicit meanings.
00:19:44,010 --> 00:19:49,410
So I think that's some other benefit of thematic analysis that you can sort of do both of those things with it.
00:19:49,410 --> 00:19:51,430
Yeah, yeah, I like that.
00:19:51,430 --> 00:19:59,790
So I imagine that if you're under covering a theme, a theme could be something that someone's kind of one of your, let's say, an interview.
00:19:59,790 --> 00:20:06,660
He says something that you say, well, this can't this text can be taken as read a descriptive theme or it's kind of
00:20:06,660 --> 00:20:11,850
the meaning behind the words is the kind of latent thing that you pick up.
00:20:11,850 --> 00:20:12,900
00:20:12,900 --> 00:20:21,510
Emily, from your your what you described, it sounds like you like the flexibility, but there was also some kind of structure underpinning it.
00:20:21,510 --> 00:20:25,710
So you didn't kind of just jump in and say, oh, I'm going to do whatever,
00:20:25,710 --> 00:20:31,350
but that you use thematci analysis to kind of marry that quantitative and qualitative analysis.
00:20:31,350 --> 00:20:46,860
And I really like that. I think that's. Yeah, a really, really positive thing of thematic analysis.
00:20:46,860 --> 00:20:56,440
So one thing I was going to go on to after that was that I think that we all use the software NVivo, for for thematic analysis.
00:20:56,440 --> 00:21:07,530
And I wondered if you felt that it was easy to kind of marry the analysis of the different qualitative and quantitative data in NVivo
00:21:07,530 --> 00:21:14,980
And that's also a good question. It certainly works well, I think can be very for me, it works how I think.
00:21:14,980 --> 00:21:23,640
So if I had a word my interview transcripts in paper form, I would probably be highlighting and then putting little notes in the margin.
00:21:23,640 --> 00:21:29,040
And actually, NVivo allows me to do that because I can highlight it and then make annotations.
00:21:29,040 --> 00:21:33,540
Or if I'm actually thinking about organising it, I can highlight to encode it.
00:21:33,540 --> 00:21:39,130
And that works. I believe it's a quantitative code or a qualitative code.
00:21:39,130 --> 00:21:46,020
Yeah. So it just works for me. And the benefit of and we believe we're doing that on paper is that I can then
00:21:46,020 --> 00:21:50,340
take those bits that I've coded and move them around and look at them together.
00:21:50,340 --> 00:21:59,010
Hmm. I mean, it's a great tool, isn't it, because, you know, before computers and NVivo, I imagine people had to do this by hand.
00:21:59,010 --> 00:22:09,270
And I think they would print out the interviews and they would highlight cut and paste, move around, you know, the whole floor being covered by paper.
00:22:09,270 --> 00:22:14,460
And, you know, I guess in a way you might become more involved with your data,
00:22:14,460 --> 00:22:20,640
but it also is very difficult to manage and share with other people and also very prone to getting lost.
00:22:20,640 --> 00:22:24,540
So and we were kind of does all of that in a computer system.
00:22:24,540 --> 00:22:31,710
And I think it's really helpful in terms of collaborating with people, because we know that, you know, in most qualitative research,
00:22:31,710 --> 00:22:36,780
interviews are coded by more than one people one person, one researcher,
00:22:36,780 --> 00:22:42,870
or even if it is just coded by you, you still probably want to share it with other people.
00:22:42,870 --> 00:22:46,410
So it's a great tool for facilitating facilitating that.
00:22:46,410 --> 00:22:49,500
Yeah. So there's a lot of tools around how to work with other people.
00:22:49,500 --> 00:22:57,970
And this is one of the tools that we've created for the for the enviable resources as part of the GW4 network.
00:22:57,970 --> 00:23:00,300
So if you are in one of those institutions,
00:23:00,300 --> 00:23:07,170
you will be able to access access some information about how to facilitate collaboration on NVivo as well, which we will link to at the end.
00:23:07,170 --> 00:23:08,190
Yeah, I love that.
00:23:08,190 --> 00:23:17,830
My personal experience I remember the first my very first getting into thematic analysis and having only three interviews to analyse,
00:23:17,830 --> 00:23:25,020
but the transcripts werfe each like 20 pages long. And before I got to use NVivo, I was just like, you know, writing down texts and stuff.
00:23:25,020 --> 00:23:32,190
And I had I think I had interesting themes, but it was like impossible to organise that or to get a sense of,
00:23:32,190 --> 00:23:40,290
you know, what was significant or what was just, you know, a kind of small idea, what could be descriptive.
00:23:40,290 --> 00:23:41,930
And I think in particular,
00:23:41,930 --> 00:23:52,530
the kind of latent themes for me were much harder to to to tease out and to understand when I just had big stacks of paper coming.
00:23:52,530 --> 00:24:06,090
And for me, uploading these transcripts into and being able to organise themes through notes and kind of linked them was like really a game changer.
00:24:06,090 --> 00:24:12,900
Yeah. Was it the same for you? Every. Yeah, yeah, there's a couple of things you said that it made me think I mean,
00:24:12,900 --> 00:24:16,510
I find it really helpful that you can sort of have everything in one place.
00:24:16,510 --> 00:24:25,710
You can have you can use memos to be to maybe reflexive memos or so you can have a project log, as almost, maybe your diary.
00:24:25,710 --> 00:24:27,630
And because I don't know if you're anything like me,
00:24:27,630 --> 00:24:34,440
but we have bits of paper everywhere that have little notes that you can have it all on and NVivo, which is quite handy.
00:24:34,440 --> 00:24:44,310
And also, um, I'm a very visual thinker. So some of the visualisation tools, that computer has had been really helpful, I think.
00:24:44,310 --> 00:24:46,560
Mm hmm. Yeah, I was just about to mention that.
00:24:46,560 --> 00:24:52,530
And I think another really cool tool is if you're using thematic analysis with a more quantitative approach,
00:24:52,530 --> 00:24:56,670
let's say you can run coding comparison a query.
00:24:56,670 --> 00:25:04,800
So if you have multiple people coding on the same project, you can automatically compare how much do they agree in terms of their coding?
00:25:04,800 --> 00:25:08,850
And you can highlight differences and you can highlight areas where they disagree.
00:25:08,850 --> 00:25:15,060
But it can be really useful tool to enable comparisons of integrated reliability and things like that.
00:25:15,060 --> 00:25:22,710
That's really useful to know because I have only ever coded as a I've only ever
00:25:22,710 --> 00:25:29,940
coded so low that going forward it could be a really useful thing to be able to,
00:25:29,940 --> 00:25:38,880
again, kind of reflect on whether these systems are robust, if other researchers involved are kind of seeing those who are picking them out.
00:25:38,880 --> 00:25:44,490
And if not, then there's an interesting dialogue to be had there with other researchers.
00:25:44,490 --> 00:25:48,600
And yeah, but I have I have also used the visualisation tools.
00:25:48,600 --> 00:26:00,020
I don't know if both of you use, but I'm a particular fan of the word clouds.
00:26:00,020 --> 00:26:06,470
I mean, talking about, you know, we've talked a lot about all the benefits of thematic analysis,
00:26:06,470 --> 00:26:15,140
and I think listeners will be able to tell that we're all fans. But I know that with everything there comes some challenges.
00:26:15,140 --> 00:26:26,330
And for instance, I found initially that it was quite difficult to know how much significance to ascribe to a theme that was emerging in my data.
00:26:26,330 --> 00:26:34,400
And I wanted to ask you both, you know, any particular challenges that you've come across while doing thematic analysis?
00:26:34,400 --> 00:26:43,340
Yeah, I think that's a good point about describing how much weight to ascribe to the different bits of coding,
00:26:43,340 --> 00:26:48,620
and especially where we've talked about coming from Quantitative maybe a more quantitative background where
00:26:48,620 --> 00:26:54,200
you may be looking at Frequency's and things like that and actually realising that in thematic analysis,
00:26:54,200 --> 00:27:01,490
actually some of the very important and possibly the richest themes can be ones that don't appear all that often.
00:27:01,490 --> 00:27:03,860
But they they're really potent when they do.
00:27:03,860 --> 00:27:11,540
And they might also encourage you to explore a bit more into the other of the transcripts as well to see whether it does actually come up.
00:27:11,540 --> 00:27:16,760
It might just have been a bit more subtle than some of the others. That's really interesting.
00:27:16,760 --> 00:27:27,050
I guess for me, one of the challenges was getting my head around sort of this distinction between what's referred to as themes and domain summaries,
00:27:27,050 --> 00:27:34,640
especially within reflexive thematic analysis. So now now I do understand what domain summaries are.
00:27:34,640 --> 00:27:41,840
So domain summaries are basically a summary of what's been said, everything that's been said about a particular topic.
00:27:41,840 --> 00:27:46,670
So, for example, if I asked the participants a question, I might have asked something like,
00:27:46,670 --> 00:27:50,660
what are some of the negative experiences you've had with this treatment?
00:27:50,660 --> 00:27:55,280
And if I just summarise everything that said, that would be a domain summary,
00:27:55,280 --> 00:28:00,080
but it doesn't actually uncover the latents meanings behind what they've said.
00:28:00,080 --> 00:28:05,360
So the themes now I understand within reflect systematic analysis.
00:28:05,360 --> 00:28:14,780
The themes are sort of uniting the more implicit and or latent meanings behind what people have said, not just summarising what everyone has said.
00:28:14,780 --> 00:28:20,810
So, for example, a list of people have reported these as negative effects of the treatment sort of thing.
00:28:20,810 --> 00:28:31,460
So initially that was quite a challenge for me. But again, there are some useful resources around this as well, which we can link to.
00:28:31,460 --> 00:28:34,640
We're going to have so many links in the show. Great.
00:28:34,640 --> 00:28:49,190
Yeah, I think one other challenge I had starting off with is that I had some research questions that I think were led by my my certain approach,
00:28:49,190 --> 00:29:00,860
feeling that I feeling that I when I was coding my data, I wasn't actually getting answers that matched particularly well to the questions.
00:29:00,860 --> 00:29:06,380
And so initially that that felt quite worrisome.
00:29:06,380 --> 00:29:16,580
And then I think that what was helpful was understanding that the the themes that were emerging could then inform the questions.
00:29:16,580 --> 00:29:23,410
And in my case, I was able to do more interviews to then kind of revise the question.
00:29:23,410 --> 00:29:26,180
So, again, it was that thing that, you know,
00:29:26,180 --> 00:29:34,850
just because the things didn't necessarily answer exactly the questions that I had posed, that didn't mean that they're wrong.
00:29:34,850 --> 00:29:40,850
It was a case of of kind of recasting things, you know, re re.
00:29:40,850 --> 00:29:46,460
Yeah, recreating things and reflecting to understand that things could change.
00:29:46,460 --> 00:29:54,170
So I'd say moving from a kind of fixed mindset of, you know, the my hypothesis is wrong,
00:29:54,170 --> 00:29:58,970
which as a as a natural scientist, that is kind of that is the approach that we take.
00:29:58,970 --> 00:30:04,010
And it's like a very ingrained thing that we don't really reflect on research philosophy at
00:30:04,010 --> 00:30:10,190
all to meeting something that was like a lot more reflective and a lot more understanding
00:30:10,190 --> 00:30:20,030
of the subjectivity of meaning and of experience that I think is really key to thematic
00:30:20,030 --> 00:30:27,260
analysis and for me and maybe for you guys too really attractive to this kind of research.
00:30:27,260 --> 00:30:34,400
And I think in a way, what you're saying is that your research questions were informed by your data as well,
00:30:34,400 --> 00:30:38,570
rather than the other way around, which usually is the case with quantitative research.
00:30:38,570 --> 00:30:44,360
You have a theory which informs the research questions and then you get the data to support or not supported,
00:30:44,360 --> 00:30:50,490
whereas here you got some data and that led you to revise your research questions.
00:30:50,490 --> 00:31:01,200
Yes, exactly. Nail on the head. And that is a really exciting for me everything exciting new ways to do research.
00:31:01,200 --> 00:31:09,020
Yeah. I think one one interesting thing about qualitative research generally is that it can generate a lot of hypotheses.
00:31:09,020 --> 00:31:17,240
Right. So I think that's one of the things that I've enjoyed so much about being involved in qualitative research is that you get such a deep insight
00:31:17,240 --> 00:31:26,450
into a topic and it can sort of generate more questions for research that either you answer with qualitative or with quantitative research.
00:31:26,450 --> 00:31:36,170
Yeah, I think, you know, so your example was sort of just thinking about deductive and inductive that the deductive is it can be very useful
00:31:36,170 --> 00:31:42,080
sometimes to kind of if you really need to pinpoint a particular aspect and you've got that in your question.
00:31:42,080 --> 00:31:50,090
But actually the inductive has that place to explore a bit further and may deviate from actually what that initial question was.
00:31:50,090 --> 00:31:52,580
But as you say, it's just that much more informative.
00:31:52,580 --> 00:32:01,610
And it's one of the I think one of the as it if it was one of the joys of qualitative research and how it can be really informative.
00:32:01,610 --> 00:32:06,560
You're so right. And it's it's cool to think of OK to think of it as an ongoing process.
00:32:06,560 --> 00:32:17,180
I think that that it's not kind of done and dusted it can kind of continually we can continually learn more and ascribe more meaning.
00:32:17,180 --> 00:32:23,570
Absolutely. I think there's several cases where it's been, you know, actually, although there might be steps,
00:32:23,570 --> 00:32:33,020
I think one of the papers we're looking at gets six steps to to or I think it's the reflectivity.
00:32:33,020 --> 00:32:38,660
But actually, although it might be presented as six steps, though, things are very much you kind of go cyclical,
00:32:38,660 --> 00:32:47,750
you might get to step two and then have to go back to that one and you might just kind of keep reinforcing or learning more so it develops as you go,
00:32:47,750 --> 00:32:55,130
which I think is very important as well. And that is part of the adding depth and richness to to your data as well.
00:32:55,130 --> 00:33:01,670
Definitely, yeah. I think before we wrap up, I just wanted to add something that might be reassuring to people.
00:33:01,670 --> 00:33:09,380
You know, if you're sort of thinking, is thematic analysis the right choice for me or, you know, how do I choose a type of analysis?
00:33:09,380 --> 00:33:14,090
I think what I found really interesting reading in one of Braun and Clark's paper,
00:33:14,090 --> 00:33:17,730
they're basically that they have a wealth of knowledge in this area.
00:33:17,730 --> 00:33:24,740
So we refer to them a lot. But I think they say that considering and choosing an analytical approach is sort of more like
00:33:24,740 --> 00:33:29,810
deciding between which type of fruit you will choose to eat rather than deciding whether
00:33:29,810 --> 00:33:32,220
to have fruit a slice of cake or a burger.
00:33:32,220 --> 00:33:41,330
So they kind of emphasise that a lot of different pattern based methods for examples, for example, can have very similar outputs.
00:33:41,330 --> 00:33:47,690
So it is an important decision, but it's not choosing between an apple and a burger,
00:33:47,690 --> 00:33:53,940
but it's more choosing between the types of fruits, which I find quite a reassuring analogy.
00:33:53,940 --> 00:33:58,460
Yeah, I like that one. Yeah, great. For someone is indecisive as me.
00:33:58,460 --> 00:34:01,700
That's very helpful. Yeah. And I guess yeah.
00:34:01,700 --> 00:34:08,840
There's a lot of resources around how to choose between different types of different types of pattern based methodology,
00:34:08,840 --> 00:34:12,010
methods or methodologies, and there are similarities and differences.
00:34:12,010 --> 00:34:21,560
So I think one of their papers was comparing thematic analysis to different types of other types of pattern based methods or methodology,
00:34:21,560 --> 00:34:26,800
which can be quite useful for some people to read. So we will link that as well.
00:34:26,800 --> 00:34:36,640
Definitely, we'll we'll put that in the show notes, and so I think we'll wrap up there because it's been a really lovely and informative
00:34:36,640 --> 00:34:42,460
discussion and we've talked around various aspects of thematic analysis,
00:34:42,460 --> 00:34:48,820
how we first came to you to join it or how we first came to use it in our research and the the
00:34:48,820 --> 00:34:55,600
benefits and some of its challenges and also some of the definitions of thematic analysis.
00:34:55,600 --> 00:35:02,860
And for me, it's been a real pleasure to to host this and to share with you guys a really great discussion.
00:35:02,860 --> 00:35:09,960
So I'd like to thank both of you. Oh, thank you. Yeah, it's been really interesting talking to you both about this.
00:35:09,960 --> 00:35:13,430
I really enjoyed it. Thank you. Oh, it's lovely.
00:35:13,430 --> 00:35:20,420
And, yeah, we've we've learnt a huge well, I personally learnt a huge amount and hope the listeners have to.
00:35:20,420 --> 00:35:25,940
But as we've said at various points through the podcast we have,
00:35:25,940 --> 00:35:32,810
we will include a link in links in the show, notes to all of the resources that we've mentioned.
00:35:32,810 --> 00:35:44,680
So, again, a huge thanks to Merve and Emily for our conversation.
00:35:44,680 --> 00:35:50,980
I have Dr. Kat Ashbullby with me right now. She's a lecturer in psychology at the University of Exeter.
00:35:50,980 --> 00:35:55,990
Kat, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself? Hi, thank you so much for having me.
00:35:55,990 --> 00:36:02,770
So, yeah, so I'm a lecturer in psychology at the university and I did all my training at Exeter as well.
00:36:02,770 --> 00:36:05,830
And I'm really interested in qualitative methods.
00:36:05,830 --> 00:36:13,180
A lot of my research has involved qualitative work and my background is in something called economic psychology,
00:36:13,180 --> 00:36:17,830
which is how people make decisions about everyday financial life.
00:36:17,830 --> 00:36:22,150
So things like spending behaviour, saving behaviour, money and relationships.
00:36:22,150 --> 00:36:29,530
And then after my PhD, I worked in outside academia in a charity as well, doing research about health and wellbeing at work.
00:36:29,530 --> 00:36:34,360
So I've had an opportunity to work in different areas using qualitative research.
00:36:34,360 --> 00:36:39,520
Yeah, great. And the way we know each other is obviously you've been really helpful in our qualitative
00:36:39,520 --> 00:36:47,140
project and you have a lot more expertise in this topic than I do or any of us do.
00:36:47,140 --> 00:36:56,170
And so we have this we're having this podcast to give a bit of our resource to postgraduate researchers who want to get into qualitative research,
00:36:56,170 --> 00:37:02,680
specifically thematic analysis. And so we have had some definitions of thematic analysis.
00:37:02,680 --> 00:37:06,280
But I wonder if you could give us like a brief definition in your own words?
00:37:06,280 --> 00:37:16,450
Yeah, of course. A thematic analysis is perhaps best understood as like an umbrella term for different approaches to making sense of qualitative data.
00:37:16,450 --> 00:37:22,900
So there's some really nice resources that you can find online, actually, through Victoria Clarke, like on YouTube, for example,
00:37:22,900 --> 00:37:29,350
where she talks about the different types of thematic analysis that might be helpful for some of your sort of listeners to go to.
00:37:29,350 --> 00:37:37,330
But really, it's just the idea that you're making sense of qualitative data through identifying themes is the very sort of base level.
00:37:37,330 --> 00:37:40,600
But then when you go into it, that's kind of different ways of doing that,
00:37:40,600 --> 00:37:45,280
whether you're doing it in terms of like what you might have heard of a code book,
00:37:45,280 --> 00:37:49,180
thematic analysis, where you've got kind of the more a description already,
00:37:49,180 --> 00:37:57,160
even before you've looked at your data of what you might want to find or like what is this more reflexive organic approach where
00:37:57,160 --> 00:38:03,880
you're much more open to the data when you're going through is on a line by line basis looking at what the people are saying.
00:38:03,880 --> 00:38:09,160
So you've got no idea before you start what your what your findings will be.
00:38:09,160 --> 00:38:14,770
And that's quite different to the kind of code book approach where you might already have an idea of what your themes would look like.
00:38:14,770 --> 00:38:20,290
So there are these kind of differences within it. But yes, it's all about making sense of qualitative data.
00:38:20,290 --> 00:38:29,440
So whether that be from interviews or focus groups or an online source, yeah, that's reassuring that it matches up with what we discussed.
00:38:29,440 --> 00:38:36,610
Yeah, that's great. Thank you. And I guess our perspective in this podcast has been from three researchers have mainly trained in
00:38:36,610 --> 00:38:43,240
quantitative research methods and coming into qualitative research methods later on in our research journeys.
00:38:43,240 --> 00:38:45,370
So I wondered, in your experience,
00:38:45,370 --> 00:38:52,370
what are some of the common mistakes people might make when they're using thematic analysis, for example, in our position?
00:38:52,370 --> 00:38:56,950
Yeah. So I guess like from a positive starting point that is accessible,
00:38:56,950 --> 00:39:01,840
the masterclasses people from different backgrounds, I suppose there are like common, I guess,
00:39:01,840 --> 00:39:06,280
mistakes people make in the it's getting used to like working in a completely different way,
00:39:06,280 --> 00:39:08,980
isn't it, with the different kinds of language of research.
00:39:08,980 --> 00:39:16,870
So you're moving away from talking about kind of variables and control to talking about people's lived experiences.
00:39:16,870 --> 00:39:21,160
So I guess that's something that just people not aren't necessarily always used to, you know,
00:39:21,160 --> 00:39:29,260
moving away from the research tradition that they've been in to kind of open their eyes to a new way of doing research in terms of make mistakes.
00:39:29,260 --> 00:39:33,940
I guess maybe, you know, like we've just talked about, that definition of thematic analysis,
00:39:33,940 --> 00:39:38,290
I guess sometimes is some lack of understanding that it can actually be this umbrella term,
00:39:38,290 --> 00:39:42,340
that there are quite different things that you can do as kind of one thing.
00:39:42,340 --> 00:39:47,530
So I guess familiarise yourself with the different approaches to try and doing a bit more reading around.
00:39:47,530 --> 00:39:55,420
It's really helpful, I guess, as well. Also, sometimes people maybe underestimate the amount of work involved.
00:39:55,420 --> 00:40:00,730
So and I guess you know yourself from having done it, some people think it's just quite, very quick that you just,
00:40:00,730 --> 00:40:05,950
you know, suddenly have these themes, whereas in reality, it's actually quite a lot of work, isn't it?
00:40:05,950 --> 00:40:11,230
First we'll get the transcription and then code the data and then this kind of intrusive nature that
00:40:11,230 --> 00:40:16,210
you're going back between the data and your codes and developing it and the work that goes into that.
00:40:16,210 --> 00:40:25,390
People might underestimate Definitely And I think especially with the reflexive analysis, there's a lot of interpretative work that's involved.
00:40:25,390 --> 00:40:29,470
And yeah, and perhaps I might have made the same mistake in that thinking.
00:40:29,470 --> 00:40:33,640
It was a lot more descriptive than. Yeah, it really is.
00:40:33,640 --> 00:40:37,780
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So definitely. So I guess that's another one isn't it, that that kind of take.
00:40:37,780 --> 00:40:42,680
So people get to the stage where they kind of got this descriptive sort of piece about their.
00:40:42,680 --> 00:40:47,380
That it's taking at the next level of them, putting those things together to say, first of all, my key findings,
00:40:47,380 --> 00:40:55,220
what does this mean in relation to my research question and Braun and Braun and Clark talk about the like, storybook theme.
00:40:55,220 --> 00:41:00,700
So that idea that you're really telling a story with your research first is kind of the bucket themes,
00:41:00,700 --> 00:41:04,270
which is more like just shoving everything in there that, you know.
00:41:04,270 --> 00:41:11,470
So it's kind of a storybook thing where you're trying to say, you know, what's really going on here with my with my findings.
00:41:11,470 --> 00:41:16,390
That's really interesting. It reminds me of something that we discussed when we were doing the qualitative
00:41:16,390 --> 00:41:21,490
analysis together about the difference between the domain summaries and the themes
00:41:21,490 --> 00:41:27,220
And I did mention this as one of the difficulties that I initially found with thematic in the podcast.
00:41:27,220 --> 00:41:33,370
But I wondered maybe if you can sort of give a more elaborate description of what that means.
00:41:33,370 --> 00:41:37,080
Yeah, I can try. Now, you did a really good job, though, with your paper, didn't you?
00:41:37,080 --> 00:41:45,520
And so I think it was more like, you know, say with the Ketamine paper, you had, like, for example, all the different things that people experienced.
00:41:45,520 --> 00:41:51,670
And and that's kind of if you're just writing that all down, that's kind of like what some people call like a domain summary.
00:41:51,670 --> 00:41:53,830
It's like all different things that happened.
00:41:53,830 --> 00:42:00,040
But then taking that next level was then looking at, OK, so maybe these were really contradictory things.
00:42:00,040 --> 00:42:05,380
These are about transformation. So it's like then those labels of like contradiction or transformation,
00:42:05,380 --> 00:42:09,300
which then become your themes in themselves rather than the list of experiences.
00:42:09,300 --> 00:42:12,550
It's like taking in the next level. That makes sense. Yeah, yeah.
00:42:12,550 --> 00:42:16,360
That's a really good description. And so what would you advise?
00:42:16,360 --> 00:42:23,560
I think you sort of answered this, but what would you advise quantitatively, researchers who are new to qualitative methods or thematic analysis?
00:42:23,560 --> 00:42:29,680
Yeah, what I think doing some like, you know, more study or more reading, like I said, there's some really good online resources.
00:42:29,680 --> 00:42:38,090
So Victoria Clarke has been really influential in, like, kind of defining and delineating what thematic analysis is.
00:42:38,090 --> 00:42:41,140
And she's got some really nice YouTube videos that are quite straightforward
00:42:41,140 --> 00:42:45,020
just to watch to introduce you to some of these things about thematic analysis.
00:42:45,020 --> 00:42:48,670
And there's also a lot of like papers around that as well that they've done recently,
00:42:48,670 --> 00:42:53,090
just talking about different stages of their analysis, I guess, as well.
00:42:53,090 --> 00:42:57,700
It's just about being open to a new way of working and a new kind of language
00:42:57,700 --> 00:43:03,100
of research where you're more interested in different people's viewpoints, different people's lived experiences.
00:43:03,100 --> 00:43:10,120
And it's not necessarily about the number of times somebody says something and trying to get out of that purely quantitative mindset.
00:43:10,120 --> 00:43:15,460
It's as well as about, you know, the different range of experiences people are having and whether that's something that is
00:43:15,460 --> 00:43:19,810
interesting and meaningful to your research and could be taken forward to explore more.
00:43:19,810 --> 00:43:25,540
Certainly. I was just going to say it's hard to get out of the quantitative mindset initially because, you know,
00:43:25,540 --> 00:43:31,540
when we were first approaching it, we were trying to define how many times or how many participants have said a certain thing.
00:43:31,540 --> 00:43:39,220
But then you've explained to us, you know, actually that's not very useful way of approaching things in qualitative research,
00:43:39,220 --> 00:43:44,950
because just because half of the people in this interview said this doesn't mean that half of the
00:43:44,950 --> 00:43:51,670
people in the general public would say this or we're not approaching generalisability in the same way.
00:43:51,670 --> 00:43:56,530
Yeah, exactly. And the other thing that's really tricky, because obviously, if you use and say an in-depth interview,
00:43:56,530 --> 00:44:02,950
it might be that because obviously with a certain of certainly structured interviews, you don't always follow exactly the same interview questions.
00:44:02,950 --> 00:44:09,760
So it might be that some people had the opportunity because they were asked or it just went down the avenue to talk about their views on something.
00:44:09,760 --> 00:44:14,500
So they expressed it, whereas the other people in the other half of interviews might have had the opportunity, say,
00:44:14,500 --> 00:44:17,950
rather than them not necessarily agreeing or bringing up as meaningful,
00:44:17,950 --> 00:44:21,850
it might not have just been part of the questions, whereas it was a questionnaire.
00:44:21,850 --> 00:44:25,780
Everybody's getting exactly the same things that you can kind of compare it.
00:44:25,780 --> 00:44:29,050
So I it's just getting used to that different way of thinking about things.
00:44:29,050 --> 00:44:36,250
But it is tricky because, you know, it can sometimes be interesting that every single person thinks something versus nobody.
00:44:36,250 --> 00:44:40,150
But, yeah, it's just getting that balance, isn't it, and thinking about it in a new way.
00:44:40,150 --> 00:44:41,950
Yeah, yeah, definitely.
00:44:41,950 --> 00:44:51,910
So if we were to think a little bit about our philosophical position before approaching a qualitative research or more specifically thematic analysis,
00:44:51,910 --> 00:44:56,440
do you think it's important to define this before starting with analysis?
00:44:56,440 --> 00:45:02,350
And what how would you define your philosophical position? That's really difficult question to ask.
00:45:02,350 --> 00:45:05,860
That's a very good yeah. So I think in terms of yeah, there's all these different words,
00:45:05,860 --> 00:45:11,560
people can get quite confused about the symbology and ontology and philosophy, philosophical positions.
00:45:11,560 --> 00:45:17,800
But I think a lot of it's about thinking about, OK, so what am I trying to find, am I like inductive?
00:45:17,800 --> 00:45:21,550
So am I really driven by my data and what people are saying?
00:45:21,550 --> 00:45:26,750
The participants are saying and I'm quite open or am I more deductive and more theory based?
00:45:26,750 --> 00:45:34,420
So, for example, if I was doing a search, this is a nice paper that looks at social identity approach to food banks and social psychology.
00:45:34,420 --> 00:45:42,490
And so that would be very much like a theoretical theoretical basis where you you're very much looking for social identity that would help explain it.
00:45:42,490 --> 00:45:49,660
So I think they're having this different theoretical position, whether you're very much data driven or theory driven,
00:45:49,660 --> 00:45:53,350
can influence as well the questions that you ask people in your interview.
00:45:53,350 --> 00:46:00,880
So in some cases, you know, defining that in advance can be important, but it kind of depends on the stage that you get the data,
00:46:00,880 --> 00:46:06,330
if you see what I mean, and other people, you know, use different kind of methods.
00:46:06,330 --> 00:46:12,640
So if you're using like this, we're talking about thematic analysis, for example, discourse analysis.
00:46:12,640 --> 00:46:16,480
If you're looking at the way things are constructed in language versus you've got
00:46:16,480 --> 00:46:20,980
like a more straightforward view of what the language is and what people say.
00:46:20,980 --> 00:46:28,240
And that's a more like essentialist position. I guess in the past that I've had more essentialist realist one and more inductive approach.
00:46:28,240 --> 00:46:31,660
So it's kind of you're just open to what the people are saying.
00:46:31,660 --> 00:46:37,520
And that's kind of a straightforward relationship between what they say and what you're writing.
00:46:37,520 --> 00:46:43,750
But, yeah, I think just being aware that it's more complex than the being one type of thematic analysis of them,
00:46:43,750 --> 00:46:50,140
all these different positions that people take that can lead to quite different analyses and quite different results,
00:46:50,140 --> 00:46:53,570
I think is is beneficial really when you're doing the work.
00:46:53,570 --> 00:47:01,600
So and we talk specifically about small q and big Q, which feeds into these kind of debates as well.
00:47:01,600 --> 00:47:05,800
So yeah, I was about to ask that. So yeah, that was something that we discussed.
00:47:05,800 --> 00:47:12,500
And some are reading this idea between the big Q qualitative research versus small qq ualitative research.
00:47:12,500 --> 00:47:16,540
So I wondered, yeah. If you can tell us a little bit more about that.
00:47:16,540 --> 00:47:24,280
So that I think was Killoran Fine. And that comes into the idea that you're doing like a project from a so if you're doing a big key,
00:47:24,280 --> 00:47:29,590
one is from like a qualitative background, a qualitative like philosophy.
00:47:29,590 --> 00:47:36,460
And your it's what broaden out talk about the organic reflexive one is like a big key one because you're just very
00:47:36,460 --> 00:47:42,190
open to all the participants are saying you don't think that you have to count the number of times things happen.
00:47:42,190 --> 00:47:51,370
It's very iterative. Your you know, you're recognising that the researcher as an analyst is very involved in interpreting the data,
00:47:51,370 --> 00:47:59,980
whereas like a small q one is much more in line with, like quantitative thinking, thinking that you'd have to maybe, you know,
00:47:59,980 --> 00:48:05,110
like a kind of more like a kind of qualitative content analysis where you were counting the number of times something
00:48:05,110 --> 00:48:11,440
happened that you had like an idea beforehand of what exactly you were going to count before you even saw the data.
00:48:11,440 --> 00:48:14,290
You'd know what you were going to count or not, and then you'd count that thing.
00:48:14,290 --> 00:48:21,130
And that would be a much more small, cute sample because you're not really doing the research from a very qualitative philosophy in the sense that,
00:48:21,130 --> 00:48:26,440
you know, it's not so much about the participants lived experiences or being open to interpreting the findings.
00:48:26,440 --> 00:48:28,180
It's much more like closed off,
00:48:28,180 --> 00:48:33,760
like a questionnaire would be something that is much it's like a much more quantitative way to do qualitative research.
00:48:33,760 --> 00:48:43,420
So that's kind of part of the divide, I think within and it's not necessarily bad to do small q that could be exactly what you need in a study,
00:48:43,420 --> 00:48:52,240
but it is recognising that it is a very different approach from having much more open questions in your interviews and be much more
00:48:52,240 --> 00:49:00,850
open to following kind of lines of enquiry from the participant versus is this much more kind of closed off way of of doing it?
00:49:00,850 --> 00:49:05,890
And I guess this kind of shows in terms of thematic analysis, different approach,
00:49:05,890 --> 00:49:12,190
a thematic analysis kind of set along different ends of this continuum from big Q to small q research, is that right?
00:49:12,190 --> 00:49:14,200
Yeah, yeah, that's right. That's what they talk about.
00:49:14,200 --> 00:49:22,820
Some of the papers, this kind of codebook one or the more kind of content analysis or their reflexive organic one, which is like the big Q So it does.
00:49:22,820 --> 00:49:29,710
And that kind of middle that big ish q in the middle where you are some maybe predefined ideas in mind,
00:49:29,710 --> 00:49:36,400
but also you're open to what the participants are saying as well, which is kind of where I think the keramine paper sits in the middle.
00:49:36,400 --> 00:49:45,580
Yeah, I guess. Before we wrap up, do you have any other final thoughts or tips that you'd have for me, such as approaching qualitative research?
00:49:45,580 --> 00:49:48,220
Yeah, I guess just to be open to qualitative research,
00:49:48,220 --> 00:49:52,880
if you haven't done it before as a it's just I think most people that even if they haven't done it before,
00:49:52,880 --> 00:49:58,150
they're going to say to do find it intrinsically really interesting finding out more about their experiences,
00:49:58,150 --> 00:50:02,680
because it you know, compared to the questionnaire studies where you just really can't get much information
00:50:02,680 --> 00:50:05,890
from people about how they finding out how they're thinking about things.
00:50:05,890 --> 00:50:11,110
It does provide this other perspective, which I think is really valuable in so many areas of research.
00:50:11,110 --> 00:50:18,430
Yeah, definitely. I agree. I mean, I found that there was such a it sounds like quite a bit like a cliche, but it's such a deep insight.
00:50:18,430 --> 00:50:23,950
You're getting into people's experiences. And it was really interesting and informative study.
00:50:23,950 --> 00:50:32,920
Yeah. Thank you so much. Thanks for your advice. And yeah, I was really helpful for me and I'm sure it'll be helpful for the as well.
00:50:32,920 --> 00:50:37,270
Thank you. And that's it for this episode.
00:50:37,270 --> 00:50:42,600
Don't forget to like rare and subscribe and join us next time when we'll be talking to somebody else
00:50:42,600 --> 00:51:06,930
About research and everything in between.
Wednesday Jul 21, 2021
Wednesday Jul 21, 2021
Wednesday Jul 21, 2021
Last week I hit a wall, and had to admit I was expereincing burn out. So many of us have reached that stage due to the pandemic so it felt important to do a podcast episode on it.
So, in this I talk to Sunday Blake all about burn out. Sunday was the President of the University of Exeter Student's Guild and has just joined the University's Strategic Delivery Unit - they know a thing or two about burn out. We aren't providing you with answers, as we both admit neither of us are very good at preventing burn out. But hopefully the discussion will resonate and provide some reassurance that your experience is valid and you are not alone.
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Hello and welcome to R, D and the In Betweens, I'm your host, Kelly Preece,
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and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers, development and everything in between.
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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of R, D in the In Betweens for this episode, we're going to be talking about burnout.
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Why are we going to be talking about burnout?
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Because last week I hit a mental and physical wall and I know I'm not the only one that's ever experienced burnout.
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And I certainly know that I'm not the only one experiencing it right now.
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So it seemed a really good time to talk about it on the podcast.
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And I'm thrilled for this episode to be joined by a colleague and good friend Sunday Blake.
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So Sunday was until the end of last week, the president of the Student Guild.
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So the student union at the University of Exeter, and they were also the VP for postgraduates for a year before that.
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So they had a two term office. And Sunday has just joined the strategic delivery unit at the university and to work as a strategic advisor as well,
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and is an ideal person for me to talk to about burnout.
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So I hope you enjoy this conversation. I hope it resonates with you.
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And I hope it perhaps reassures you that these experiences are normal and everything's going to be OK.
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So, yes, the idea was to chat about burnout because I hit a wall in the middle of last week after going back to campus for the first time.
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And my body and my mind just went, nope, yeah, this is this isn't good.
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I feel like your body goes before your mind goes. Like, I'm I've been in this body for three decades now, and I'm still like one more day do you know what I mean.
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And, you know, I don't think I'm the best guest actually to be on this podcast because I don't manage my own burnout, too.
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And that's the that's the thing. And like I was chatting to one of the PGRs about it because I said, oh,
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you know, on Friday, I took the day off as I've hit a wall and I'm going to take the day off.
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And they sent me a message on teams and I replied to it. And they were just like, what are you doing?
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Like you do? Yeah. I mean, I had got I got to a place where I was really quite good at kind of setting the boundaries because I,
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like, completely burnt out and had a breakdown back in twenty twelve and I'm sorry to hear that
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So it's okay. I mean it was, it was a big learning experience and it was the combination of so many different, so many different factors at the time.
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But like I learn a lot from that and I've been like on a on a journey ever since to try and kind
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of figure out how to put the right boundaries in place to make sure it doesn't happen again.
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So it's one of the reasons I stopped being an academic and I changed my job and moved to Devon.
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It was whole kind of right. What can I shift in my environment to make this work? And usually
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And I've been really good at managing that. But something about the pandemic has just.
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And not the early days of the pandemic, like since January, do you know
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Well, I divide the pandemic up into like good, good times and bad times.
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When the pandemic when it first came in March, I was having a great time because I would go and sit my cats in between meetings.
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All my laundry would get done. I haven't done laundry. I don't do laundry for weeks now.
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And the thing is, I keep a I blame myself for and I get angry at myself because I think you managed this really well in March.
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What, in March? Twenty twenty I should say. Not March this year. March. Ugh it has been so long hasn't it.
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You managed this really well. Why, why can't I try to almost like push myself to get back to how it was at the beginning when I was like I'm at home.
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I learnt to sew. By the way, I think I remember asking you which sewing machine to buy all this stuff.
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And now I just I just exist. And it's I don't know how long I'm going to bring this on for because I started a new job this week when I turned up.
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You know, I love it it is areally good job, and it's going to be amazing.
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But like, I walked into the office and they were like, oh, most people only come in two days a week, which is great.
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But I find that I get almost like I get burned out from, like, just seeing the same four walls every day.
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That makes sense. Yeah.
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I've literally just had a conversation with someone about this and saying about because I was I was really pleased because we were,
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because they were talking about us going back to work one day a week from next week.
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But I would potentially be in an office with twenty eight people and I was really not comfortable with that.
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Yeah. But, you know, really lucky, really supportive managers who I've said, no, I can't do that.
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And of course you don't have to do that. You do what you do, what makes you feel comfortable.
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Nobody's going to pressure you, which is brilliant. But we were talking about it and I was saying, you know, it's a real it's real tear.
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I'm really torn because in some ways, particularly somebody that's chronically ill, I feel really safe in my house at the moment.
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I feel like I am in control of this. I can control who's here and how distanced we are and all that sort of stuff.
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And like you say, I can just go if I'm kind of having a moment, I'm going to lie with the cats, just kind of chill out.
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But at the same time, it's driving me insane.
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And I know that my mental health is worse because I'm not interacting with people and different people and yeah,
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walking around campus, yeah, I picked up a stone on.
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in lock down and I'm eating exactly the same. I'm not not change my diet, nothing like that.
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I know some people out on quite a lot of weight and they'll say because they eat when they're bored. I have been eating mainly the same stuff.
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In fact I under-eat, I forget to eat my meals because I back to back my meetings, which is bad, but I'm still put a stone on
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I cannot shift it because I'm not moving. I don't think that that's kind of like where I am at the moment with being burnt out.
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That's kind of where I've where I've got to kind of looking at, like you say, all of the things that this time, not even this time last year,
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I was finding it so much easier to manage and I was doing much more kind of in terms of
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hobbies and self care and spending lunchtimes outside when we had the nice weather.
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I'm not doing any of that now. It's just like you say, we've got so into this kind of back to back meetings because we can do that in a way
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that we couldn't when we were doing things face to face and just kind of constant,
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constant work and constant worrying, constantly being on. And I think the like.
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I heard quite a few people talk about the fact that so when we went into the pandemic in March last year,
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it was like, you know, our brains essentially went into fight or flight mode, you know, because that's I mean.
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It's it's a it's a stress reaction. It's it keeps alert to my, you know, when there's a threat.
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But the problem is we've never really come out of that. And so our limbic system is just completely overrun.
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Yeah. And the reason that so many people are struggling with the mental health and feeling burnt out,
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like I talk to no one at the moment, that isn't like the end of their tether with it.
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I am. And it is like this is and it was a neurologist actually who had talked about it on a podcast.
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And they were like, this is actually affecting our brains and the way that our brains function.
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Yeah, yeah. My therapist told me about this saying that it's like to do with your brain plasticity, like all brains, are really, really flexible.
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I don't know the terms, but basically like this is why cognitive behavioural therapy works, because you literally carve out new pathways of your brain.
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It changes physically changes. I, I mean, I said it when I overshare too much, but the beginning of the pandemic, I started fainting a lot.
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Yeah. or collapsing and a lot of people are really worried about it.
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I was worried about it and it kind of annoyed actually, because it would happen at really inconvenient moments, stood in the queue at Poundland and stuff.
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And yeah, you know, they did so many tests on me they were doing blood pressure.
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They would do it everything. Like what could it be? They would ask me if I'm eating
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I mean to be fair, I never eat enough, but like, I wasn't eating not enough to faint.
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And like basically the doctors and the psychiatrist put it down to the fact that I
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was going into shops and having to think about who was and wasn't wearing a mask,
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because this is before masks were mandatory, you know, because we went through,
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like, we went through like half year without them being mandatory, which is crazy.
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I know that they came in so late when you think about it.
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So I was having to think who was wearing a mask because I was looking at what people picking up.
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So I didn't pick it up because we didn't know if it was passed by surfaces or airborne.
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And I was having to calculate two metres, you know, all this stuff was going on.
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And basically it was just overloading my brain and my brain was going, you know,
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well, we could just turn off and I'd faint, which is crazy that that's the impact.
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You feel like a lot of people are like that. When I'm walking around the shop, I don't know that I'm stressed, so I'm not walking around going.
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I'm so stressed about the two metres and the masks. I'm not thinking that.
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But obviously I am somewhere. And I told you at the beginning of the phone call that obviously my right eye has burst or the blood vessels in it.
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And the doctors are like, yeah, that's your stress. But obviously I'm like, I don't wake up thinking, oh, I'm really stressed.
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And I think this is this is one of the really sinister things about stress is it doesn't have to be
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like a cognitive thought then it can actually just like be there like latent and dormant maybe.
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But yeah, I think this is one of the things that the pandemic has really highlighted.
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Yeah. Is that we we actually don't we actually don't really understand on a on a layman's basis how
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much stress can have a negative impact on your body without even mentioning your mental health.
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You know, and I've I've been the same in particular over the past week, you know, family and friends.
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And I've been saying to me, you know, like what? What is it that's really bothering you and I'm like, it's it's not a thing.
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It's not like I'm sat churning over the state of the country or, you know,
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it's not a thing that I'm sat there thinking about or ruminating on or particularly anxious about.
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Yeah, it's this kind of whole picture. And I've I've had the same so I've been over the course of the pandemic, I developed a restless leg syndrome.
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So like it's a neurological thing that causes my legs to twitch and particularly
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when I'm trying to sleep so I can't sleep because my legs won't stop moving.
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And the one I originally talked to the doctor about it back in January,
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it's one of the it's one of those wonderful things that doesn't have kind of a known cause.
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And he's like, you would be surprised how many people are reporting very similar kinds of problems, not necessarily restless legs, but like you say,
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what you were saying with fainting and stuff that don't have an obvious cause are actually like he actually said to me at the time,
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like the likelihood is that this is a stress reaction. This is this is your body's way of reacting to the pandemic.
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And I said at the time, but I'm not like I'm not actively worrying about it.
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And it's like it doesn't matter. You don't need to be your your body is responding to it.
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And so I'm terrible for that because I, I tell myself stuff that stresses me out is really bad issue where I think that I'm really hard.
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So I think I'm tough. And I actually think this is not good because I set myself almost like emotional, personal bests.
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So if I go through something really stressful and I'm like, you know what?
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Instead of going, that was really stressful, I hope I never had to go through that again. I'm like, well, at least I know I can handle something that's stressful.
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So do you know what i mean like it's when we see it as a as a well I've done it, so I can do it again.
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And actually I think that, I don't think that's a great way of looking at it.
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I think you should be, I think you should be looking at it going Oh I did that.
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And it was horrible and I never want to do it again because I want to look after myself.
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But the I, I'm, I'm awful because I'm like, I'll tell myself I'm not stressed.
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Like, I hate when stuff gets to me. I get annoyed at myself about it and I'm like, no, don't don't let it get to you.
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You're you're hard. And I think that because I because I don't give myself that time to be like, you know what?
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This is actually really impacted on me. Yeah. I think it just I think it hides away somewhere in my body.
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And then I end up. I know. Well, like I said, getting burned out or having a flare or something like that.
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Your blood vessels in your blood vessels in my eye burst
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Yeah, no, exactly. Exactly.
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And I actually I'm one of these people who I actually find relaxing stressful or meeting because I'm always got multitask when watching the TV.
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I'm also playing a game on my phone or I'm I'm the same or like I can't stop.
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And so, like you say, when you're like when I lay in the bath or read or have got to be on my phone or say, if I don't, I start to think.
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And if I start to think, I start to worry and find problems that aren't really problems.
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But it's like my brain. It's like, you know, like search, search out and what can I what can I get?
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Really anxious about. And I think, you know, it's it's a symptom of. Anxiety, anxiety.
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Yeah, but also, I think kind of like trauma and partly trauma from the.
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Pandemic and the impact of that, but also part of a longer term kind of, you know,
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back to childhood kind of trauma and all of that, where you're just kind of have this sense of.
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There's got to be something for me to worry about or something for me to be concerned about.
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Or panic about and so like that kind of switching off that apparently people can do.
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I'm not I'm not 100 percent sure. I believe they can, but I just my brain doesn't do it, just doesn't do it.
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It well, the last time I switched off was August twenty nineteen.
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It's now like twenty twenty one like I.
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Yeah. So me and my partner,
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we went to Scotland and I remember I put the pictures up and basically we had no signal we stayed in a shepherds hut and the first couple of days was absolute agony.
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But actually I after a couple of days I ended up feeling like a sort of like like an inner peace, you know.
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Yeah. I have to have this stem of a similar thing happened to me in twenty sixteen.
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I went to a silent retreat for four days, but.
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Yeah. And you know what, like I was awful. I thought it was going to be boring but you end up just I can't describe it you haven't
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Spoken to anyone you ever see people around you, you go for walks meditation.
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Is has libraries. You can read and stuff. Yeah. And it's in a sort of big manor house, almost like a national trust.
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Beautiful location, like acres and acres of land.
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And I cannot describe it, but you end up just happy, like not talking to anyone, you're not laughing with anyone and then you just have this happiness.
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And it's really difficult because I think when I'm at work, I get a lot of my I get a lot of my ego boost from being important
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Right. It's really important. You know, this is why I did elected roles.
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This is why I have quite public facing role, because it tends to be it sounds bad
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But like, I like to feel that I'm at the front of things, fixing things and doing stuff and serving my community,
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and I'm going to be serving my community, you know, and that's where I get my kicks from.
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Yeah. And and I think I think that really, just to get really deep on the podcast,
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I think that I need to rewire my brain away from your valuable because you serve others.
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Yeah. To the way I am at the silent retreat, which is you literally just existing not talking to people, not impressing people,
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just existing because they give you food and that you sleep in these amazing beds and stuff.
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And I think I think what it does without without even speaking to you, the monks that live there is that they show you that you're all valuable.
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Yeah, literally. you're just existing because what you're doing is you're just breathing.
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And obviously when part of Scotland, we obviously were chatting to each other and stuff,
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but like, I would wake up, we'd get some food, we would go to like, you know,
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some ruins or we'd go to like, you know, like a fairy fountain or one of the one of the beautiful places in Scotland,
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Inverness, Loch Ness, that sort of thing. Yeah.
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And I think that's definitely something to do if all well being that if we can if we can just get away from
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all the things that make us valuable to other people and we can just exist and know that we are worthy,
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I think that I think the people like you and me might find it better to relax,
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because the anxiety for me is I'm not doing I'm not I'm not earning my place in the world by having a bath.
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I'm not doing anything like that. Yeah, it's why, like all of my hobbies and all of my, like, relaxation stuff,
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it's like I like I build lego and I sew because it's all productive, I have to feel like I'm being productive.
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And there's a sense of like contribution and like you, I'm I'm really driven in what I do about making,
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you know, making a difference and that being really important to me.
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And like you say, you know, there is that really important thing to me that actually feeling valued and valuable to other people.
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But that is it's an incredibly exhausting way to sort of define yourself and define yourself worth.
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And I think that, like, so often with like research and being in academia,
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that kind of relationship to to something, whether it's to service or it's to your research or something like that,
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is so often the kind of driving force behind your identity that, like you say, actually then pulling away from that and relaxing and valuing yourself differently.
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And it sounds like from the silent retreat and in Scotland,
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it's that kind of actually really having to go through something quite difficult to push through and have it be really difficult.
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Yeah, it's difficult. Thank you so much to Sunday for taking the time out of their really busy schedule to talk to me about this,
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I think it's a really important topic right now.
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And so I know that we haven't really had our conversation, provided any answers, because, as we said, we're both really bad at this.
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But I think that that's the important message, is that. Dealing with these kind of things in these kind of stresses, particularly in the pandemic,
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it's really tough and we're all feeling this, so don't be too hard on yourself.
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Take the breaks where you can and find the mechanisms that work for you.
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And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to, like, rate and subscribe and join me.
00:20:19,020 --> 00:20:45,640
Next time. We'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Jul 07, 2021
Wednesday Jul 07, 2021
Wednesday Jul 07, 2021
In this episode of R, D and the Inbetweens, I talk to Dr. Ghee Bowman, Tracey Warren, Kensa Broadhurst, Laura Burnett and Catherine Queen about being a mature PGR - the benefits, the challenges, and what Universities need to do better.
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Hello and welcome to R, D and the In Betweens, I'm your host, Kelly Preece,
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and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers, development and everything in between.
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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of R, D and the In Betweens.
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That's right. You are hearing my dulcet tones again.
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I am back after a three episode break where the wonderful Dr. Edward Mills guest hosted a few episodes for me.
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So in this episode, I'm going to be carrying on a conversation that started actually on Twitter.
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So a number of our PGRs raised issues with some of the support that's available at the university for them as mature PGRs.
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And so we thought it'd be really valuable to have a conversation about what it means to be a mature PGR, what that even is, what the challenges are,
00:01:12,050 --> 00:01:24,710
what the benefits are, and also what advice they have for any mature students who are thinking of starting or about to start a research degree.
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So let's start with introductions. Ghee and Tracey happy to go first.
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Hello, my name is Ghee Bowman. I finished my Ph.D. in history in well I submitted in September 2019.
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I am now. I'll be sixty in two months.
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I came back to do a PhD as a relatively mature student because I found a story that really fascinated and intrigued me.
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Hi, I'm Tracey Warren. I did an EdD or I'm doing it.
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I submitted about four weeks ago, so I got my viva in three weeks.
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I was working in Abu Dhabi and Dubai when I started this journey, so I did it as a distance learning international student.
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That's great. Now, Catherine and Kensa. Hi.
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Yeah, I, I've been working in private practise for over thirty years as a town planner and a landscape architect,
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and there was a real world problem that troubled me.
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And I had the bright idea of coming back to university and actually doing a PhD to try and answer the question that I had in my mind.
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So I actually applied for a Ph.D. that was advertised, fully funded and with a supervisor that I particularly wanted to work with.
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So I've come back into human geography. Hi, my name is Kensa
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I am a second year full time student at the Institute for Cornish Studies, which is in Exeter's other campus down in Penryn in Cornwall.
00:03:06,050 --> 00:03:15,470
I had been a teacher for about twenty years, having done the normal university master's degree straight after undergraduate.
00:03:15,470 --> 00:03:22,700
And then I was made redundant and very serendipitously that summer that I left school.
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My PhD, which came with funding for my fees, was advertised and I thought, why not I'd always wanted to do one
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So I applied, got this award at the studentship and started the PhD and last.
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But by no means least, Laura,
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I'm Laura Burnett, I'm doing a PhD in history and archaeology and I did the undergraduate degree in archaeology and then I worked for a few years,
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digging and so on then went back into the Master's. And then I worked professionally within archaeology for about fifteen years.
00:03:58,820 --> 00:04:06,740
And I always knew I wanted to come back and do a Ph.D. but it was around identifying a topic that I knew I wanted to do and I knew would work.
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And then timing wise, it's been about fitting around kind of family requirements and so on.
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And that's why I started now and partly why I've chosen to start in Exeter
00:04:17,390 --> 00:04:19,670
Thanks, everyone, for those fabulous introductions.
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I think what that really captures is the varying routes back into or into postgraduate research and postgraduate study.
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And I wondered if we could just take a little bit of a step back, actually,
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and think about what we mean by the term mature student or in this case, mature PGR.
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They'll be kind of an official university label,
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which generally encompasses somebody who has'nt gone straight through tertiary and further and higher education.
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So GCSE's A-levels, undergraduate degree, master's degree straight into some form of research degree,
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but that doesn't necessarily work as a label for everyone. And I wondered what you thought of it as a term and how you felt about it as a
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label and a classification of who you are as a as a researcher and as a student.
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I think it is reasonable to label it. I don't know whether we can define how quickly I think is quite typical.
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My experience in talking to students is one or two years gap,
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but I think all of us here are people who've had a much longer gap the between kind of finishing our undergraduate off.
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As you know, it's not just one or two years of working at that or saving up some money.
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We've all had quite substantial gaps, which probably did change both our life situation,
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but also the kind of experience and viewpoint we bring to doing a Ph.D.
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So I think it's worth thinking about a separate group, but I wouldn't say it's people who just haven't gone straight through.
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I'd say probably the people have had at least four to five years of professional experience before they come back.
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I you know, I kind of I self identify as young.
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And this is an expression that someone as someone said the other week to me and I thought that's such a great thing to say.
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So I mean, I don't know what mature means, really. I mean, yes. I mean, you know, when I started my PhD, I was in my mid 50s,
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but in some ways I would kind of question what, you know, what what the differences are.
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I mean, it's partly I think it's I you know, on the whole, I think I'm blessed with the ability to get on with people of all ages.
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And so I kind of you know, I didn't I never struggled with people, you know,
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my fellow students who were in their early 20s or or their mid 20s, mid 20s seems to be the norm.
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But, you know, there was certainly some who were kind of like, you know, twenty two years old starting a Ph.D.,
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which, of course, I never imagined myself doing when I was anything like that age.
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But I don't know. I just kind of think that, yes, it's a long time since I was an undergraduate.
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And I am very grateful for doing I'm very glad that I didn't do a Ph.D. when I was 20 or 25 or 30 or,
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you know, actually it was the right time when I started in my mid 50s.
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So I kind of reject the premise here, actually, that there is anything different about being a mature student.
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I think you do that. You do. When it's right for you. It doesn't work for everyone, you know, and it it's not always easy.
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But in my case, it was the right time. Yeah, I love that.
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And I think in all of your introductions, when you were talking about how you came to doing your research degree,
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you were all talking or providing us with stories that were very much about the right, the right time and the right topic.
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So from my perspective, I think it's a combination of experience,
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opportunity and an eagerness to get into the world of work that I really didn't want to go through any more formal education.
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And I obviously did the undergraduate degree straight through to Masters, literally, because I didn't know what else I wanted to do.
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I didn't know what I wanted to do as a job. And I had quite a.
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A negative experience as a master's student for my first master's degree,
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and actually I think had I then gone straight through to a Ph.D., wouldn't have been I wouldn't have the maturity that I have.
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Now, some people might argue I don't. And now having had sort of 20 years away from mainly away from academia and having worked in the real world,
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I know I'm quite happy to sort of ask things and go, OK, but I'm not happy about that.
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And this is what I want to do. And please, can you help me with this?
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And I think that 22 year old, 23 year old Kensa would not have had that self-awareness or that confidence to ask for
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those sorts of things and therefore have got the most out of what was available to me.
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And maybe that's maybe that's a reflection also of how academia's moved on.
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But I think that.
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As other people have said, it's the right time for me, I think it would have been a far more I'm not saying it's not stressful today.
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We all know that and we all know the amount of work and pressure that we often put ourselves under.
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But early twenties kensa would not have talking about myself in the third person.
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would not have coped with that in the way that I find that I'm able to do so now.
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I just wanted to reinforce what Kensa said. I completely agree with that.
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I mean, I'm not quite as mature as Ghee, but not far off.
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And I don't feel that I would have had the confidence to do what I'm doing now.
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I think impostor syndrome is a problem for everybody, regardless of age.
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And I think sometimes as an older student, you can find a problem, but you also have the resources to to work with it.
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You have the confidence to ask the questions. You're not so worried about how you appear to others.
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Yeah. And it's that that thing of being able to be confident enough to say, actually, I'm struggling with this.
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Can somebody help me? Can somebody advise?
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And I think mature students maybe find that a little bit easier to do because you don't really have anything to prove.
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It is lovely talking to the mature students. And actually that was something that really surprised me coming back.
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I thought I would be massively older than everyone else and I was massively heartened in my first few days to sit next to lots of the
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people who were older and to go into the Induction in history and realise I was not the oldest person there by about 15 years,
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which is what I clearly expected to be.
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So I think people perhaps right now myself, I wasn't aware of how many mature PhD and research students there are.
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So I think that's something I hope, you know, this will make people realise, if I think you're coming in, is that this is not an unusual situation.
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Yeah, and I think that's really key because there is even in the way that I frame
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this and challenge this so beautifully is is this assumption of difference.
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And, you know, like saying actually, you know, we're all human beings coming to this at the right time in our lives.
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So are we really that different? But also, you know, the community is diverse.
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And so I wondered if you could maybe reflect on what it was like coming in as a mature
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student and what your experience was of of your assumption of of perhaps being different,
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but also the reaction and response from your peers?
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I think I've been really lucky. The department I went into, everybody was absolutely lovely and it just wasn't even a consideration.
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You know, I was at Freshers Week with everybody else, OK? I wasn't out partying, obviously.
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But, you know, I was just with a bunch of other people who were all starting at the same time.
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They were all fantastic. We got on really well.
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And I didn't really feel that age was even a consideration at any stage on that kind of carried on right the way through for me, really.
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I found everybody very supportive. And it's just it's a community of people.
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I think age is just a state of mind. Yeah, age is a state of mind.
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I love that. And I think for me,
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what made the crucial difference was that I came back and did the Masters more or less well I had a year between the Masters and the Ph.D.
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So I was starting a Masters in my fifties after having been out of formal education for twenty years or so.
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And and so I struggled a bit when I started the Masters with kind of getting back into, oh, OK.
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So here's a confession. When I was an undergraduate, I did my undergraduate degree in the early 1980s at Hull university.
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And it was a degree in drama and I was the worst student you can imagine.
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I was you know, I was partying I was living it up.
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I was doing lots of productions, but I was not doing the work that was required to do to do the degree.
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And I very nearly failed. I came out with a 2:2 and I even though I was quite bright, I was just not doing putting the work in.
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And and that was, you know, that was so it was never nothing could be further from my mind when I was twenty.
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Than I would be doing a PhD.
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So I had to kind of between that stage of finishing my bachelor's degree and starting my master's degree 30 something years later,
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I had to go through a long, long journey, which involved all kinds of stops along the way, where I realised,
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for example, that I was able to to write reasonably well, which is a skill I had anyway.
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But I didn't kind of I didn't have the confidence to realise that I was able to read and,
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you know, read some kind of difficult theoretical text as well as the more straightforward.
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And that I could tell that I could cope, but even so, starting the Masters, as I did in September 2014, I think it was was an interesting shock.
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And coming up against some of the some of the kind of the sort of the styles and the
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ways of being and the ways of talking and the and the how seminars were conducted,
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those kind of things are done quite some quite theoretical stuff which I struggled with.
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And that was the difficult part, having then finished the Masters and done well in the Masters.
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Then when I started the PhD that that was an easy transition at the same university, it was the same department, some of the same people around me.
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So, yeah, it was the Masters beginning. That was a difficult thing.
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And I think I just going to make two points and one of them builds on Ghee's so if I start with that one that I'm thinking about,
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kind of positioning yourself in department.
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One thing I found a little strange is coming in as someone who's used to managing their work and managing their own time.
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That's in some of the university setup. It's a little bit more hierarchical.
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So my supervisor is massively long suffering because he he keeps going about things,
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saying things like, you know, has Laura checked your permission to do this ? He just very calmly says, yes, if I haven't,
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because I completely forgot that I need to ask my supervisor whether I could do this thing that they could relate to,
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but not because I'm not in the habit of asking somebody else's permission to do in research.
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So, yes, they're very, very sorry about that. But I do think that can sometimes be perhaps difference.
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The students who go straight through when they need to move from being a student in a
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hierarchical relationship within the department to moving to be a collaborator and a colleague.
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And obviously people, who come in as mature students and perhaps people in something like archaeology,
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which is very collegiate subject in general, are more used to that relationship.
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And I think you have to have the right supervisors and colleagues around you who are expecting that they're not expecting you to be a slightly shy,
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retiring or unsure students. They realise that you are a professional experienced person.
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Right. The other point I was going to make about freshers week and joining in, as someone who
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I've got my family responsibilities and I have young children and also,
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although I live reasonably close to Exeter about an hour's driveway,
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so I've not moved to Exeter to do the PhD so I can get involved in some department of life.
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And that was one reason I chose Exeter was I am close enough to do that.
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But I didn't really take part in things like some of the more social side freshers week or some of the more social side the department.
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And that does make a difference, I think. And yes.
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And I think to sort of carry on with what Laura says, I live relatively near the Penryn campus, but I started at funny time of year.
00:17:16,750 --> 00:17:23,320
I actually started in November of twenty nineteen. So I sort of missed out on all the induction things.
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So I very much don't feel part of the social side of Penryn campus at all.
00:17:31,330 --> 00:17:36,130
However, three months later, we then went into lockdown. We went online.
00:17:36,130 --> 00:17:43,150
And the great thing that I think actually has made my PhD and again, it feeds back to this, you know,
00:17:43,150 --> 00:17:50,560
not not feeling older or not not not sort of being perceived as being older than the other students.
00:17:50,560 --> 00:17:58,210
Is the online community and online sort of support community has has been great and everyone is equal.
00:17:58,210 --> 00:18:05,950
Everyone is treated equally. So you really don't notice who's a mature student and who isn't.
00:18:05,950 --> 00:18:12,190
And the other thing that Laura was saying about it's the idea of asking permission.
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I never do. I'm very, very lucky with my supervisor because I all of my supervisions start with, well, I've done this.
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And he goes, okay, then, you know, and I think that possibly comes with the confidence, the maturity that we were talking about earlier.
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That's sort of. Okay, well, I, I,
00:18:29,650 --> 00:18:39,730
I'm used to having to run my entire life and having to organise this and spin lots and lots of plates because I had to do that throughout my career.
00:18:39,730 --> 00:18:46,270
So therefore, I don't ask people if I can do something, I just go ahead and do it.
00:18:46,270 --> 00:18:57,310
Yeah, so agreeing with Laura on lots of things. What's really clear from what you're saying is that there are a number of things that as a
00:18:57,310 --> 00:19:06,010
mature PGR and somebody who's been out in the world of work for a period of time and that,
00:19:06,010 --> 00:19:10,360
you know, there you bring things that are incredibly useful to the experience.
00:19:10,360 --> 00:19:19,990
You know, you talked about that kind of confidence and the ability to ask questions and to kind of develop your independence as a researcher.
00:19:19,990 --> 00:19:23,290
Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. You know what it's about?
00:19:23,290 --> 00:19:24,950
I think it's about skill.
00:19:24,950 --> 00:19:33,850
That's what I think is, you know, kind of for me, the difference between between doing it now and doing it and not having done it.
00:19:33,850 --> 00:19:38,200
And so I think is like managing a project.
00:19:38,200 --> 00:19:49,640
You know, it's like managing a really complicated, multi lateral, multi faceted project, which is basically me.
00:19:49,640 --> 00:19:54,740
I'm on my own with some support from the supervisors.
00:19:54,740 --> 00:19:58,070
I like that idea of going into the supervision and saying, I've done this.
00:19:58,070 --> 00:20:03,950
And that's a really positive way to do it, is that, you know, you say this is where I'm at and this is what I've got to do.
00:20:03,950 --> 00:20:06,470
And this is these are the successes I've had since we last met.
00:20:06,470 --> 00:20:14,420
And these are the struggles and the questions that I'd like you to help me with, rather than waiting for the supervisor to start the conversation.
00:20:14,420 --> 00:20:15,470
That's really good.
00:20:15,470 --> 00:20:25,670
But, yeah, the idea of of, you know, being able to you know, through my other experience in my life, my varied experience, I know how to plan things.
00:20:25,670 --> 00:20:30,410
I know how to schedule things. I know how to fill time.
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If I'm waiting for something, I know how to manage the information.
00:20:38,120 --> 00:20:44,140
I mean, a lot of it, particularly in history. So I did a history PhD. It really is about managing information.
00:20:44,140 --> 00:20:48,530
It's about managing my secondary reading and my primary you know the sources that
00:20:48,530 --> 00:20:52,910
I'm looking at in the archives and being able to handle all of that material.
00:20:52,910 --> 00:20:55,820
All of that is stuff I think that one gets in life.
00:20:55,820 --> 00:21:03,320
You know, that if you've got some experience as a person out with a job or with a family or both, then, you know,
00:21:03,320 --> 00:21:11,240
you gain that experience and you can then bring that to you in the way that somebody is in their 20s, maybe can't yet.
00:21:11,240 --> 00:21:16,220
Since then, I think I bring a whole lot of skills to it.
00:21:16,220 --> 00:21:22,910
But actually, I find I work on academic stuff is probably quite different to how I work on things I've worked on professionally.
00:21:22,910 --> 00:21:29,300
It's very seldom you do such a big project professionally and I've done some research and evaluation and that's similar.
00:21:29,300 --> 00:21:38,810
But it's rare that I do this sort of work professionally. So I'd say that actually there's kind of yes, there are skills I bring.
00:21:38,810 --> 00:21:43,550
And probably the thing that brings me to student is perhaps a lack of panic there.
00:21:43,550 --> 00:21:49,310
Are there more there are bigger disasters in my life. There are bigger problems in my life when things go a bit wrong with the PhD
00:21:49,310 --> 00:21:55,220
when things are a bit tricky with the PhD relatively, it matters a lot less than other things get bigger by life.
00:21:55,220 --> 00:22:00,470
So which is possibly not what supervisors want to hear. But I kind of like my PhD I kind of want it to go.
00:22:00,470 --> 00:22:03,890
Well, I want to do all of that, but it's not the be all and end of my life.
00:22:03,890 --> 00:22:12,560
And it can't be because, you know, I have other people in my life who are in the end more important, which is sad but true.
00:22:12,560 --> 00:22:22,050
What I would say is I have found it slightly difficult because I have a way of working academically, which tends to be very intense.
00:22:22,050 --> 00:22:26,660
I tend to I'm I'm definitely someone who used to say doesn't stop moving til the ground,
00:22:26,660 --> 00:22:32,150
starts shaking that I really I like to very much work towards something, but then have a very intense period.
00:22:32,150 --> 00:22:37,910
And that's not always compatible with having a family life and working part time as a Ph.D.
00:22:37,910 --> 00:22:42,050
So that's something that I've had to learn to do as a mature student,
00:22:42,050 --> 00:22:48,560
which is different from how I worked when I was in my 20s, did my undergraduate or did my master's degree.
00:22:48,560 --> 00:22:53,900
And I could just completely focus on a period, on a piece of writing I was doing.
00:22:53,900 --> 00:22:56,720
And I just can't do that because I have two kids in school.
00:22:56,720 --> 00:23:02,120
So there is I've actually had to learn to work in different ways in which you're a student.
00:23:02,120 --> 00:23:06,980
But yes, like I bring bring a whole lot of kind of life experience to it, which helps.
00:23:06,980 --> 00:23:12,170
Yeah, I really I really identify with what Laura is saying.
00:23:12,170 --> 00:23:17,450
But one thing for me was actually working at the same time as studying and I found
00:23:17,450 --> 00:23:23,660
I was wearing two hats and I actually found that really difficult to juggle.
00:23:23,660 --> 00:23:29,240
My professional life was writing reports and communicating in a certain way,
00:23:29,240 --> 00:23:35,840
and the writing that I was doing was very different to the writing I was doing as part of my PhD.
00:23:35,840 --> 00:23:44,780
And that became quite a struggle for me, actually, because you were having to adopt these two personas and write in two very different styles.
00:23:44,780 --> 00:23:49,490
So you do need to be very organised. I think this is something that Ghee was saying.
00:23:49,490 --> 00:23:56,420
And, you know, don't underestimate the fact that you are trying to manage all these things and have a family life on top of that.
00:23:56,420 --> 00:24:03,050
So, you know, it does take a lot of organisation. So if you have project management skills, certainly that goes a long way towards it.
00:24:03,050 --> 00:24:07,850
But I do think that mature students have slightly different requirements.
00:24:07,850 --> 00:24:14,570
For me, it was the kind of the academic writing side of things and, you know, just needing a bit more support on that front.
00:24:14,570 --> 00:24:20,510
So we've talked about the benefits and the strengths that you bring as a mature PGR
00:24:20,510 --> 00:24:25,340
What about the challenges? What about what are the barriers that you faced?
00:24:25,340 --> 00:24:37,310
And certainly one thing I found difficult is having had gone from when I was a full time younger student,
00:24:37,310 --> 00:24:49,000
is the way that academia's moved on and things like methodologies and sort of understanding of particular.
00:24:49,000 --> 00:24:54,760
Themes and ways of working, especially within history or you just have no idea, I mean,
00:24:54,760 --> 00:25:00,310
I'm somebody who did my computers with just about coming in obviously they coming in when I was at school.
00:25:00,310 --> 00:25:07,180
But when I was an undergraduate, I did all my work handwritten. Everything was longhand when I did my masters.
00:25:07,180 --> 00:25:13,120
Yes, I did wordprocess my essays, but we didn't have a university email addresses or anything like that.
00:25:13,120 --> 00:25:17,230
So, you know, we're talking about that sort of gap.
00:25:17,230 --> 00:25:24,130
So it's not necessarily technology I usde technology the whole way through my career, but understanding the sort of, OK,
00:25:24,130 --> 00:25:32,140
this is how we've now decided that you structure a piece of writing and you need to make sure that you included this stuff and the other.
00:25:32,140 --> 00:25:44,110
I think sometimes people assume, you know, what that is and somebody's coming straight through would do because they've done an undergraduate degree,
00:25:44,110 --> 00:25:48,370
especially in history quite recently, probably in other subjects
00:25:48,370 --> 00:25:53,650
So history is my experience and I don't know that.
00:25:53,650 --> 00:26:00,610
So that, in a way has been a barrier and you just have to go, OK, I have no idea what you're talking about.
00:26:00,610 --> 00:26:09,370
Please, can you help me you know? Occasionally you get the slightly taken aback look, but most people are happy to point you in the right direction.
00:26:09,370 --> 00:26:16,630
Yeah, I agree with most people have said and I think there are just a number of things I've noted here.
00:26:16,630 --> 00:26:28,150
And the supervisors I've had have been really understanding of me as an older student because they understood that there be other life commitments,
00:26:28,150 --> 00:26:35,200
family work. So I don't I found them very supportive.
00:26:35,200 --> 00:26:46,250
And despite everything that they have pushed things through quite gently in many ways, for me it was the challenges definitely of juggling work.
00:26:46,250 --> 00:26:54,040
I was working full time, so every weekend was basically doing the research.
00:26:54,040 --> 00:27:01,570
So for me, it's been it was tough the first two years getting assignments done.
00:27:01,570 --> 00:27:10,720
And then when the research itself took over, what I found was that that was much more within my remit to deal with timescales.
00:27:10,720 --> 00:27:17,190
So that was that was great. I could actually plan that out, thinking of my work commitments.
00:27:17,190 --> 00:27:21,030
For me, I was as I said, I was an international student, so for me,
00:27:21,030 --> 00:27:29,190
I struggled with time because there was a time difference between the UK and where I was living.
00:27:29,190 --> 00:27:37,980
So that wasn't just the case of being a mature student. I was juggling work and dealing with time differences when I wanted to contact my supervisors.
00:27:37,980 --> 00:27:47,700
But as I said, again, they were very understanding and some of them were even messaging me over weekends because I worked on the Sunday.
00:27:47,700 --> 00:27:55,680
The other thing for me was writing and I couldn't agree more with Kensa and that for me my writing style was very different.
00:27:55,680 --> 00:28:01,920
And that was something that the supervisors commented on. And I reflected on this thinking.
00:28:01,920 --> 00:28:06,480
As a younger Tracey, I wouldn't have written like this.
00:28:06,480 --> 00:28:17,700
I wouldn't have written so confidently about my approach and my perspective, because I that, she said, was a very individual engaging style.
00:28:17,700 --> 00:28:23,690
And I don't think I would have done that or had the confidence to do that. The younger me.
00:28:23,690 --> 00:28:29,450
And also for the research itself, I actually don't think I could have done this research because this has come over
00:28:29,450 --> 00:28:35,180
time experience in my profession and within that particular job at that time.
00:28:35,180 --> 00:28:40,850
So the questions developed out of my work in practise in my life.
00:28:40,850 --> 00:28:51,440
Yes. So the barriers, I think there were the biggest one was juggling time for me and the distance with big time time difference.
00:28:51,440 --> 00:28:57,710
But it was actually asking people for help and the right people that I struggled with.
00:28:57,710 --> 00:29:07,640
Sometimes I wouldn't know who to go to, whereas if I was on campus or perhaps come through Exeter as an undergraduate,
00:29:07,640 --> 00:29:12,050
I might have known quicker where to go for advice on who to ask.
00:29:12,050 --> 00:29:16,420
But most of the time my supervisors have been very long suffering.
00:29:16,420 --> 00:29:22,390
Yeah, there are lots of things coming out there about being or not being a part of the academic community,
00:29:22,390 --> 00:29:26,890
and I wondered if we if we could spend some time thinking or talking about that,
00:29:26,890 --> 00:29:37,650
what kind of whether or not you felt welcomed into the academic community, what the what the barriers were again.
00:29:37,650 --> 00:29:42,650
I think one thing I would caution against is more think about people who perhaps think listening to this thinking thing,
00:29:42,650 --> 00:29:46,890
one is what worth thinking about. What subject I wanted to do
00:29:46,890 --> 00:29:53,260
I did think carefully about which university to attend, and partly because I have the experience.
00:29:53,260 --> 00:30:03,330
Someone else I could very well who did a of doctoral partnership as a mature student with the university that was some distance away.
00:30:03,330 --> 00:30:09,270
And I think that creates difficulties in terms of being able to contact people,
00:30:09,270 --> 00:30:14,730
but it also creates difficulties and perhaps perhaps take it sometimes opportunity to think.
00:30:14,730 --> 00:30:22,920
And so one reason I wanted to come to Exeter was because they had a strength and a community of people working in the period I want to work in,
00:30:22,920 --> 00:30:25,710
but also because they were close enough, for example,
00:30:25,710 --> 00:30:29,010
that I could get involved in teaching because that's something I really wanted to make sure I teach.
00:30:29,010 --> 00:30:36,630
My Ph.D. will spend some time practising teaching, and I was able to do that because I live close enough of course the things going online.
00:30:36,630 --> 00:30:38,730
It's made it much easier to be part of
00:30:38,730 --> 00:30:47,370
which has been wonderful and allowed me to really work meet more of the other students and staff working on similar periods to me,
00:30:47,370 --> 00:30:50,250
which perhaps I couldn't see, but I knew they would be there.
00:30:50,250 --> 00:30:57,690
I couldn't kind of be there at five o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon to actually go to seminars, meet them where I was being invited to do that.
00:30:57,690 --> 00:31:02,040
So previously I think that was a barrier with things that time, your seminars and so on.
00:31:02,040 --> 00:31:10,140
But I do think, you know, when you're thinking about where to go and look for your supervisors, the right people, that happens.
00:31:10,140 --> 00:31:17,310
If I think about that, do you think about that community and also what other things you want to do as well as do the research,
00:31:17,310 --> 00:31:22,230
whether being close enough to be involved in the department in that way is important as well?
00:31:22,230 --> 00:31:29,430
Of course, funding is can be a big control as well, yeah, a slight kind of double edge thing here, which I think is, you know,
00:31:29,430 --> 00:31:40,300
my grey hair and the fact that I look like, you know, sometimes I get respect from people just for that.
00:31:40,300 --> 00:31:48,630
Sometimes because I'm an older white male, some people will give me respect, which maybe I don't deserve.
00:31:48,630 --> 00:31:59,280
And that is on the whole, it's a good thing for me anyway. However, I sometimes I think I've had experience of younger academics, you know,
00:31:59,280 --> 00:32:10,710
even quite senior academics who are perhaps slightly uncomfortable with having somebody who is a lot older than them, who is, you know,
00:32:10,710 --> 00:32:17,280
at that but at that junior level, because there is a very strong hierarchy within the university, you know,
00:32:17,280 --> 00:32:27,450
undergraduate masters, the professor, etc., etc. There are these very clear strata within the university.
00:32:27,450 --> 00:32:35,800
And if there's somebody, you know, on a higher stratum than me who is a lot younger than me, then sometimes I think they struggle.
00:32:35,800 --> 00:32:38,190
I don't think I struggle on the whole. I don't think I do.
00:32:38,190 --> 00:32:45,890
But I think I've experienced I get older or younger academics who who don't feel quite comfortable in my.
00:32:45,890 --> 00:32:49,280
And I don't know what one can do about that. And equally, you know,
00:32:49,280 --> 00:32:58,400
lots of other academics and other members of staff and students who are perfectly comfortable with the case of 30 something years older
00:32:58,400 --> 00:33:01,820
but some people do struggle with it. I totally agree.
00:33:01,820 --> 00:33:05,630
I think possibly the thing that mature age,
00:33:05,630 --> 00:33:14,900
mature age students bring to the PGR community and maybe the university community as a whole is that we have this experience,
00:33:14,900 --> 00:33:17,480
this larger experience outside academia.
00:33:17,480 --> 00:33:26,750
And we are totally used to having to deal with people at all stages of their life and all stages of their own various journeys,
00:33:26,750 --> 00:33:33,950
and therefore actually dealing with a supervisor who might be 20 years younger than us.
00:33:33,950 --> 00:33:35,060
That's not my personal experience.
00:33:35,060 --> 00:33:44,090
But, you know, or people who have just got their kids who are far younger than us or people that who are far older than us,
00:33:44,090 --> 00:33:49,850
doesn't faze us perhaps as much as it would do to somebody in their very early twenties.
00:33:49,850 --> 00:33:55,040
And I wondered how that works for you, Tracey, because we're talking about kind of living relatively close to the campus,
00:33:55,040 --> 00:33:59,790
whereas, you know, for quite a bit of your studies, you've been on the other side of the world.
00:33:59,790 --> 00:34:03,260
So what's that sense of community been like for you?
00:34:03,260 --> 00:34:15,920
Yeah, I think for me the challenge was actually having engagement with the student body and my fellow researchers as a community.
00:34:15,920 --> 00:34:22,850
And at the time, although we have good technology that wasn't open to me until the pandemic,
00:34:22,850 --> 00:34:31,280
which you and I have discussed before, the actually the pandemic opened more opportunities for me.
00:34:31,280 --> 00:34:51,440
And I feel that following my courses and access and seminars, conferences, going online, I feel I've got much more community with fellow researchers,
00:34:51,440 --> 00:35:00,320
whether that's younger researchers or not, because I certainly meet many more researches online.
00:35:00,320 --> 00:35:06,230
In the last year than I did the previously, so I think it isn't a case of distance,
00:35:06,230 --> 00:35:12,020
it's a case of opportunity and access and thinking of it much more broadly.
00:35:12,020 --> 00:35:17,060
Yeah, I'm really glad you used the word community, because that's made me think about that again.
00:35:17,060 --> 00:35:28,310
And I'm kind of thinking that I really have felt I did I didn't feel very much that I was part of the the big university community,
00:35:28,310 --> 00:35:35,060
which is I mean, you know, it's an enormous community and it does it's not I mean, when I was an undergraduate just to go back there again,
00:35:35,060 --> 00:35:39,680
you know, there were a hundred students in one building studying drama at university.
00:35:39,680 --> 00:35:44,780
And we were completely a family. And in Exeter,
00:35:44,780 --> 00:35:51,410
there are over a thousand students doing history as undergraduates and they are
00:35:51,410 --> 00:35:55,880
all scattered across the place and there's no sense of them being one community.
00:35:55,880 --> 00:36:03,740
So and I think Exeter is a big university. And I think it's it's it's it's hard to pin down where the community is.
00:36:03,740 --> 00:36:12,020
But I always thought I did feel, you know, I was part of you know, I was I spent a lot of time in the library.
00:36:12,020 --> 00:36:23,240
I was kind of I would often eat on campus in the day time in and out of the guild, you know, making I mean, I was on university challenge team,
00:36:23,240 --> 00:36:32,390
we didnt get on the TV, but even, you know, the kind of lots of things that made me feel as if I was as if I was part of this big group of people.
00:36:32,390 --> 00:36:37,700
And I think that that for me really made it work.
00:36:37,700 --> 00:36:41,600
And I think I had a again, I had a confidence about that.
00:36:41,600 --> 00:36:44,580
I mean, I think that's a word that people have used.
00:36:44,580 --> 00:36:52,550
I had a confidence about joining things and going up to people and saying, hello, what can I join in, you know, that kind of stuff.
00:36:52,550 --> 00:37:02,180
But that I didn't have when I was if I just want to think about how some of this difference what you want to get out of the PhD
00:37:02,180 --> 00:37:08,510
you know, are you doing it professionally to move yourself forward professionally, and you know where that's going to go?
00:37:08,510 --> 00:37:18,170
Are you doing it to actually change careers? Are you doing as an experience to develop yourself intellectually, to develop new insights, new research,
00:37:18,170 --> 00:37:24,260
in which case that kind of social aspect of being part of a university community can be really important
00:37:24,260 --> 00:37:29,630
because you want to open your mind to new things and to meet new people and to be part of that or like,
00:37:29,630 --> 00:37:35,480
say, if you if it's a much more this is a professional step within my own career, developing my own skills.
00:37:35,480 --> 00:37:42,260
You may not actually feel that need because you are already have that community within your professional practise.
00:37:42,260 --> 00:37:46,340
So I'm probably somebody whose perhaps move on that a bit
00:37:46,340 --> 00:37:55,520
I think when I first came back to do my PhD, very much so this is something that was part of that myself, actually within my career.
00:37:55,520 --> 00:37:59,690
But I wasn't very clear about where I wanted what I want after
00:37:59,690 --> 00:38:04,380
And if I actually I'm still not and I still get lots of different ideas. But actually, let's go back, in fact.
00:38:04,380 --> 00:38:11,500
So I assumed I would never want to come back in academia after my PhD because I thought it was
00:38:11,500 --> 00:38:19,450
Possibly sometimesa hit horribly competitive for very small rewards and not perhaps that collegiate in some ways,
00:38:19,450 --> 00:38:27,310
and I didn't really feel that was the kind of society I'm working. But actually, I really loved to kind of, you know, teaching and studying again.
00:38:27,310 --> 00:38:31,540
And, you know, maybe there are opportunities for me that grateful to be part time.
00:38:31,540 --> 00:38:36,250
I've got years to worry about what I'm going to do afterwards. I and try lots of things in the meantime.
00:38:36,250 --> 00:38:41,920
That's also what Iwanted to do was to give myself that space to have a PhD part time
00:38:41,920 --> 00:38:48,010
So I knew I had some income coming in and some work, but also to give myself space to explore new things.
00:38:48,010 --> 00:38:54,130
So I suppose why you're coming to do the PhD might impact what other things you to look for and what you really need.
00:38:54,130 --> 00:38:57,940
I was just listening to to what Laura said and smiling.
00:38:57,940 --> 00:39:05,050
I came I mentioned earlier I came into to do my PhD because it was to solve a problem I had in my career.
00:39:05,050 --> 00:39:08,290
And I was doing very well in my career. It was going great.
00:39:08,290 --> 00:39:14,260
There was no question of me going into academia, you know, and I was going to go back into my job and I'd be better informed.
00:39:14,260 --> 00:39:22,270
Well, that was just rubbish, because doing a PhD changes you as a person in lots of really good ways.
00:39:22,270 --> 00:39:29,830
And doing it part time, I think has helped me to kind of compare my working life with my academic life.
00:39:29,830 --> 00:39:34,630
And when you're in your 50s, people don't have any great expectations of you to go into academia.
00:39:34,630 --> 00:39:40,720
They think you're going to stick with your life in practise. And actually, I've just completely fallen in love with academia.
00:39:40,720 --> 00:39:48,700
I'm due to submit my PhD in September, and I've already been successful in securing a permanent lectureship,
00:39:48,700 --> 00:39:52,810
which I started in the New Year in Liverpool, and I just couldn't be happier.
00:39:52,810 --> 00:40:00,910
I'm a completely different person. I now have a totally different life and I just feel like I've come home, you know,
00:40:00,910 --> 00:40:06,430
and I like being in consultancy, but I'm just absolutely delighted with the way things have worked out.
00:40:06,430 --> 00:40:14,350
Anddoing a PhD has given me skills and experience and confidence and all the things that I didn't have before.
00:40:14,350 --> 00:40:19,990
And that's why I would just say to people, just go for it, because you really don't know where it's going to take you.
00:40:19,990 --> 00:40:30,400
That's just completely fantastic. Catherine, congratulations. And talking about kind of, you know, going onto an academic career.
00:40:30,400 --> 00:40:38,260
It's a really nice Segway actually, into what started this conversation, which was about career support for mature students, you know,
00:40:38,260 --> 00:40:40,900
who aren't kind of haven't gone through that, I don't know,
00:40:40,900 --> 00:40:47,080
conveyor belt of education without without getting off and doing professional work and so on.
00:40:47,080 --> 00:40:57,280
Don't know if we could speak a bit about that, about kind of what support you actually need as mature PGRs as you already have had careers
00:40:57,280 --> 00:41:02,830
who have sought a PhD as a professional development opportunity or as a career change?
00:41:02,830 --> 00:41:13,390
You know what? What is it that you need that's different? I can I can start this off because I'm slightly to blame for the entirety of this podcast.
00:41:13,390 --> 00:41:21,370
I have having been a teacher in secondary schools, I have absolutely no desire to go back to that.
00:41:21,370 --> 00:41:28,690
Not dissing teaching as a career at all. I have the utmost respect for my former colleagues, especially the work they've done in the last year.
00:41:28,690 --> 00:41:32,920
But it's not something I want to return to. So I'm that's OK.
00:41:32,920 --> 00:41:37,360
I'm in my second year of my Ph.D. stage. I need to decide what I'm going to do afterwards.
00:41:37,360 --> 00:41:39,820
I need to start looking at options.
00:41:39,820 --> 00:41:51,610
So I'm going to as many I spent the sort of spring term this year going to as many careers seminars and talks and so on as possible and got very
00:41:51,610 --> 00:42:01,510
frustrated very early on because there was just this assumption that people looking for work were aged 22 and had an undergraduate degree.
00:42:01,510 --> 00:42:10,810
And I actually went to one to where the person said he was, you know, the Exeter graduate who they'd got in to do the talk,
00:42:10,810 --> 00:42:15,850
said, oh, yes, and you can make senior management by the time you're 25.
00:42:15,850 --> 00:42:20,080
And I, you know, had had we actually physically been in the same room,
00:42:20,080 --> 00:42:27,340
I think I'd probably having said I'm mature and have grown up and what I probably would have thrown something at him.
00:42:27,340 --> 00:42:34,720
There is just this assumption that people looking for work or have just finished university and have no
00:42:34,720 --> 00:42:41,800
experience and are looking for a career and they just want money and they want to live in central London.
00:42:41,800 --> 00:42:50,860
And we all know everyone, undergraduates, schoolteachers, children and teenagers in school, everybody knows that is not true.
00:42:50,860 --> 00:42:56,230
So why is this still this fantasy still being peddled in career seminars?
00:42:56,230 --> 00:43:03,100
And I didn't challenge him in that one. But then I went to another seminar probably a few days later.
00:43:03,100 --> 00:43:09,520
And actually I did turn around to go hi person in my mid forties here who's had one career.
00:43:09,520 --> 00:43:18,000
Doesn't know what they want to do with their life after the PhD, please don't assume this, and actually got a really positive response from that.
00:43:18,000 --> 00:43:24,550
But but yes, there is this. You know, I think.
00:43:24,550 --> 00:43:27,670
Maybe that's that's something that we need to do as mature students,
00:43:27,670 --> 00:43:31,990
but there are a lot of mature students as we've discovered and we need to challenge these
00:43:31,990 --> 00:43:38,180
stereotypes and say and also let alone with the way that society has changed,
00:43:38,180 --> 00:43:42,460
spot the historian here, the way society has changed over the last 50 years,
00:43:42,460 --> 00:43:48,580
people do not go into jobs at the age of 16 and stick with that one company until they're 65.
00:43:48,580 --> 00:43:53,740
Many, many people have either changed jobs or change careers partway through their lives.
00:43:53,740 --> 00:44:06,340
And I think that's hopefully careers services and whoever will start to realise this and start to sort of tailoring things to,
00:44:06,340 --> 00:44:12,880
you know, maybe we need to go and ask for it rather than expecting it to be handed this information to be handed to us on a plate.
00:44:12,880 --> 00:44:19,940
But I think that people need to start catering for a wider range of needs.
00:44:19,940 --> 00:44:26,680
That sounds like actually the university's career department need to do some targeted sessions or or a theme stream,
00:44:26,680 --> 00:44:31,600
which is about mature students, not necessarily only PGRs
00:44:31,600 --> 00:44:37,870
but, you know, students of in any level or department or whatever who are, you know,
00:44:37,870 --> 00:44:43,690
who are kind of coming in again after after experience family and work.
00:44:43,690 --> 00:44:50,920
And you know how that is different and what they you know how it is, because the fact is, we've all got a hell of a lot to offer.
00:44:50,920 --> 00:44:54,910
You know what? It's just a question of finding the right.
00:44:54,910 --> 00:45:00,160
The people who are looking for that stuff that we've got to offer, you know, and we are.
00:45:00,160 --> 00:45:03,400
Yeah, we're great. I agree obviously with Ghee we are wonderful.
00:45:03,400 --> 00:45:12,400
And people would be lucky to us in their career, I think also because if we're dissing the career service providers, who arent here to reply
00:45:12,400 --> 00:45:20,170
they could also be missing because I know some of the conversation in amongst issues more broadly is about things like this
00:45:20,170 --> 00:45:28,690
terrible phrase of atl-ac the kind of people who are doing PhDs who aren't then planning to go on to an academic career and obviously from people,
00:45:28,690 --> 00:45:36,250
the students or from people who've done some of those other careers and therefore perhaps have some useful insights into that conversation.
00:45:36,250 --> 00:45:49,150
Or, you know, they could be the university could be exploiting some of our links into kind of industry and into other other areas of the subject.
00:45:49,150 --> 00:45:57,520
And it might perhaps be to call back something we spoke about earlier in that subject where sometimes some of the other
00:45:57,520 --> 00:46:04,450
people who work in department have gone through perhaps more traditional route have stayed in academia their entire career.
00:46:04,450 --> 00:46:14,560
And actually therefore, that kind of wider understanding, that of those uproots is sometimes not perhaps there to the same extent.
00:46:14,560 --> 00:46:20,170
And that's something that the that could can usefully not just mature students,
00:46:20,170 --> 00:46:27,790
but by setting it is more of a conversation and the way we can the community with an extra can contribute and work together.
00:46:27,790 --> 00:46:31,930
This could be something that other students can benefit from as well.
00:46:31,930 --> 00:46:39,580
And the people working in these career service jobs might benefit from some of our expense.
00:46:39,580 --> 00:46:41,570
Just very quickly, Laura you;re just spot on.
00:46:41,570 --> 00:46:47,320
I and I think the amount of times I've been in an academic situation and I've seen academics with loads of experience who don't know,
00:46:47,320 --> 00:46:53,650
for example, how to run a meeting, who don't know how to handle a seminar, you know, who only have one way of doing things.
00:46:53,650 --> 00:46:58,750
And that's what they've been doing for 20, 30 years within an academic context.
00:46:58,750 --> 00:47:03,700
One thing I'd say is perhaps sometimes the nature of this being something that the university
00:47:03,700 --> 00:47:09,700
needs to do for students to recognise that if the university is a community,
00:47:09,700 --> 00:47:15,250
a kind of academic collegiate community, then this is something we do together in collaboration.
00:47:15,250 --> 00:47:21,130
This isn't something the university needs to do for students as a kind of someone lower down the hierarchy.
00:47:21,130 --> 00:47:29,560
Perhaps this is this is a this is a we work together at which, you know, I know some people do work collaboratively and that's true.
00:47:29,560 --> 00:47:33,730
But I think that can we talk a little bit earlier on about sometimes that that
00:47:33,730 --> 00:47:37,690
hierarchical relationship that can creep in and that that that is a problem,
00:47:37,690 --> 00:47:41,950
I think. And that perhaps is very here. You're right.
00:47:41,950 --> 00:47:47,470
And I think that working in collaboration and that reciprocity is really important because one of the
00:47:47,470 --> 00:47:55,450
big philosophies of the way that I work is no one knows better what PGRs need than PGRs themselves.
00:47:55,450 --> 00:48:03,640
And so I think it's really important for us to working in collaboration, to work together on this and to wrap up.
00:48:03,640 --> 00:48:05,740
I want to think or imagine that, you know,
00:48:05,740 --> 00:48:14,320
there's somebody listening to this podcast who is considering doing a research degree as a mature student or is just about to start.
00:48:14,320 --> 00:48:23,890
What advice would you give them? What do you wish that you knew at the point at which you started or were considering applying?
00:48:23,890 --> 00:48:28,870
It's not so much of what I wish I'd known better, what I have come to realise,
00:48:28,870 --> 00:48:35,790
and that is don't be put off by thinking, oh God, I'm a mature student, what on earth my doing with my life?
00:48:35,790 --> 00:48:41,860
I suddenly take three or four years out to do a Ph.D. Just go ahead and do it.
00:48:41,860 --> 00:48:45,550
You can have whatever whatever life journey you've been on.
00:48:45,550 --> 00:48:52,390
You have acquired the skills and the knowledge and the ability to do a Ph.D. and you know,
00:48:52,390 --> 00:48:57,640
whether that juggling lots and lots of different things and commitments plus full time study,
00:48:57,640 --> 00:49:02,920
whether that's juggling a full time job and part time study, you have learnt those things.
00:49:02,920 --> 00:49:07,930
You have learnt those skills. And what you need to do is just think I can do this.
00:49:07,930 --> 00:49:12,670
The support is there and I will learn so much about myself.
00:49:12,670 --> 00:49:17,740
And maybe it's not just about learning about yourself. I will gain something.
00:49:17,740 --> 00:49:22,840
And actually I do have the right to do this for me.
00:49:22,840 --> 00:49:28,120
So I would say then don't be put off by thinking it's just something that people who
00:49:28,120 --> 00:49:34,480
are very brainy in their mid twenties do not describe myself as very brainy either.
00:49:34,480 --> 00:49:43,270
But yeah, just go for it. Yeah, I mirror some of what Kensa's said, so I just jotting down a couple of things.
00:49:43,270 --> 00:49:49,420
And I think the main thing that people said to me about it was a marathon, not a sprint.
00:49:49,420 --> 00:50:01,690
I go at my workplace or life at like a hundred miles an hour or a hundred and forty kilometres an hour along the Dubai Abu Dhabi highway.
00:50:01,690 --> 00:50:08,230
And I was still expecting to do that with my doing the doctorate.
00:50:08,230 --> 00:50:15,730
And it was only on reflection recently that I recognised that if it was a marathon and that
00:50:15,730 --> 00:50:24,940
a different process and different pace and then also mirroring what Kensa had said,
00:50:24,940 --> 00:50:36,250
the word I put down was skills, is that I have acquired so many amazing skills during this journey,
00:50:36,250 --> 00:50:44,290
and that's through my workplace and life as well as through this research opportunity.
00:50:44,290 --> 00:50:50,680
So I think if anybody was debating whether to do it, I'd say absolutely,
00:50:50,680 --> 00:50:56,950
because you learn so much on the way and incorporate a lot of your life skills.
00:50:56,950 --> 00:51:02,980
I was just going to completely echo what the others have said I think that it's much better that I can so i'll just agree with them on that.
00:51:02,980 --> 00:51:10,600
Ang one point I was going to raise which hasn't kind of come up some where in the podcast was about doing it in combination with having a young family,
00:51:10,600 --> 00:51:15,070
and that I have two boys who are now just eight and five.
00:51:15,070 --> 00:51:23,770
And so I started when they're three and five. And obviously that of many mature students have perhaps caring responsibilities as do younger students,
00:51:23,770 --> 00:51:29,700
but actually a part-time PhD combines really well with having a family because there is flexibility about where you fit the work.
00:51:29,700 --> 00:51:38,110
And so that can really that can work quite well in that I work much more intense because of the times I can take the time off to the holidays.
00:51:38,110 --> 00:51:46,120
So if you're thinking will having a young family prevent me from doing a PhDit can actually be a type of work that fits pretty well with it.
00:51:46,120 --> 00:51:50,110
But I think what's been inspiring this podcast has been seeing how yes,
00:51:50,110 --> 00:51:54,280
go in with a clear idea about why you want to be doing the PhD be clear about why you want to do that topic,
00:51:54,280 --> 00:52:01,570
about what you really value about that topic and you know about why you've chosen to do it, where you've chosen to do it.
00:52:01,570 --> 00:52:07,000
But I think what to expect expects that that change, that growth you have to PhD.
00:52:07,000 --> 00:52:13,690
And so don't be surprised if it goes in a different direction as you work through and that you change as you're doing it.
00:52:13,690 --> 00:52:18,700
But, yeah, I would agree with people. I think that's it. But I have been glad to do it now.
00:52:18,700 --> 00:52:25,330
You know, I wasn't in the place where my kids were very small babies. It wouldn't it would be more much more difficult.
00:52:25,330 --> 00:52:29,350
And I don't know whether I'd have come to my twenties.
00:52:29,350 --> 00:52:37,570
I would probably have done a different PhD. So, you know, it it fits people at different stages.
00:52:37,570 --> 00:52:42,760
Yeah. I mean, I'm just going to agree with everybody else. But one thing I would say is be kind to yourself.
00:52:42,760 --> 00:52:49,000
My supervisor often says to me to stop being so hard on myself, he reckons I'm my own worst enemy.
00:52:49,000 --> 00:52:53,320
And I think sometimes we do put a lot of pressure on ourselves as mature students.
00:52:53,320 --> 00:52:59,920
So just something to be aware of. I also think we shouldn't stereotype ourselves, OK, we're mature students.
00:52:59,920 --> 00:53:04,870
But, you know, I think we've seen today that actually it doesn't make a lot of difference what age you are.
00:53:04,870 --> 00:53:08,740
We all deserve to be there and we've all earned the right to be there.
00:53:08,740 --> 00:53:14,500
And just to reiterate what other people said, just be prepared to come out as a different person at the end of it.
00:53:14,500 --> 00:53:22,570
Yeah, thank you. I mean, it's one of the things I think I want to say is, is that it's it's not for everyone.
00:53:22,570 --> 00:53:28,650
I think that some. That should be said to anyone who's thinking about going to university at any level,
00:53:28,650 --> 00:53:38,340
if they're a 17 year old thinking about an undergraduate degree or if they're thinking about a Ph.D., you know, it's a PhD is hard work.
00:53:38,340 --> 00:53:40,470
It is designed to be hard work.
00:53:40,470 --> 00:53:48,990
It is designed to be something that takes literally thousands of hours and takes you very deep into studying something quite particular.
00:53:48,990 --> 00:53:57,970
And that is you may feel that you've got some of the capacity for that, but maybe you haven't as well.
00:53:57,970 --> 00:54:00,510
So I kind of weigh it up quite carefully.
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I think in your mind, you know, do a list of all the pros and the cons and talk to as many people as you can before you start.
00:54:08,040 --> 00:54:15,850
I mean, I thankfully, my experience was pretty good. So, you know, I'm lucky, but it's not really for everyone.
00:54:15,850 --> 00:54:25,620
So just kind of take that slowly, I think. And I think one thing about being, you know, what we talked about before is having confidence.
00:54:25,620 --> 00:54:34,230
And I think one of the things that is I've really learnt is the ability to say, I don't know, I don't understand.
00:54:34,230 --> 00:54:38,970
I'm you know, please explain this to me. I'm not sure what that what that means.
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Young people often struggle with that.
00:54:41,190 --> 00:54:48,150
I think, you know, I think I think I've got to stage in my life when I say what I am, what I am and what I am needs no excuses.
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Take me as You see me and I will admit when I don't. And that really that's very, very helpful in life.
00:54:53,670 --> 00:55:03,840
I found and the final thing I think I would say is that is just picking up on the thing about family life and what Laura was saying.
00:55:03,840 --> 00:55:09,360
I mean, my my children were were in their 20s or in their late teens when I started.
00:55:09,360 --> 00:55:18,150
So that made it a lot easier. But, um, I had a fairly strict policy from the beginning, which I was able to do,
00:55:18,150 --> 00:55:23,670
partly my wonderful wife earning some money into my getting a funding for the PhD
00:55:23,670 --> 00:55:28,440
I had a fairly strict policy of of compartmentalising work and leisure.
00:55:28,440 --> 00:55:35,220
So I worked. I did my PhD work from nine to six Monday to Friday.
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I didn't work evenings and I didn't work weekends.
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I broke that occasionally, particularly towards the end, and particularly when I was overseas doing my research.
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But on the whole, I tried to stick to that because your mental health, your wellbeing is absolutely critical.
00:55:52,650 --> 00:56:01,650
You won't get through it if you break down in inverted commas and you need to balance that life in order to get through it.
00:56:01,650 --> 00:56:08,910
So, yeah, kind of look after yourself, really. It's that confidence has to be kind to yourself.
00:56:08,910 --> 00:56:15,720
Thank you so much, Ghee, Kensa, Tracey, Catherine and Laura for having this conversation with me.
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And thank you to you. If you've stuck with us for what is now just under an hour.
00:56:20,040 --> 00:56:31,440
I wanted to keep a lot of this content in because I think it's just so important to share and to recognise the experiences of different researchers.
00:56:31,440 --> 00:56:39,780
So if you're listening to this and you think but that doesn't tie with my experience as a student or what about, you know, what about being part time?
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What about being just whatever it is? If you feel like you've got a story to tell, please get in touch.
00:56:46,980 --> 00:56:52,710
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to, like, rate and subscribe and join me next time.
00:56:52,710 --> 00:57:18,832
We'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Jun 23, 2021
Wednesday Jun 23, 2021
Wednesday Jun 23, 2021
In this episode, guest host Dr. Edward Mills talks to Professor Michelle Bolduc, Professor in Translation Studies and Edward's internal examiner, about preparing for your viva.
In the podcast, Michelle mentions the TQA manual where Univeristy of Exeter PGRs can find the criteria for assessment for research degrees. These are taken directly from the Quality Assurance Agency's crtieria for assessment of research degrees. Please do check how these are applied at your instition.
This is the last in a new series of podcasts on the viva, being developed as part of a suite of online resources by Edward for the University of Exeter Doctoral College.
00:00:09,170 --> 00:00:13,550
Hello and welcome to R, D and the In Betweens.
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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers, development and everything in between.
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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of R, D in the In Betweens. This is our final episode in the series on The viva.
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And in this final episode, Dr. Edward Mills is going to be talking to his own internal examiner, Dr. Michelle Bolduc about.
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The similar things that we've talked about in the previous two episodes, viva Prep, how examiners approach the thesis,
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but also with a little bit of a twist and a perspective from his own viva experience.
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So over to you, Edward.
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I was very fortunate to speak with Michelle about all things relating to the PhD Viva, including My Own PhD viva, which she was the internal examiner.
00:01:14,680 --> 00:01:20,470
First up, I was wondering if you could just introduce yourself and what your kind of experience is with vivas,
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whether as a student or as somebody who's administered them.
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So I'm Michelle Bolduc, the director and professor of translation studies, obviously at Exeter.
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And in terms of experience and Vivas, I would say that I've had both an American and a UK experience,
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so I'll be really limiting myself and my remarks to the latter.
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I think it's probably more pertinent. So obviously you have done yourfair share of vivas in your time, including mine.
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But I was wondering if if you could start just by explaining what you as an examiner do when you when you get a thesis ahead of the viva
00:02:09,010 --> 00:02:13,900
presumably the first thing you do is read it. But I mean, how do you how do you go about doing this?
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Well, you know,
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it's a it's a really interesting question given given now that all of the Covid regulations require the that we don't have paper copies,
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I really need a paper copy in order to be able to read.
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So I don't know whether you know this but, but I requested paper copies of your dissertation.
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And I did so because the way that I'm going to be just very practical about it,
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the way that I read is both by taking notes with a pen really old fashioned on the thesis itself,
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on the pages and also on a notepad that I keep next to me.
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So I go through, I read, I take notes on the thesis.
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I read it a second time. I take notes on the notepad.
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I read it a third time. I take further notes on my notepad. And and then usually my fourth reading is where I start to try to pull things
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onto some kind of a word document so I can organise the comments thematically,
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whether it's based on argument or language use or some of the kinds of ideas
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that are linked across the the thesis and the questions that I might have.
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So could I ask what when you're reading a thesis for whether it's the first time or the fourth time, what do you like to see?
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And is there anything that sort of really frustrates you?
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Is there anything you look at and are good or anything you look at and go, oh, hang on a minute, this is going to irritate me me?
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Well, I would say that I really like signposting.
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I really like when I see what the argument is, I see clearly how the argument is progressing,
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the way in which the student has chosen to or the candidate has chosen to mark out.
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This is what I'm doing and this is why I'm doing it.
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I pay really close attention actually to those features of argument that I don't think we teach quite enough, frankly.
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But but I think that having a sense of what your argument is, why it's important,
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how you're going to improve it makes for a much easier reading experience for the for the evaluator, for the examiner.
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But I think it's also important for you as a candidate to know.
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Can you can you identify what it is that you're arguing and why you're arguing it, what's important about it?
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It sounds really simplistic, but oftentimes that's lacking.
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And so oftentimes, by the time you get to the the the Viva,
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hopefully all of that is is quite clear is this is this sort of lack of structure or lack of signposting,
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something you you would you would hope to sort of signal the upgrade stage if it's not if it's not immediately clear.
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We do always signal it at the upgrade,
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but especially now what we're reading in terms of the upgrade tends to be a very small number of pages compared to what the the thesis ends up being.
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There can sometimes be a little bit of an issue of if students go through the upgrade,
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but they're still not able to mark out their argument and in a very clear way.
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It's it's really easy to get lost when you're writing your thesis.
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And Edward, I have your thesis sitting in front of me.
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And without the appendix, I seem to recall it was like three hundred and twenty nine pages, something like that.
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I think that's right. Yes. You know, it's it's it's really hard over many, many pages like that to remember.
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Well, how does how does page two hundred and twenty nine fit with what I said back on page seven.
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You've got to be able to to focus in on specific places in your argument, specific ideas,
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and yet still have an overarching idea of what it is that you're doing and how each specific idea responds to that overarching idea.
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And could I ask just for anyone who's not familiar with the term signposting, obviously how ideas relate to each other is one thing.
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But how would you describe signposting? Is that to do with how you signal all of that?
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Well, it's about how you signal the way that a very specific idea is important to your argument on
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a local level and important to your argument on a on a general universal overarching level.
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And signposting doesn't mean anything really complicated.
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It can just mean explaining. I am looking at this particular idea because it relates to my argument in this way
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in relation to something is the idea of connective tissue signposting gives the.
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the idea that you you know what this particular idea is doing for your argument and in your argument and your and you're telling that to the reader,
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connective tissue is making the connections between the idea.
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Why is it that one idea follows another idea that you do just simply with transitions
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And and I can be that it's important in terms of the paragraph structure.
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But typically speaking, by the time you're getting to writing your thesis, you don't have a problem with how you link paragraphs.
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It's more how you move from one idea to another.
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There's some really interesting and useful thoughts I think, that a lot of PGRs will find very helpful.
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Thanks. A lot of those were based around the sort of preparing for submission stage, if you like, what you do before you submit your thesis.
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So I was wondering if I could talk a little bit about the preparation for the Viva itself.
00:09:00,380 --> 00:09:05,360
You mentioned that you will have been reading the thesis through two, three, four times,
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that you yourself have a hard copy and that you go from notes on the thesis to notes on a notepad, to notes on word document.
00:09:15,380 --> 00:09:20,300
Could I ask what you might suggest the students to be doing at that point?
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How would you how would you advise a student to prepare for the viva if you were the examiner, for example?
00:09:28,160 --> 00:09:34,790
It's hard to do, but I think that as much as you can move away,
00:09:34,790 --> 00:09:45,830
step away from your thesis and come back to it as if you weren't the person who wrote it and try to work out for yourself,
00:09:45,830 --> 00:09:51,130
how would someone who is external to the process see this?
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I think you can't do it on the computer. I really think you need to have a hard copy in front of you.
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I have vague memories of doing exactly that, actually, of going in sitting places with a hard copy deliberately.
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No screens in front of me going through and asking myself, so what with every few pages of the thesis?
00:10:06,710 --> 00:10:15,220
Yeah, it's not it's not easy to do. I think that first, when you're reading on a screen, you're not actually reading.
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Oftentimes you kind of your eyes just skip over words because they've become very familiar.
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So you really need to have, I think, the hard copy in front of you.
00:10:24,940 --> 00:10:33,910
And it's really hard to to read your own work as if you're not an interested party if if you know what I mean.
00:10:33,910 --> 00:10:41,530
What you can do is think to yourself, what kinds of questions?
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Do I want to be asked what kinds of questions scare me, what kind of questions am I really afraid of being asked?
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So if you can come up with a list, a list of potential questions that you might imagine the examiners asking,
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and how would you respond to those questions? What are the questions that are really scary for me that I really don't want my examiners to ask?
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Those are the ones that you probably need to pay the most attention to. I think that's that's that's a really useful piece of advice.
00:11:17,590 --> 00:11:21,920
Thank you. I remember actually that's something that happened in in my experience coming out of my upgrade.
00:11:21,920 --> 00:11:27,850
viva your questions were fair, but also in many ways quite nightmarish,
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which provided me with a really good opportunity going into the final viva several years later to imagine you because you were the examiner.
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I knew at that point I'd met at least once imagining really difficult questions.
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And this led to me creating what I call the nightmare sheet,
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where I had some notes on the worst possible questions I could be asked and how I might how am I answer them?
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I asked my supervisor on the morning of my Viva to put me on the spot and make me really uncomfortable for a few minutes.
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And did he? Oh, he did, yes. It was awkward because we know each other quite well.
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But now he did. He put me on the spot and he he helped me think through some of the some of the nightmare questions, if that makes sense.
00:12:10,960 --> 00:12:14,500
And what about during the Viva itself then?
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Obviously it's a. A nerve wracking experience for the candidate, could I ask?
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You've mostly worked as an internal examiner, is that correct? That's right.
00:12:26,770 --> 00:12:35,770
So in the UK system at least, what contact is there between the the internal and the external examiner before the vivaitself?
00:12:35,770 --> 00:12:44,770
There is quite a bit of contact. Typically, we each have to fill out a preliminary report form.
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And in that report form, we give a sense of whether or not imagine that the dissertation fulfils the criteria for the award of the Ph.D.
00:13:00,100 --> 00:13:09,070
So we have to be in agreement about that. So I'm sure many of us will already be familiar with what these criteria that you mention are.
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But can I ask if you'd be willing to just run through them again for anybody who's come across these for the first time?
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Of course, there are five different criteria. And actually you can find this in the TQA manual.
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Basically, you're you need to have shown that you've created and interpreted some kind of new knowledge.
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It needs to be original research, some advanced scholarship, something that peer review quality,
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extending the forefront of the discipline and it merits publication.
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That's that's the first criterion. The second is a showing a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge,
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again, at the forefront of an academic discipline. You need to show the general ability to conceptualise,
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design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge and the ability to adjust the project design in light of unforeseen problems.
00:14:15,780 --> 00:14:21,090
The fourth is a detailed understanding of applicable techniques and advanced
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academic enquiry and finally a satisfactory level of literary presentation.
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So basically candidates, when they submit their thesis, the preliminary reports, look at whether or not the thesis.
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Meets these criteria. So is there something original about it?
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Is does it advance our knowledge in the discipline?
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Is it is it written in a high form of academic discourse or not?
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I think the Vivais really important because it gives the candidate a chance to expose.
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What he or she has been working on for many, many years and for examiners to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of that approach,
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to give feedback, to give ideas for how this might be shaped into a book, that kind of thing.
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Believe it or not, for me, the Viva is meant to be much more of a friendly process.
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I know that it probably didn't feel like that to you, but by the time you are at the level of submitting a PhD thesis,
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it means that you're entering into a different circle, if you will.
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You're becoming a peer as opposed to a student. So I was wondering if we could just sort of fast forward a bit.
00:16:04,910 --> 00:16:09,760
You've the candidate has just walked into the viva or logged on.
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If we're doing things in the covid format, you have produced a preliminary report that you have discussed with the the external examiner.
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You've come to a sort of preliminary conclusion. Is that right?
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That's right, the preliminary report really just says something like this, this thesis meets the criteria for these reasons,
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there may be these issues or I anticipate the viva dealing with particular maybe problems.
00:16:46,960 --> 00:16:54,910
So it's kind of a brief evaluation. So obviously that brings us quite neatly onto the Viva itself.
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It's clearly a very stressful experience for the candidate when they're sitting there or logged on
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there with two experts in the field being being grilled or at least being asked challenging questions.
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What? Do you hope to see from candidates during during that viva process?
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I think one of the hardest things for. Candidates is listening.
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I think there's so much stress that sometimes candidates find it very difficult to properly listen to to what the examiner is asking,
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and if you can remove yourself slightly from the fact that this is your work and think about as you're being asked questions.
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What's useful about that question? I mean, I think examiners are not trying to, again, trap you or trick you or anything.
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We're really there to improve the work.
00:18:06,370 --> 00:18:17,140
And so sometimes I've found that candidates are really, really stressed and not always paying attention to what's going on.
00:18:17,140 --> 00:18:22,510
This isn't always the case. It certainly wasn't the case when you were doing your viva
00:18:22,510 --> 00:18:30,250
But I think you need to be open to the conversation going in directions that you may not have anticipated.
00:18:30,250 --> 00:18:38,650
What I like to see as a student or a candidate who is responsive to what's being said and
00:18:38,650 --> 00:18:46,200
what's being asked instead of kind of turning your wheels on and rehearsing arguments.
00:18:46,200 --> 00:18:54,250
And I mean, in other words, if we're asking a question and you give the same answer that you gave in your thesis,
00:18:54,250 --> 00:19:04,330
you probably want to elaborate a little bit more, because if you're asking the question, it means that you haven't done quite enough in writing.
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And we want a little bit more in in your oral expression.
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And this presumably comes back to what you can do to do prepare for the viva as well.
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You can go through and you can annotate these points that you thought might be
00:19:21,340 --> 00:19:24,850
asked about in the viva and develop them further than in preparation for.
00:19:24,850 --> 00:19:36,610
That's right. You it's good to think about. Well, what kinds of ideas could I have elaborated on that maybe I didn't as as thoroughly as I might have.
00:19:36,610 --> 00:19:41,200
And obviously the viva itself can go on for quite a length of time.
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Our one was was four hours, which I think is the maximum that allows.
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It's often said that the length of the Viva does not necessarily correspond to how well the candidate does.
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So a 90 minute Viva doesn't mean an excellent candidate necessarily and a four hour viva
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Doesn't necessarily mean, you know, a candidate nearly failed.
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Would you say a little bit more about the sort of the length of time?
00:20:10,900 --> 00:20:17,890
Because I know that from my experience, your vivas tend to be quite long ones, don't they?
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I guess I'm always really interested in what I'm reading and I always have a lot of questions.
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I would agree that the length of the Viva doesn't reflect at all the quality of the thesis or the quality of the Viva
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Again, I wouldn't assume that if you're Vivir is over in an hour and a half that you've completely done a terrible job.
00:20:43,510 --> 00:20:50,980
Typically we give you some sense at the end of the viva of how we thought it went.
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So you get immediate feedback, at least informal feedback.
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I remember you telling me at the end of my viva I was quite a fighter, if I remember correctly, which was an interesting term to use.
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I think you were sort of I think that was a compliment or it was.
00:21:13,210 --> 00:21:17,650
Yeah, in the sense that I was kind of I was able to defend my points,
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but it was and that's I think that's the kind of feedback that you're referring to, that when you say informal feedback, is that is that fair to say?
00:21:23,840 --> 00:21:33,550
Yeah, that's right. And actually, that kind of you have to be really careful because what you did in your viva in your Viva and the
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way that you were a fighter was that you answered the questions in in such a way as to be persuasive.
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You didn't rehash your thesis where there might have been weak points.
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You were actually you actually really broadened the perspective in a way that was effective.
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Thank you for saying so. Saying that someone was a fighter could be one of two.
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It could be complementary, but it could also be you haven't really been listening to what we're asking in our case.
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In your case, that that wasn't what was going on.
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I was I thought I thought you might want to clarify that, because I can see It could definitely be argued one way or the other.
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So that brings us rather neatly to the possible outcomes.
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I think of the viva. I mean, in my view, you know, I got minor corrections.
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That's one of four possible outcomes that you can have. You mentioned that you have had experience of examining candidates who got major corrections,
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which is something that I know a lot of people are afraid of.
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It's unlikely that you'll end up with major corrections.
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But I was wondering if you could say a bit more about your experience with that and whether it was the the end of the world
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as as some candidates seem to think definitely for this particular individual was not it was not the end of the world.
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I think it was it was shattering at the moment for the student
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I think the student was was really not anticipating this as a as a potential outcome in hindsight.
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And this is where hindsight is always so.
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Great, the work was significantly improved, so much so that I'm really hoping it's going to come out as a book.
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I think, again, the purpose of viva is to allow you to elaborate on areas that you may not have done
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so well for you to get feedback on your thesis and try to work out how to make it better,
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how to make it into something that will actually be read by other people and not just by your examiners.
00:24:09,590 --> 00:24:15,680
So it might feel like a kind of a violent process.
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But if if you can sort of de-stress and think this is only for my thesis to be better,
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stronger, more persuasive, publishable, you'll be a lot more at ease.
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And I think you you'll have a different experience of the Viva
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I know that from my experience, you were kind enough. I know this may not happen in every case.
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You and Jocelyn my external, were kind enough to provide me with sort of two levels of corrections.
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So while I got minor corrections at the thesis level,
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you made some more sort of substantial points that I'll need to consider as and when I look to publish this in book form.
00:25:06,140 --> 00:25:14,990
And I think that's a really, really interesting point to end on, actually, is that the thesis you mentioned this earlier is a living document,
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and the Viva aims to look at it not just as a thesis, but also is it fair to say to give you advice going forward with it?
00:25:22,340 --> 00:25:29,480
Absolutely. It might be that your thesis will be divided up into articles that you'll send out.
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It might be that you you will have just a couple of chapters.
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You'll add a couple more and that will be a book.
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And what you didn't include in your thesis will be an article where really we're think we're training you to be academics.
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When you get a Ph.D., we're assuming that you're going to be entering into this academic world.
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What do you need to do in order to be be a part of this academic world?
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You need to publish.
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And so part of the purpose of the Viva is to give you feedback not just on what you've produced, but on what you might do with what you've produced.
00:26:15,860 --> 00:26:21,950
I mean, obviously, not everyone will go into academia after a Ph.D., but of course,
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it's it's very useful to know that that's what the the the the beauty viva is at least that
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of preparing you for and training you for that is part of a part of a massive pipeline.
00:26:33,830 --> 00:26:34,160
00:26:34,160 --> 00:26:47,270
it may be that there are parts of your of your PhD thesis that you decide you want to put onto a blog or to send to a newspaper publication.
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Again, thinking about who your audience is and how you might need to disseminate that information for more of a lay reader.
00:26:55,560 --> 00:27:01,100
And, you know, even if even if you don't go on in academia, if you decide that, you know,
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teaching in a university is not your dream job after all, think about the kinds of transferable skills that you've learnt in writing your thesis.
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You've you've learnt how to research. You've learnt how to evaluate other scholarship.
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You you know how to situate your ideas. You know how to express your ideas in a persuasive way.
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These are important skills for any any field.
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Is the process of submitting your thesis of going through the Viva is admittedly an inherently stressful, but it really is designed to.
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Make sure that your work is the best that it can be, and that's what we're aiming for.
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I certainly found in my experience with you as my internal that that was that was what I got out of.
00:28:01,500 --> 00:28:09,370
It was very stressful beforehand. I was I was incredibly nervous going into it.
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May have may have walked the entire circumference of the small room I was in about 50 times beforehand.
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But coming out of it, I definitely felt like the comments that I got had the potential to make the thesis better.
00:28:23,790 --> 00:28:30,000
And the list of comments that I got, which I then went away and put into an Excel spreadsheet,
00:28:30,000 --> 00:28:38,370
really were a crucial tool when it came to revising the thesis and making it better, I think, to to come back to a term that you've used the you know,
00:28:38,370 --> 00:28:48,750
the other thing about viva that's really, really lovely and amazing is that you're having a discussion about your work
00:28:48,750 --> 00:28:57,270
with two experts and you might have a four hour conversation about your work.
00:28:57,270 --> 00:29:04,530
Very well. Yes. And how how how rare is that?
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I mean, how it's so unusual that you're able to get so much feedback and have to be engaged in this really intellectually stimulating conversation,
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not just for half an hour, but for four hours on a subject that means so much to you.
00:29:25,140 --> 00:29:33,660
So I think I think there is something really special about the viva, because it really is all about you and all about your work.
00:29:33,660 --> 00:29:39,780
And that kind of attention is and isn't always so common.
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And I think that's a really positive note to end on, actually, given all of the concerns that many of us have about the viva
00:29:46,500 --> 00:29:53,600
it's great to hear a bit more there about how it can actually be a really rewarding and positive experience.
00:29:53,600 --> 00:29:58,040
Thank you so much to Edward and Michelle, but also to John and Bice for what I think has been a really,
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really rich trio of episodes about the process of the Viva
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It's something that causes a huge amount of anxiety to PGRs.
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And I really, really hope that the insights of these three academics and the level of reflection and compassion
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with which they spoke will really reassure you in the supportiveness and integrity of this process.
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And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe and join me.
00:30:30,700 --> 00:30:57,321
Next time we'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.
Wednesday Jun 09, 2021
Wednesday Jun 09, 2021
Wednesday Jun 09, 2021
In this episode, guest host Dr. Edward Mills talks to Dr. Bice Maiguashca, Associate Professor in Politics about preparing for your viva in HASS subjects.
This is the second in a new series of podcasts on the viva, being developed as part of a suite of online resources by Edward for the University of Exeter Doctoral College.
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Hello and welcome to R, D and the In Betweens, I'm your host, Kelly Preece,
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and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers, development and everything in between.
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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of R, D and The Inbetweens, this is the second episode in a series where our guest host,
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Dr. Edward Mills, talks to academics and examiners all about the viva process.
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In this episode, Edward is talking to Bice Maiguashca
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who is an associate professor in the politics department at the University of Exeter, giving her experience and advice as an examiner,
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as a supervisor,
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and reiterating some of the really excellent advice and support she's given to our PGRs over the years through our Preparing for your viva workshops.
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So it's over to you Ed. hello. Today I am speaking with Bice Maiguashca, who is a professor in the politics department,
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about her experiences as an internal and external and also as a non examining independent chair.
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OK, so could you start just by saying a little bit about yourself, please?
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Sure. I'm an associate professor in the politics department and my research, very broadly speaking,
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is on the politics of resistance and more specifically on left politics.
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So left social movements as well as left politics in Britain.
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And I tend to approach the subject from a feminist perspective. So that's my academic sort of area of expertise.
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And so what can I ask? What's your experience as an examiner then of PhD thesis?
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I have both taken on both roles.
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Well, actually all three roles.
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I have been the supervisor, a supervisor to ten students, 10 PhD students, and I have been both internal examiners and external examiners.
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And in addition, I've also played the role of independent chair on numerous occasions.
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I suppose the first thing to ask is a question that I've asked everybody I've spoken to thus far,
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which is when you're examining a PhD thesis as an internal and external examiner,
00:02:44,430 --> 00:02:49,120
what do you do when you when you get a thesis in front of you for the first time?
00:02:49,120 --> 00:02:57,270
Yeah. Yeah. Well, the first thing you do is you decide when you're going to at what point you're going to
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read it and you want to make sure when you do that you have several hours ahead of you.
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In other words, at least in my experience, in my view, you can't read a thesis
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or at least I can't read the thesis over several days in small chunks.
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So I pick up the thesis and I make sure that I have three to four or five hours to focus on it, to make myself comfortable with something.
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And I read the introduction and the conclusion, and this may be very individual,
00:03:31,770 --> 00:03:39,780
idiosyncratic thing to do, but for me, I need to have a general map of the thesis before I dive in
00:03:39,780 --> 00:03:45,780
So I want to have a sense of what the story line is.
00:03:45,780 --> 00:03:52,950
In other words, a thesis for me and for no academic. is never read sort of as a myth, as a mystery novel, if you like,
00:03:52,950 --> 00:03:59,220
where the the the the plot line emerges at the end or the punch line emerges at the end.
00:03:59,220 --> 00:04:06,870
We like to know what's going on, what the aims of the thesis are, what the argument is going to be foregrounded at the beginning.
00:04:06,870 --> 00:04:14,820
So I read the introduction. I then read the conclusion. So I have a sense of the both, if you like, the bookends of the thesis.
00:04:14,820 --> 00:04:20,220
I have an overall map of the thesis in my mind, and then I dive into Chapter one,
00:04:20,220 --> 00:04:26,520
start looking for story line as well as the evidence which is going to sustain it.
00:04:26,520 --> 00:04:30,570
Reading the introduction, the conclusion of the thesis. Yes, some examiners may do that.
00:04:30,570 --> 00:04:38,190
Some some may not. But it's interesting to hear you talk about the the storyline of a thesis.
00:04:38,190 --> 00:04:40,710
Could you say a bit more about what you mean by the story line?
00:04:40,710 --> 00:04:50,430
Yeah, OK, so I think it's very important that the introduction of a thesis does four things and they all add up.
00:04:50,430 --> 00:04:58,020
If you like the story line in some sense of the thesis, the first thing that the introduction needs to do,
00:04:58,020 --> 00:05:08,970
in my view, is establish the puzzle or the problem or the research question that the student is trying to tackle.
00:05:08,970 --> 00:05:16,430
So what is the thesis about and what questions is it trying to answer?
00:05:16,430 --> 00:05:24,140
The second aspect, if you like, of this storyline has to do with the answer to that question.
00:05:24,140 --> 00:05:30,960
In other words, what is the argument? Of the PhD
00:05:30,960 --> 00:05:36,620
What is the thesis? That the student is putting forward.
00:05:36,620 --> 00:05:47,300
So that's the second bit, the third part of the storyline is why that question needs to be answered in academic terms.
00:05:47,300 --> 00:05:56,630
What is important about that question? Another way of putting this part of the storyline is to call it the rationale of the thesis.
00:05:56,630 --> 00:06:00,950
What is the rationale of the thesis? And you can have two types of rationale.
00:06:00,950 --> 00:06:09,840
You can have an academic rationale. In other words, there is a gap in the literature or perhaps there is a gap in the literature.
00:06:09,840 --> 00:06:19,460
But this is an important question and hasn't been studied. And the second form of rationale that might be relevant, particularly politics students,
00:06:19,460 --> 00:06:25,700
perhaps to others, is that there may be a political or social rationale for doing the thesis.
00:06:25,700 --> 00:06:34,290
In other words, it's tackling a particularly important political or social problem that begs to be solved.
00:06:34,290 --> 00:06:47,300
And the fourth thing that I think a reader needs to find in the introduction is an explanation of how they proceeded to do the research.
00:06:47,300 --> 00:06:52,300
In other words, what's otherwise called the methodology of the thesis.
00:06:52,300 --> 00:06:59,760
So just to recap, in the introduction of the thesis, the reader is looking for four things.
00:06:59,760 --> 00:07:04,420
What is the puzzle? What is the argument of the thesis?
00:07:04,420 --> 00:07:10,150
Why does the puzzle and argument matter? In other words, contribution to knowledge?
00:07:10,150 --> 00:07:19,810
And finally, how has the student undertaken this research and why have they made the choices that they have in terms of methodology?
00:07:19,810 --> 00:07:32,200
Those four pillars hold up thesis in many respects and need to be foregrounded in the introduction and then perhaps revisited in the conclusion.
00:07:32,200 --> 00:07:35,860
I don't know how you wrote your introduction, but does that sound familiar to you?
00:07:35,860 --> 00:07:44,590
That sounds very familiar, particularly given the advice that a lot of people are given to do their introduction last.
00:07:44,590 --> 00:07:50,560
Right. OK, certainly that might sound slightly odd in the.
00:07:50,560 --> 00:07:57,730
Does that sound odd? This this may or may not make it into the final cut? I think I've heard people say it before, but I don't think it's realistic.
00:07:57,730 --> 00:08:09,850
So what I would say is that your the introduction of all the chapters in your thesis is the one that perhaps is rewritten and evolves the most.
00:08:09,850 --> 00:08:13,450
In other words, I think one can't write it at the end.
00:08:13,450 --> 00:08:20,030
One has to write it at the beginning because it's usually provides the student with a roadmap of what they intend to do.
00:08:20,030 --> 00:08:26,830
And I always get my students to turn their research proposals or proposals into some form of introduction.
00:08:26,830 --> 00:08:32,800
As they expand on the puzzle, they expand on the rationale and they expand on the methodology,
00:08:32,800 --> 00:08:36,580
even if they're not entirely sure about the argument itself,
00:08:36,580 --> 00:08:47,320
because they still have to do the research, if you understand what I mean, and they then go back and revisit the introduction as they move forward.
00:08:47,320 --> 00:08:51,970
So I think there are multiple iterations of an introduction.
00:08:51,970 --> 00:09:01,480
Go back to it at the end of the thesis when you finish the whole draft and yes, indeed, one then goes and edits it, the final draft, so to speak.
00:09:01,480 --> 00:09:05,650
At the end of the writing of your thesis, you need a copy, if you like,
00:09:05,650 --> 00:09:10,810
a draft of the introduction at the beginning as well to give you focus and direction.
00:09:10,810 --> 00:09:18,610
Yeah, I think that's very fair. Actually, a lot of my introduction was written in the first year of the thesis but was then quite substantially revised.
00:09:18,610 --> 00:09:21,760
Once the argument had become clearer.
00:09:21,760 --> 00:09:31,360
I suppose to an extent the kind of solution part of your four stage, your four pillars might be the bit that needs to be rewritten most.
00:09:31,360 --> 00:09:39,010
But that's a that's a very good point, actually. Thank you. What contact do the internal and external examiners have before the viva?
00:09:39,010 --> 00:09:43,420
And what do they what do they have to produce before the viva starts?
00:09:43,420 --> 00:09:53,800
So the internal and external normally contact each other after they've read the thesis.
00:09:53,800 --> 00:10:06,340
In fact, it's the been the internal job to organise the time and place of the vivaand to agree that with the external and the student,
00:10:06,340 --> 00:10:13,120
then the internal and external, each separately without consulting with each other.
00:10:13,120 --> 00:10:26,110
Write What's called a preliminary report in that preliminary report, they normally start off by summarising what they think the PhD is trying to do.
00:10:26,110 --> 00:10:32,710
So their understanding of what the aims of these are, the rationale and the methodology.
00:10:32,710 --> 00:10:36,410
So that's normally the first couple of paragraphs of the preliminary report.
00:10:36,410 --> 00:10:43,360
That's why it's so important in your introduction, you make sure that those key aspects of the thesis are clear.
00:10:43,360 --> 00:10:47,920
Then they go on to assess each one of them in some detail.
00:10:47,920 --> 00:10:59,800
In other words, they they offer their evaluation of how well the student has done each and then they determine a preliminary outcome.
00:10:59,800 --> 00:11:07,930
In other words, they recommend minor revisions or major revisions or a pass, an unconditional pass.
00:11:07,930 --> 00:11:16,510
Those preliminary reports are then exchanged prior to the viva, usually some days before.
00:11:16,510 --> 00:11:21,910
And so so that each can reflect on the views of the other.
00:11:21,910 --> 00:11:30,430
Then they usually meet wherever the is taking place, often over lunch prior to the viva or or over coffee.
00:11:30,430 --> 00:11:36,100
They discuss their agreements and disagreements before they go in to the viva
00:11:36,100 --> 00:11:41,620
So when you when the student enters into the room, internal and external have already met each other.
00:11:41,620 --> 00:11:46,210
They've already had a substantive discussion about the thesis and about their views.
00:11:46,210 --> 00:11:50,670
It will always be some differences and they will have come to.
00:11:50,670 --> 00:12:01,020
An initial view on the thesis and its quality and the recommendation they would like to make at the end of the two or three hour,
00:12:01,020 --> 00:12:10,320
viva students will be asked to sit out to the outside and the internal and external will deliberate once again and see whether,
00:12:10,320 --> 00:12:16,410
in fact, their view still stands or whether, in fact, they want to shift that view based on viva
00:12:16,410 --> 00:12:18,360
That's why the viva does matter.
00:12:18,360 --> 00:12:27,940
So jumping forward slightly, then let's just imagine you sat down with your cup of tea on the thesis, which is a lovely image, by the way.
00:12:27,940 --> 00:12:35,470
What would you advise a student to be to be doing in that time, this kind of awkward 70 days?
00:12:35,470 --> 00:12:40,150
I mean, it can be it can be a significant amount of time between the Viva and the submission and viva rather
00:12:40,150 --> 00:12:43,930
So what would you how would you recommend a student spend that time?
00:12:43,930 --> 00:12:55,330
Well, I think you normally have about, am I right, three months between submission and the actual viva.
00:12:55,330 --> 00:12:58,690
That was certainly the case for me. I think it can be slightly more than that.
00:12:58,690 --> 00:13:02,000
But also, yes, it can be more.
00:13:02,000 --> 00:13:10,330
But regardless of how long you have, I think the first thing you should do is actually take a rest.
00:13:10,330 --> 00:13:20,200
You probably will working very intensely on your project until submission point, and you're probably saturated by it.
00:13:20,200 --> 00:13:26,770
And I think I say that you should take a rest, not just because you should take care of yourself and for well-being reasons,
00:13:26,770 --> 00:13:34,630
but also because while you're taking a rest, you are gaining critical distance from your thesis.
00:13:34,630 --> 00:13:45,460
And I think that's very important. Before you go into the viva that you develop some critical distance from it so that when you return to the thesis,
00:13:45,460 --> 00:13:51,510
which you must do in order to prepare for the viva, which is worth doing.
00:13:51,510 --> 00:13:58,410
You know, it's not that you've forgotten what you've written, but that you can somehow see it through clearer,
00:13:58,410 --> 00:14:04,080
more self-critical eyes, and I think that perspective is crucial.
00:14:04,080 --> 00:14:09,750
So after you've taken perhaps two or three weeks off, perhaps even a month, if you can,
00:14:09,750 --> 00:14:14,100
it could involve a holiday, but it also could involve just doing other work.
00:14:14,100 --> 00:14:19,530
What you want to do is turn your mind away from the project, think about other things,
00:14:19,530 --> 00:14:24,420
and then come back to it afresh and you will see it with different eyes.
00:14:24,420 --> 00:14:32,040
And that experience of coming back to your project after leaving it for a little while is both exhilarating and exciting.
00:14:32,040 --> 00:14:37,050
Also a little scary and sometimes a little frustrating because you, of course,
00:14:37,050 --> 00:14:43,530
reread it and realise the strength of the thesis as well as its limitations.
00:14:43,530 --> 00:14:52,050
But I think that's very important that you go into a knowing its strengths because you might even be asked this question by a cheeky external.
00:14:52,050 --> 00:14:57,480
What are the strengths of the thesis and what do you think the limitations of your work are?
00:14:57,480 --> 00:15:07,290
So once you've, if you like, undertaken the moves to put you in that perspective or to acquire that perspective,
00:15:07,290 --> 00:15:18,540
and you need to prepare to answer four questions, there is no way you're going to have a viva without being asked all four of these questions.
00:15:18,540 --> 00:15:25,280
And of course, they're not going to be surprising because they pertain to the four pillars, if you like, of the the storyline of the.
00:15:25,280 --> 00:15:31,070
The first question you're going to be asked, and sometimes it comes up at the very beginning of your viva,
00:15:31,070 --> 00:15:35,630
is your research question, your puzzle, your problem?
00:15:35,630 --> 00:15:41,540
They may ask they may ask the question in different ways. Why did you choose this topic?
00:15:41,540 --> 00:15:47,570
What brought you to this question? Why did you think it was so important?
00:15:47,570 --> 00:15:52,270
But they will ask you to explain your puzzle.
00:15:52,270 --> 00:15:59,390
In other words, the aims of your thesis. Second of all, they will ask you.
00:15:59,390 --> 00:16:09,170
What your argument is. So, in fact, I have been in the viva once where I think the external I wouldn't have done it this way,
00:16:09,170 --> 00:16:16,480
but the external the first question she asked was, so tell me in two sentences what your thesis is.
00:16:16,480 --> 00:16:26,720
But you need to practise articulating the argument of your thesis in one or two sentences just in case you're put on the spot.
00:16:26,720 --> 00:16:32,240
Third, you're going to be asked questions around the rationale of the thesis,
00:16:32,240 --> 00:16:43,720
why you thought it was an important project to pursue in academic terms, and what do you think the contribution to knowledge is?
00:16:43,720 --> 00:16:49,270
And finally, they're going to ask you about how you did your research.
00:16:49,270 --> 00:16:57,790
So in other words, your methodology, the entire viva, will be structured around those four broad questions.
00:16:57,790 --> 00:17:08,090
And depending on your answers, you will get subsequent questions pushing you to illuminate the work that you've done.
00:17:08,090 --> 00:17:12,050
So I would prepare for the viva in the interim,
00:17:12,050 --> 00:17:18,920
I would not believe what I've heard from some students and some colleagues that the viva doesn't really matter.
00:17:18,920 --> 00:17:22,910
Some people would argue that in the end, what really matters is the thesis itself.
00:17:22,910 --> 00:17:31,130
In other words, what you've written, that is what's being tested and that what you actually say in the viva is neither here nor there,
00:17:31,130 --> 00:17:39,500
apart from the fact that one of the purposes, one of the functions of Avivah is to actually establish that you're the author of the.
00:17:39,500 --> 00:17:42,740
So that's that's that's one function.
00:17:42,740 --> 00:17:53,330
But I would argue that preparing for the viva is incredibly important for the outcome in two ways, one, emotionally and psychologically.
00:17:53,330 --> 00:17:58,340
In other words, you're more likely to have a good experience in the viva.
00:17:58,340 --> 00:18:02,900
In other words, a good conversation with your internal and external,
00:18:02,900 --> 00:18:10,590
if you know your thesis well and you're prepared to answer questions around those four pillars.
00:18:10,590 --> 00:18:21,810
And I think, second of all, if by any chance there is a difference of opinion between the internal and external about what the outcome should be,
00:18:21,810 --> 00:18:30,030
let's say minor revision versus major revision, your answers to those four very broad questions.
00:18:30,030 --> 00:18:36,890
can help them decide whether it's going to be minor or major.
00:18:36,890 --> 00:18:48,710
So I strongly advise students to prepare for the viva both so that they have fun and also so that the outcome is as good as it can be.
00:18:48,710 --> 00:18:53,150
There was one term that you used there, which I think a lot of people will have heard many,
00:18:53,150 --> 00:18:57,020
many times, but I think it might be worth spending them to unpick if that's OK.
00:18:57,020 --> 00:19:00,770
It's the idea of the Viva as a conversation,
00:19:00,770 --> 00:19:07,310
which I think is connected to what you were saying earlier about how depending on the answers you give to certain questions,
00:19:07,310 --> 00:19:11,000
the the examiners can go down different roads.
00:19:11,000 --> 00:19:18,320
So when you think of a presumably a good viva as a good conversation, what do you what do you mean by that?
00:19:18,320 --> 00:19:22,400
How is it different from, say, an interview, for example?
00:19:22,400 --> 00:19:34,550
I think conversation or dialogue as a way of describing the thesis as well as viva is, is a helpful way of thinking about the whole process.
00:19:34,550 --> 00:19:41,640
So let me start by saying that in many respects, a thesis or a PhD
00:19:41,640 --> 00:19:50,880
Is in fact, the product of a conversation, so in the rationale of your of your thesis,
00:19:50,880 --> 00:20:01,210
where you explain why you pursued this particular puzzle, you will need to lay out an academic academic conversation about your topic.
00:20:01,210 --> 00:20:04,330
It's often called the literature review.
00:20:04,330 --> 00:20:15,430
So the thesis itself represents a conversation between a group of academics who may agree or disagree with each other and yourself, in other words,
00:20:15,430 --> 00:20:26,610
when you write a thesis as a student, you are intervening or you're seeking to intervene in a dialogue amongst experts about the subject.
00:20:26,610 --> 00:20:36,230
When you do your Viva. Then you have a second type of conversation, you have a conversation with two experts in the field.
00:20:36,230 --> 00:20:44,960
About the conversation you've had in your thesis. So in other words, with your with your viva
00:20:44,960 --> 00:20:53,420
your internal and external are interested not so much in determining whether they agree with your
00:20:53,420 --> 00:21:03,800
answers or not or whether they understand how you've come to them and why you've come to them.
00:21:03,800 --> 00:21:11,390
Which comes itself to another point, which I think you may have raised in the discussion that I was actually in your experience.
00:21:11,390 --> 00:21:19,310
Is it possible to pass a viva, even if you examine it, totally disagree with your conclusions?
00:21:19,310 --> 00:21:26,390
I think that depends on what one means by disagree with one's conclusions.
00:21:26,390 --> 00:21:36,380
I'm speculating here. I'm not in the sciences, but I'm wondering whether perhaps in the sciences that may not be possible.
00:21:36,380 --> 00:21:41,540
In other words, if they think that you've done i don't know you've performed
00:21:41,540 --> 00:21:49,280
like the formulas incorrectly or misunderstood your formulas or use the wrong ones and therefore have the wrong outcomes,
00:21:49,280 --> 00:22:00,680
it's quite possible that perhaps you don't pass. I think in the social sciences, there's it can be a matter of interpretation.
00:22:00,680 --> 00:22:09,150
So in the social sciences, what they will be checking and what I would check for is the level of scholarship.
00:22:09,150 --> 00:22:11,220
Involved in the thesis.
00:22:11,220 --> 00:22:22,440
In other words, has this student engaged with the right, with the relevant literature on the subject, or have they missed certain literature?
00:22:22,440 --> 00:22:30,140
Do they show a good grasp of the conceptual and empirical material that's out there?
00:22:30,140 --> 00:22:39,140
And have they managed to mobilise evidence to sustain the argument that they're making?
00:22:39,140 --> 00:22:46,820
If they do all of that, and I still disagree perhaps with either the direction they've taken or,
00:22:46,820 --> 00:22:53,930
as you put it, the outcomes, then yes, yes, they will still pass.
00:22:53,930 --> 00:23:05,940
I've had a number of students who have mobilised or deployed theoretical perspectives that I don't find particularly interesting and or helpful.
00:23:05,940 --> 00:23:11,160
And a brilliant thesis can be written using both theoretical perspectives,
00:23:11,160 --> 00:23:15,840
even if I'm perhaps not enamoured with them because I think there are problems.
00:23:15,840 --> 00:23:22,350
So I might raise those problems in the viva to make sure they understand the limits of that perspective.
00:23:22,350 --> 00:23:28,560
But I'm going to be very happy passing them if they have done a good job mobilising evidence
00:23:28,560 --> 00:23:34,420
for their case and showing a good understanding of the theoretical perspective and its limits.
00:23:34,420 --> 00:23:35,170
So thank you for that.
00:23:35,170 --> 00:23:43,216
I think that's a really good clarification of a point that a lot of people will have heard but may not have been able to express in detail.
00:23:43,216 --> 00:23:50,716
So let's jump forward now to the Viva itself. I mean, with everything we've spoken about, this has been Viva to some degree, but.
00:23:50,716 --> 00:23:55,776
As an examiner, whether an internal or external.
00:23:55,776 --> 00:24:11,046
What frustrates you in a viva, I think some viva I've really enjoyed some this and I found other viva is very difficult to get through.
00:24:11,046 --> 00:24:21,516
I think one of the things that students should keep in mind, as I said earlier, is that viva is a dialogue.
00:24:21,516 --> 00:24:34,416
It's a dialogue between three people, sometimes four, depending on whether you have two externals and one internal or just one external, one internal.
00:24:34,416 --> 00:24:44,946
And I think students should keep in mind that although it's intimate and that there are only three of you in a room or perhaps four,
00:24:44,946 --> 00:24:50,046
but somehow externals and internals are people, too,
00:24:50,046 --> 00:24:58,026
and that they may also come to the viva with their own baggage and in fact, may feel a little bit nervous.
00:24:58,026 --> 00:25:04,056
In other words, it's a performance and the student is performing, but so is the internal and so the external,
00:25:04,056 --> 00:25:08,886
especially if there's an internal chair and internal chair presence as well.
00:25:08,886 --> 00:25:18,426
And so what one wants in the performance of the viva is everyone to listen to each other,
00:25:18,426 --> 00:25:24,546
to be respectful and polite with each other and to enjoy it.
00:25:24,546 --> 00:25:31,626
So one of the things that frustrates me, if you like, is and I realise it can't be helped,
00:25:31,626 --> 00:25:38,916
is that if a student is so nervous that they can't engage in that dialogue.
00:25:38,916 --> 00:25:46,596
In other words, if they haven't prepared and therefore thrown by questions about what their puzzle is or what their thesis is,
00:25:46,596 --> 00:25:52,026
etc., then that conversation can slowly grind to a halt.
00:25:52,026 --> 00:25:58,356
And that can be frustrating for for the student, but also for the internal and external.
00:25:58,356 --> 00:26:03,216
So, in fact, you want the students to go into the viva, not only well prepared, in other words,
00:26:03,216 --> 00:26:11,706
they know their thesis well, but also hopefully you want them to go in with some enthusiasm.
00:26:11,706 --> 00:26:16,506
Remember, the internal and the external are experts in the field.
00:26:16,506 --> 00:26:23,406
And therefore, this is the you should see the viva as an opportunity to have a good natter with two people in your
00:26:23,406 --> 00:26:34,566
field who are interested in your project and who may well in the future become referees for jobs.
00:26:34,566 --> 00:26:41,286
So I think I realise this is a big ask because it's normal to be nervousl, to be nervous,
00:26:41,286 --> 00:26:45,576
but I strongly believe that preparing for a viva can actually reduce that
00:26:45,576 --> 00:26:53,816
problem and help you perform in a relaxed and congenial way in the actual viva
00:26:53,816 --> 00:26:58,846
I think my advice to students who are going into the viva.
00:26:58,846 --> 00:27:04,726
Is that they to the best of their ability, and I understand it's a nerve wracking moment,
00:27:04,726 --> 00:27:13,216
but they must try very hard not to become defensive in the viva
00:27:13,216 --> 00:27:21,346
I think I have been in some Vivas where the student has become overly defensive.
00:27:21,346 --> 00:27:33,916
I realise it's partly because of nerves. And as a result, the conversation has become stilted and in fact, sometimes uncomfortable.
00:27:33,916 --> 00:27:42,086
So remember, students need to remember that the internal and external, it's part of their job.
00:27:42,086 --> 00:27:48,556
It's part of their mandate to critically interrogate the piece of work in front of them
00:27:48,556 --> 00:27:56,316
and to engage you in a robust conversation about its strengths as well as its limits.
00:27:56,316 --> 00:28:07,296
So while I'm not suggesting you should concede on every point raised by the internal or external critical point, you must defend the.
00:28:07,296 --> 00:28:15,936
You must not become defensive. You must acknowledge that there are some limits to it.
00:28:15,936 --> 00:28:21,186
And you must show an understanding of why those limits arose.
00:28:21,186 --> 00:28:30,036
But whatever you do, don't go in there defensive because it will make your internal and external examiners defensive in return.
00:28:30,036 --> 00:28:34,656
So would you mind saying a bit more about major correction?
00:28:34,656 --> 00:28:42,126
Because I know it's something a lot of people are worried about. What's your experience with major corrections as opposed to minor?
00:28:42,126 --> 00:28:47,136
I think there are more major revisions than people realise. Let me put it that way.
00:28:47,136 --> 00:28:53,406
I think students often think that getting major revisions is a disaster.
00:28:53,406 --> 00:29:03,366
It's not. It's not. I mean, if you look at the if you look at the what do you call it from the description of each category,
00:29:03,366 --> 00:29:13,266
minor revisions should arguably only involve changes to the text typos or adding references or
00:29:13,266 --> 00:29:21,906
perhaps adding a table and perhaps adding a little bit of research in one discrete chapter.
00:29:21,906 --> 00:29:32,696
Anything more than that, anything that would require you to do the cuts across the chapters, for example, will go under major revisions.
00:29:32,696 --> 00:29:42,296
And yet that that may be necessary and may not take that long to do so, I think a lot of students do get major.
00:29:42,296 --> 00:29:52,676
That's my impression, especially since I think some years ago they made a change and they narrowed minor revisions down to two very small changes.
00:29:52,676 --> 00:29:56,606
So I would just encourage students to to not panic.
00:29:56,606 --> 00:30:01,856
They get major revisions to see that is eminently doable.
00:30:01,856 --> 00:30:08,006
I really like your point about cutting across chapters, being major revisions, minor revisions.
00:30:08,006 --> 00:30:14,846
And my impression is that minor revisions should be contained, containable,
00:30:14,846 --> 00:30:22,196
so we can go anywhere from typos to adding sections of a chapter, perhaps even sections to chapters.
00:30:22,196 --> 00:30:29,576
But anything that requires changing the story line, as I put it, is usually goes under, Major.
00:30:29,576 --> 00:30:41,876
I mean, keep in mind, Edward, that sometimes an external and internal will decide to give the student major revisions in part,
00:30:41,876 --> 00:30:49,016
in part to help them out and give them enough time to make those revisions.
00:30:49,016 --> 00:30:56,396
So remember, the difference between minor and major is not just about quality, if you like the thesis,
00:30:56,396 --> 00:31:04,586
but it's also about the amount of time that the internal and external deemed to be necessary to make the changes.
00:31:04,586 --> 00:31:09,476
And in order to determine that, they often ask student.
00:31:09,476 --> 00:31:13,796
What their needs are and what they're doing and how much time they need.
00:31:13,796 --> 00:31:20,096
Sometimes you might have a student that's working full time, for instance, they've had to get a job and therefore,
00:31:20,096 --> 00:31:26,006
the internal and external might make a decision partly about whether it's minor or a major,
00:31:26,006 --> 00:31:30,846
partly in terms of the amount of time that they think the student needs.
00:31:30,846 --> 00:31:40,966
So it's a strategic decision as well. And the last question I want to ask was a specific one about the the role of the chair, if that's OK.
00:31:40,966 --> 00:31:47,466
So. Increasingly at Exeter, and certainly in light of coronavirus,
00:31:47,466 --> 00:31:58,206
we're seeing a lot of PhDs being examined with this mysterious extra person on the panel who shouldn't and
00:31:58,206 --> 00:32:02,946
arguably make a huge amount of difference to the outcomes of either but whose role is very important.
00:32:02,946 --> 00:32:11,616
So could I ask you to say a bit more about that role, this non examining independent chair position, which I understand you've done yourself?
00:32:11,616 --> 00:32:23,916
Yes, although I have to say that I would I would question the idea that the independent chair plays any role in determining the outcome of viva,
00:32:23,916 --> 00:32:28,986
and that's not their role. The role of the of the independent chair,
00:32:28,986 --> 00:32:38,436
the non examining that's the key non examining independent chair is simply to to assess that you
00:32:38,436 --> 00:32:46,626
like and to monitor the viva and make sure that it is conducted according to the regulations.
00:32:46,626 --> 00:32:53,526
So they will not have read the thesis, they will have no view on on the content of it.
00:32:53,526 --> 00:32:58,236
They will have not be asked for their view on the outcome.
00:32:58,236 --> 00:33:08,616
The only thing that they are responsible for is the conduct of the viva itself and that it is conducted according to the rules.
00:33:08,616 --> 00:33:10,986
Can I ask a related question to that?
00:33:10,986 --> 00:33:19,326
This is something I've always wondered myself what once the candidate is asked to step out of the room or in my case,
00:33:19,326 --> 00:33:26,826
to temporarily leave the team's meeting as it was, because I had, of course, virtual viva
00:33:26,826 --> 00:33:29,916
What kind of things are actually said between the examiners?
00:33:29,916 --> 00:33:38,226
This is just a personal question I've always wondered this is it kind of oh few or is it kind of a OK or does it very much depend on the viva?
00:33:38,226 --> 00:33:45,876
It very much depends on the viva. And sometimes there is an overview, especially if the student is either very nervous,
00:33:45,876 --> 00:33:52,836
in which case the conversation is stilted and that's felt by all concerned or in the case where
00:33:52,836 --> 00:33:58,626
a student can be very defensive or just show no understanding of the weaknesses of the case.
00:33:58,626 --> 00:34:03,726
In all three cases or scenarios, vivas can be painful.
00:34:03,726 --> 00:34:11,586
And so the supervisors sorry, not the supervisor, the internal and external can sometimes be relieved at the end.
00:34:11,586 --> 00:34:16,266
Usually, however, and most of the Vivas I've done, it's very rare that that happens.
00:34:16,266 --> 00:34:22,656
By the way, most of the five years I've done the the internal and external look at each other
00:34:22,656 --> 00:34:26,946
and most of the time we've enjoyed the conversation we've had with the student.
00:34:26,946 --> 00:34:37,836
And in my experience anyway, is often and attempt to be as generous with the students as possible, generous and supportive of the student.
00:34:37,836 --> 00:34:44,616
And I think sometimes there's a misunderstanding that the job of the internal is to defend the students.
00:34:44,616 --> 00:34:50,496
The job of the external is to be the critical interrogator.
00:34:50,496 --> 00:34:53,016
In my experience, that's not the case.
00:34:53,016 --> 00:35:00,576
In my experience, the world of the internal is really only to make sure again, especially if there's no independent chair,
00:35:00,576 --> 00:35:07,386
that the Viva has been conducted in a way that is consistent with the regulations.
00:35:07,386 --> 00:35:13,326
Apart from that, both the internal and the external are expected to ask tough questions of the students.
00:35:13,326 --> 00:35:21,486
And it's not the role of the internal so-called defend the student unless unless they feel that the viva is taking
00:35:21,486 --> 00:35:27,216
an uncomfortable turn and that the external is being overly critical or destructive in their manner.
00:35:27,216 --> 00:35:31,386
But apart from that, both internal and external have the same role.
00:35:31,386 --> 00:35:39,486
In other words, they're there to assess the scholarship of the student and to determine whether it meets the required standards.
00:35:39,486 --> 00:35:44,706
What's your opinion on Mock Vivas? Do you tend to encourage your as a supervisor,
00:35:44,706 --> 00:35:51,426
your your students to have them always is a mock or something that you're kind of doing all through your PhD?
00:35:51,426 --> 00:35:54,636
I would actually encourage students to go through Mock Vivas
00:35:54,636 --> 00:36:05,286
I think it's good practise if for no other reason that it might help students manage their nerves.
00:36:05,286 --> 00:36:09,996
So if they performed the viva already with their supervisor perhaps and a friend.
00:36:09,996 --> 00:36:19,386
So I did it once with a colleague of mine, we both sat and pretended to be the internal and external and put the student through a grilling.
00:36:19,386 --> 00:36:27,216
And I think it worked very well. And hopefully it helped the student prepare for the viva because they were less nervous
00:36:27,216 --> 00:36:37,266
when they went in and they understood the kinds of questions they would be asked. So I think mock vivas are are are to be encouraged.
00:36:37,266 --> 00:36:41,376
Thanks again to Bice for that really illuminating conversation and discussion,
00:36:41,376 --> 00:36:46,206
which I'm sure will be very useful to those of us preparing for Vivas at the moment.
00:36:46,206 --> 00:36:54,696
Thank you so much to Edward and Bice for such an illuminating and supportive discussion.
00:36:54,696 --> 00:37:01,386
Our next episode will be the last one in this mini series on the Viva guest hosted by Edward
00:37:01,386 --> 00:37:07,776
In that episode, he'll be talking to one of his own Viva examiners. And that's it for this episode.
00:37:07,776 --> 00:37:10,896
Don't forget to like rate and subscribe and join me.
00:37:10,896 --> 00:37:37,505
Next time we'll be talking to somebody else about researchers, development and everything in between.
Thursday May 13, 2021
Thursday May 13, 2021
Thursday May 13, 2021
In this episode, guest host Dr. Edward Mills talks to Professor Jon Blount, Director of Postgraduate Researcher in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences about preparing for your viva in STEMM subjects.
A couple of claifications on rules and regulations at Exeter:
- Staff members doing a research degree viva will need two external examiners, not two internal examiners
- It is not possible to 'fail' your first viva - the outcomes are no corrections, minor corrections, major corrections and resubmission
- For minor corrections, you have 3 months to complete the revisions not two
This is the first in a new series of podcasts on the viva, being developed as part of a suite of online resources by Edward for the University of Exeter Doctoral College.
00:00:09,260 --> 00:00:15,880
Hello and welcome, R, D And in betweens, I'm your host, Kelly Preece.
00:00:15,880 --> 00:00:32,260
And every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
00:00:32,260 --> 00:00:36,200
And welcome to the latest episode of R, D and the In Betweens.
00:00:36,200 --> 00:00:44,580
This episode comes to you a little late due to an incident with a microphone cable that sadly is no more.
00:00:44,580 --> 00:00:51,170
But I'm really delighted for the first time to bring you guest host for R, D and the In Betweens.
00:00:51,170 --> 00:00:55,880
So this week, Dr. Edward Mills, who has been a frequent guest on the podcast,
00:00:55,880 --> 00:01:02,960
is taking over and bringing us an episode all about preparing for your viiva
00:01:02,960 --> 00:01:08,930
So Edward is working with me to develop some online resources and training about preparing for your viva
00:01:08,930 --> 00:01:16,550
and that includes a series of podcasts with different academics and examiners and researchers all about the process.
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So this is the first of a new series. And over to you, Edward.
00:01:23,480 --> 00:01:27,050
Hello. As Kelly said in her intro, my name is Edward.
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I am a postdoc in Modern languages. And this episode of R, D and The In Betweens comes to you courtesy of Jon Blount
00:01:33,890 --> 00:01:42,080
director of Postgraduate Researchers in CLES, the College of Life Environmental Sciences here at the University of Exeter.
00:01:42,080 --> 00:01:48,110
It's part of a series of interviews that I'm doing with DPGRs and examiners from around the
00:01:48,110 --> 00:01:54,260
university as part of the preparation for a new suite of resources on preparing for your viva.
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And Jon has very kindly agreed that we can use the long form version of our discussion as part of this podcast series.
00:02:03,110 --> 00:02:09,470
So I started by asking, Jonn, as you can probably imagine, whether he'd be willing to introduce himself.
00:02:09,470 --> 00:02:13,730
Yeah, sure. So I'm I'm Jon Blount. As you said, I'm a professor of animal physiology.
00:02:13,730 --> 00:02:17,720
So my sort of parent discipline is bio sciences.
00:02:17,720 --> 00:02:25,220
But in CLES, I oversee, in addition to bio sciences, geography, sport and health sciences and psychology as well, including clinical psychology.
00:02:25,220 --> 00:02:29,090
So it's quite a diverse range of subject areas and quite large college.
00:02:29,090 --> 00:02:34,160
We've got about five hundred and seventy five students, something of that in that order.
00:02:34,160 --> 00:02:37,310
You mentioned the diverse college that you have in CLES
00:02:37,310 --> 00:02:46,550
And I was really interested to hear about this during the preinterview chat that we had in that you've got researchers from
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areas that say human geography who might be quite close to some of the work that we do in humanities and social sciences.
00:02:52,190 --> 00:02:59,670
Then you also have, of course, a lot of researchers who are nearer towards the what you might call the hard sciences and in CLES
00:02:59,670 --> 00:03:01,370
Is that right? That's right. Yeah.
00:03:01,370 --> 00:03:09,140
I mean, most of most of the theses that are examined in this college would be, I guess, what you would call STEM related.
00:03:09,140 --> 00:03:13,730
But as you say, towards the sort of human geography and of the geography spectrum,
00:03:13,730 --> 00:03:20,150
we do see PhDs that can be examined, including elements of performing arts, for example.
00:03:20,150 --> 00:03:25,760
So, you know, a very diverse range of presentations. Yes.
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And certainly we're hoping that the material in this discussion that will be useful to people then has people in STEM and everything in between.
00:03:34,940 --> 00:03:37,370
I was wondering if we could start just with me,
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asking when you tend to advise these students to start thinking about the viva as a moment in their course of study.
00:03:47,960 --> 00:03:55,100
I think this is a conversation that will naturally emerge in the final you know, the final year, let's say.
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It should be it should be around the time when you're getting deep into writing up and thinking about the
00:04:01,640 --> 00:04:06,740
kind of literature that you should be citing to properly represent the field of work that you're in.
00:04:06,740 --> 00:04:13,400
I mean, the choice of examiners will be strongly informed by the experience of your supervisory team.
00:04:13,400 --> 00:04:19,700
And I think it's important. You know, it's usually the case that students are aware of who their examiners are going to be.
00:04:19,700 --> 00:04:26,120
At some point during the latter months when they're finishing up the up stage and end it.
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And it's useful at that stage to kind of, you know,
00:04:29,330 --> 00:04:36,070
your audience really to think about who's going to be reading this and what literature they are going to be familiar with.
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You know, making sure that you properly represent their own research,
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perhaps not just the broader field of literature that they will be most knowledgeable about.
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So as a sort of follow up to that, then just to sort of try and demystify the process of it.
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Could I ask what you as an examiner will do when you're given a thesis or
00:05:01,580 --> 00:05:08,330
approached by one of the supervisors first to ask if it's an area you'd be willing to examine.
00:05:08,330 --> 00:05:09,540
00:05:09,540 --> 00:05:19,200
Your typically you'd be approached by the primary supervisor who would tell you roughly what the subject area is and what how many chapters there are,
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roughly how long the thesis says and what kind of format it's in and so on.
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And then you decide, you know, whether you're available and able to do it within the timescale that they will identify for.
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You know, they'll say to you, look, the candidates looking to submit around so and so and so we you know,
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we'd really like to have this done within two or three months of that date. Is that possible?
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And you agree or you decline depending on what what you know, what you've got on your plate at the time and so on when the thesis arrives to you,
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it will, of course, come electronically and it should also arrive as hard copy.
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If it doesn't, most examiners will request that because it's a lot easier to read a large document,
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as we all know, you know, in hard copy than on screen.
00:06:03,810 --> 00:06:11,040
And most examiners will have a quick flick through the thing when it arrives and just get a sense of the scale of the task ahead of them.
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You know, how much time do they feel that they will need to set aside to read this ahead of the thev viva?
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Well, if there is a viva. And then usually, you know what most people will do because we've all got a lot of things going on.
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It will normally be put to the side until a week or two before the date of the exam or the deadline for the submission of the report for the viva.
00:06:37,140 --> 00:06:46,290
And then they will they will intensively read it over a period of whatever's required, you know, two, three days as required and write the comments.
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I, I tend to go through the thesis and mark up the hard copy.
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And then after I've gone through each chapter,
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I'll then type up my notes and think about which bits of it are actually substantive and need to be discussed in a in a viva or
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would need to be presented to the candidate as a something they should respond to could potentially require revision and so on.
00:07:11,790 --> 00:07:21,620
So in that sort of post submission pre viva period, how do you typically advise a candidate to prepare for the viva?
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OK, so after you submit, obviously, there's a great sense of elation that you've sort of crossed the line and you
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tend to put the thing in the top drawer and forget about it for a few weeks,
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and that's absolutely the right thing to do. You know, just go away and forget about it, relax and do something else.
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But when it, when you when you know the date of your viva, I feel it's very important to make sure that you read the thesis and know its contents.
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Well, you know, you you can to a greater or lesser extent,
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anticipate the kinds of questions they're going to ask about each chapter and perhaps overall
00:08:00,010 --> 00:08:03,920
about how the thesis hangs together as a whole and what it what is its broader significance.
00:08:03,920 --> 00:08:11,320
So for each chapter, I would encourage candidates to just read it not immediately before the viva
00:08:11,320 --> 00:08:15,430
I'm not talking about the day before. I'm talking about maybe a week or two before.
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Read the chapter. Make sure you can or are clear in your own mind.
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What was the overall aim or question that we were setting out to address here?
00:08:26,710 --> 00:08:31,330
What were the what were the major questions and hypotheses that we approach?
00:08:31,330 --> 00:08:39,800
What were the major findings? And how do these findings change the way we think about the original question that we set out to answer at the outset?
00:08:39,800 --> 00:08:45,520
You know, you can you can if you can answer those sorts of questions in relation to each chapter,
00:08:45,520 --> 00:08:50,710
you're going to do absolutely fine, because you're almost certainly going to be asked to explain.
00:08:50,710 --> 00:08:55,990
What did you do? Why did you do it? What did you find out?
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You want to be all you want to almost be able to explain the purpose or the outcome of each chapter,
00:09:02,980 --> 00:09:10,300
as if you were writing a lay summary or or as if you were, you know, explaining to a non-specialist in the kitchen a party.
00:09:10,300 --> 00:09:14,540
You know what? Why what do you do? Why did you do that? What who cares?
00:09:14,540 --> 00:09:23,080
What did you find out? And in a conversational kind of way, you want to give a fairly pithy answer to those sorts of questions,
00:09:23,080 --> 00:09:32,660
because you're almost certainly going to be asked. And that's really I think preparation is the key.
00:09:32,660 --> 00:09:40,220
Think about potential weaknesses. It's not your role to hide any potential weaknesses that you're aware of.
00:09:40,220 --> 00:09:50,180
It's okay to be open and talk about them, too. The examiner's main job is, as I said before, is to make sure that you wrote the thesis.
00:09:50,180 --> 00:09:55,130
So just make sure that you you do remember its content.
00:09:55,130 --> 00:09:59,140
Don't put it to one side and then literally don't look at it again for three months and
00:09:59,140 --> 00:10:04,050
then go into the room because you're gonna be asked detailed questions about his content.
00:10:04,050 --> 00:10:09,050
And you mentioned this sort of writing of reports that takes place before the viva.
00:10:09,050 --> 00:10:12,800
Could you say a bit more about that and about the role of different examiners?
00:10:12,800 --> 00:10:22,040
Because, of course, there will be more than one. Yeah, there'll be an external examiner and one or more internal examiners.
00:10:22,040 --> 00:10:29,510
If, for example, a member of staff themselves went for a PhD, if they didn't have a PhD already, they might do a PhD as
00:10:29,510 --> 00:10:33,860
part of their work for Exeter. They would then require two internal examiners.
00:10:33,860 --> 00:10:40,070
But, you know, there there are sort of process related things like that that might determine how many people are in the room.
00:10:40,070 --> 00:10:46,400
But, you know, there's going to be an internal examiner. At least one of those is going to be one external examiner potentially two external examiners.
00:10:46,400 --> 00:10:54,290
If the thesis covers a very broad range of expertise, is that requires a bit more inputs to examine.
00:10:54,290 --> 00:10:58,550
And there might be a non examining independent chair whose role is just to oversee proceedings.
00:10:58,550 --> 00:11:03,320
They don't they don't read the thesis and they won't contributes the conversation
00:11:03,320 --> 00:11:07,340
other than to chip in and sort of bring things back on course if they feel that,
00:11:07,340 --> 00:11:13,370
you know, you've overrun the time that's available or something like that. And I think that's actually our requirement, isn't it?
00:11:13,370 --> 00:11:19,910
With the new virtual Vivas in the age of COVID, it is a requirement of the online virtual Vivas.
00:11:19,910 --> 00:11:26,990
It's not a requirement, typically, unless there's something like, you know, one of the examiners has not examined at the level of the award before.
00:11:26,990 --> 00:11:31,800
It might require a non-examiningchair to be present just to oversee, oversee proceedings.
00:11:31,800 --> 00:11:35,480
As I say, their role is just to make sure that the regulations are followed really,
00:11:35,480 --> 00:11:41,140
and that the candidate has a fair crack, the whip to defend their thesis, as we say.
00:11:41,140 --> 00:11:42,800
And obviously the first step, I imagine,
00:11:42,800 --> 00:11:50,870
is defending the thesis comes in the form of the examiners producing these reports on what you as a candidate have written.
00:11:50,870 --> 00:11:54,920
Could you say a bit more about what goes into these reports at all?
00:11:54,920 --> 00:12:02,540
Yes. So that the preliminary reports are written independently by the each individual examiner.
00:12:02,540 --> 00:12:12,080
And they will give an abridged version of their overall comments that they've already written up in note form or in longhand.
00:12:12,080 --> 00:12:15,470
You know, they would just give a sort of a sense of where they of
00:12:15,470 --> 00:12:19,550
what they feel the likely outcome will be on the basis of the thesis that they've read.
00:12:19,550 --> 00:12:30,980
They will give a tentative recommendation at the end. I think this is I think this is worthy of the award of PhD
00:12:30,980 --> 00:12:35,390
It's subject to perhaps some revisions in the areas that I've outlined above.
00:12:35,390 --> 00:12:41,540
That's the kind of the way that that report typically. And and then then then examiners share those reports with each other.
00:12:41,540 --> 00:12:47,570
Usually the day before the exam, just so they're aware of the gist of what each other's feelings are.
00:12:47,570 --> 00:12:55,490
It's useful to have that for context. And then but you wouldn't modify those reports at that stage, even if you identified differences in your view.
00:12:55,490 --> 00:12:58,700
So that's that's quite normal.
00:12:58,700 --> 00:13:08,450
But then on that, you know, after the after the viva has taken place, the examiners would then get together virtually.
00:13:08,450 --> 00:13:14,990
In the current circumstances or physically, they would get together a room and they would draw up a report,
00:13:14,990 --> 00:13:18,710
a joint report where they make their recommendation.
00:13:18,710 --> 00:13:26,360
This should be awarded, you know, subject to revisions or whatever the recommendation is, though, they'll state, what their recommendation is.
00:13:26,360 --> 00:13:32,380
And then if there are revisions required, they'll list them. That's that's the function of the final report.
00:13:32,380 --> 00:13:40,580
The period, of course, when the examiners are doing this before the viva itself starts is one of high tension for the student candidate.
00:13:40,580 --> 00:13:53,140
I remember it myself, very well, what advice do you tend to give to PGR is going into the viva about nerves and how to handle them?
00:13:53,140 --> 00:13:54,800
I think I think the first thing to say is, you know,
00:13:54,800 --> 00:14:00,030
try not to be nervous because you know more about this thing than anyone else does almost certainly.
00:14:00,030 --> 00:14:06,570
And that the primary function of the examiners is just to make sure to verify that you indeed wrote this thing yourself.
00:14:06,570 --> 00:14:10,850
You know, this is an independent, independent piece of research. And you are the author. That's their primary function.
00:14:10,850 --> 00:14:14,330
So, you know, of course, that is almost invariably going to be the case.
00:14:14,330 --> 00:14:20,180
So, you know, you should go into this feeling that you're in control.
00:14:20,180 --> 00:14:24,600
You know, to us to a greater or lesser extent, that you know more about this than anyone else.
00:14:24,600 --> 00:14:31,760
So you shouldn't. Although it's almost impossible. Not to become anxious ahead of a major life event like this.
00:14:31,760 --> 00:14:35,850
The examiners are going to want you to do well. And I think it's important that, you know,
00:14:35,850 --> 00:14:42,970
that the candidates recognise that good examiners will set you at ease when you walk into the room just by
00:14:42,970 --> 00:14:51,210
asking you some rather banal questions about what you've been up to since you submitted the thing or you know,
00:14:51,210 --> 00:15:00,190
that just conversation starts ready to break the ice. They might even give you a sense of the likely outcome before that final proper begins.
00:15:00,190 --> 00:15:04,110
So everybody wants you to do well.
00:15:04,110 --> 00:15:11,290
And in an ideal world, you will be put at ease relatively quickly after the thing starts.
00:15:11,290 --> 00:15:18,520
And that's something that's come up a lot, actually, in the discussions I've had with examiners and DPGRs across across colleges that
00:15:18,520 --> 00:15:24,130
examiners will often give an indication early on over the way the wind is blowing.
00:15:24,130 --> 00:15:24,430
00:15:24,430 --> 00:15:32,020
that might not always be the case and you might not get this sort of early indication of whether you're going to pass with major corrections,
00:15:32,020 --> 00:15:35,440
minor corrections, no corrections or so on if you don't get that.
00:15:35,440 --> 00:15:39,470
Is that necessarily a bad thing from the outset of either place?
00:15:39,470 --> 00:15:47,500
So it's sometimes quite difficult to give a precise indication because it may not be cut and dry whether they will want you to make revisions or not.
00:15:47,500 --> 00:15:54,520
You know, some of the some of the items that they've, some of the things they've itemised in the provisional list of corrections that
00:15:54,520 --> 00:15:58,750
they they want to discuss with you will end up just being put to one side,
00:15:58,750 --> 00:16:03,550
having had a discussion. It's the misunderstandings cleared up and it doesn't actually require revision.
00:16:03,550 --> 00:16:13,150
So I think I wouldn't be at all concerned if you're not given an indication of the likely outcome is is quite often
00:16:13,150 --> 00:16:20,680
difficult to be definitive before you've actually heard the candidate speak and wants to do the questions in.
00:16:20,680 --> 00:16:27,820
So once we're into the meat of the viva, if you like, past the initial introductions, those those early questions.
00:16:27,820 --> 00:16:34,270
Is there anything that you as an examiner like to see that gives you confidence in the
00:16:34,270 --> 00:16:38,380
candidate that you examine in confidence that the candidate knows what they're doing,
00:16:38,380 --> 00:16:42,400
knows what they're talking about? I mean, you're you know, you're an examiner.
00:16:42,400 --> 00:16:47,050
You're looking for a thesis, a thesis that's well, well presented and has been proofs
00:16:47,050 --> 00:16:49,210
00:16:49,210 --> 00:16:59,230
It makes the task of examining so much more enjoyable if you feel that the candidate has taken care over the presentation and then the proofreading,
00:16:59,230 --> 00:17:01,660
you know, there's really no excuse for it to be littered with typos.
00:17:01,660 --> 00:17:08,470
And it sets the tone in the wrong direction from the outset because you're creating a
00:17:08,470 --> 00:17:13,660
great deal more work for the examiners if you haven't had time or bothered to do that,
00:17:13,660 --> 00:17:20,800
work yourself. You know, similarly, you want to see a good you want to be easy to navigate.
00:17:20,800 --> 00:17:28,350
So you want see a good context content section so you can find all the different bits easily and cross-reference things when you need to.
00:17:28,350 --> 00:17:33,940
You're to make sure that the literature is appropriately cited. We've touched on that already.
00:17:33,940 --> 00:17:40,450
And the other thing I suppose to say here is I think it's important to make sure
00:17:40,450 --> 00:17:44,950
that you deal with all all the revisions that you're given at the end of it.
00:17:44,950 --> 00:17:49,360
You know that the final report that you receive at the end of viva will
00:17:49,360 --> 00:17:54,760
potentially have a list of things that the examiners want you to correct or amend.
00:17:54,760 --> 00:17:59,590
And, you know, occasionally candidates don't agree with all of those things.
00:17:59,590 --> 00:18:03,080
And and they might then choose to sort of argue the point.
00:18:03,080 --> 00:18:11,890
And I would strongly advise against that, because it doesn't it just doesn't end well for the candidate, because it just draws out the process.
00:18:11,890 --> 00:18:19,410
And basically the examiners are highly unlikely to. To back down on an amendment that they've asked for.
00:18:19,410 --> 00:18:28,890
So that's a really interesting point, Just to check are you referring specifically to amendments that are proposed post Viva or to the kind of
00:18:28,890 --> 00:18:35,280
discussions that you'd have in the propositions made by the examiners during the viva itself?
00:18:35,280 --> 00:18:36,180
00:18:36,180 --> 00:18:44,220
During the discussion, I mean, it's absolutely fine to sort of argue, argue the point and perhaps not argue, but of robust discussion about something.
00:18:44,220 --> 00:18:50,160
If if the examiners ask you to change the way some piece of statistical analysis is done or something and you don't agree,
00:18:50,160 --> 00:18:56,260
then it's absolutely your prerogative to figure out why you feel that they're wrong and they may well be wrong.
00:18:56,260 --> 00:19:00,000
I mean, that could be an example of a potential amendment that they then just scrub
00:19:00,000 --> 00:19:03,810
out off the list because they realise that they misunderstood or something.
00:19:03,810 --> 00:19:10,800
But at the end of the process, if there are amendments or corrections requested, it will come in the form of a list.
00:19:10,800 --> 00:19:15,810
And, you know, you've basically just got to do what you've been asked to do at that stage.
00:19:15,810 --> 00:19:21,480
There's no point arguing candidates occasionally will feel that they want to do that.
00:19:21,480 --> 00:19:26,790
But it's a pointless exercise would be my advice.
00:19:26,790 --> 00:19:29,010
Yeah. Thanks for clarifying that.
00:19:29,010 --> 00:19:38,620
Actually, I think that resonates with a lot of what people have heard in HASS subjects as well about the need to engage in this robust discussion,
00:19:38,620 --> 00:19:44,700
during the viva itsel on that topic, actually, of a sort of robust discussion.
00:19:44,700 --> 00:19:52,130
How do you tend to encourage candidates to reach that stage?
00:19:52,130 --> 00:19:59,060
Well, one thing that I've heard before from a lot of people is the value of not getting too defensive in the viva
00:19:59,060 --> 00:20:08,130
Yes. I think, you know, you got a break. You got to recognise that. You know, exams will vary and some examiners are just human beings,
00:20:08,130 --> 00:20:14,810
right so they will have different demeanours and ways of approaching things and different manners of asking questions.
00:20:14,810 --> 00:20:21,930
But as a candidate, whatever you're presented with, you've just got to stay cool and listen to the question carefully.
00:20:21,930 --> 00:20:26,190
And, you know, above all, don't don't don't argue.
00:20:26,190 --> 00:20:32,580
Just take your time. Listen to it. Ask. Ask for a clarification if you don't understand the question properly.
00:20:32,580 --> 00:20:37,200
Once you do understand what they're getting out, you know, whatever it is.
00:20:37,200 --> 00:20:47,100
Just give a calm answer. This is the best advice really is absolutely no point folding your arms and arguing.
00:20:47,100 --> 00:20:51,930
So when you say don't argue. It sounds like a kind of demeanour thing.
00:20:51,930 --> 00:20:55,890
Almost. Don't don't snap back. Just keep your cool. If that makes sense.
00:20:55,890 --> 00:21:03,000
Very often in in STEM subject areas that, you know, there will be multiple ways of doing something.
00:21:03,000 --> 00:21:07,770
And the examiners may have their own particular preference of how something should be done.
00:21:07,770 --> 00:21:09,870
And they may say to you, I think you should do it like this.
00:21:09,870 --> 00:21:20,280
And it say it's absolutely fine to try to reason with the examiner why you feel the way you've done it is it is an alternative or adequate approach to.
00:21:20,280 --> 00:21:25,500
And, you know, a good examiner, a good board of examiners would accept that they'd listen to and accept that.
00:21:25,500 --> 00:21:28,860
And actually, that will sort of bolster their confidence that you are in command of this.
00:21:28,860 --> 00:21:32,940
And as I said, it is your PhD. And you know more about this to anyone else.
00:21:32,940 --> 00:21:37,950
And in many cases, examiners will simply say, that's absolutely fine.
00:21:37,950 --> 00:21:44,400
And drop the point. You will occasionally get situations where examiner is absolutely adamant that they want something done in a particular way.
00:21:44,400 --> 00:21:51,990
And you very strongly disagree. And that's the sort of bit where the internal examiners role really comes to the fore there,
00:21:51,990 --> 00:21:59,370
because they ought to be experienced enough to, you know, recognise a point when, you know, we've exhausted this.
00:21:59,370 --> 00:22:05,130
Now let's move on. And they will potentially intervene and say, I think we think we've covered this now.
00:22:05,130 --> 00:22:06,120
We'll move on at the end.
00:22:06,120 --> 00:22:12,660
And then, you know, yet when you see the report, the and you'll find out what the decision has been as to what they want you to do.
00:22:12,660 --> 00:22:19,830
But that's the point at which you there's no point arguing, just jumping back slightly, if that's okay.
00:22:19,830 --> 00:22:25,350
One thing that you mentioned earlier was the importance of signposting and there being a clear structure throughout the thesis.
00:22:25,350 --> 00:22:32,820
And another thing that came out of our discussion before I hit the big red record button was this notion of the results chapter,
00:22:32,820 --> 00:22:42,240
which sounds in some ways that's quite a specific STEM thing for listeners who are a maybe HASS subjects.
00:22:42,240 --> 00:22:50,790
Would you be able to say a little bit more about what you mean by that and how that might apply more generally, this notion of results chapter?
00:22:50,790 --> 00:22:57,060
So the typical structure of a PhDthesis in STEM would be an introductory chapter,
00:22:57,060 --> 00:23:04,230
which might be a sort of a literature review type chapter that sets the research questions in the context of the existing
00:23:04,230 --> 00:23:11,550
literature and identifies the gaps in knowledge that you're going to address that may or may not be publishable units,
00:23:11,550 --> 00:23:17,910
if you like, in its own right. It might end up being a review article in in in in the STEM literature,
00:23:17,910 --> 00:23:25,230
or it might just serve the purpose of being part of the thesis that sort of bookends the results chapters which are in the middle.
00:23:25,230 --> 00:23:32,370
So after your introductory general introduction, you would typically then have a series of, you know, what we call results chapters.
00:23:32,370 --> 00:23:38,730
So each of those will have its own introduction methods, results, discussion, reference list and so on.
00:23:38,730 --> 00:23:49,740
They may or may not have been submitted for publication, as you know, individual publishable units at the point by which you have the viva.
00:23:49,740 --> 00:23:51,060
If they have been published,
00:23:51,060 --> 00:23:57,630
it's very often the case that you'll just have an interesting chat about the contents of it and what we found out about it.
00:23:57,630 --> 00:24:02,100
You know, what was the main question? How did you address it? What were the main findings?
00:24:02,100 --> 00:24:07,380
How does this change the way we view the world? You know, but they won't nit pick about details.
00:24:07,380 --> 00:24:11,820
And why did you do your analysis in this way? Did you think about doing in a different way?
00:24:11,820 --> 00:24:16,460
Because it's already been subject to peer review and and it's published.
00:24:16,460 --> 00:24:22,470
You know, what's the point of changing a part of a thesis that's already in the public domain as a published article?
00:24:22,470 --> 00:24:27,900
So most examiners won't ask you to revise published chapters.
00:24:27,900 --> 00:24:31,620
It can happen, but it's it's relatively unusual.
00:24:31,620 --> 00:24:37,180
They're more likely to spend more time talking about the aspects of the thesis which are potentially publishable,
00:24:37,180 --> 00:24:41,460
i.e., the results chapters which have not yet been submitted for peer review.
00:24:41,460 --> 00:24:46,690
So they'll be doing the job of external peer review is at that stage.
00:24:46,690 --> 00:24:54,540
And actually, that conversation that happens in the Viva is really, really helpful for you for when you come to write those papers up for publication,
00:24:54,540 --> 00:25:00,480
submit them, because hopefully with all of that expert opinion you've already had about this piece of work,
00:25:00,480 --> 00:25:02,920
you'll have covered many of the issues that the.
00:25:02,920 --> 00:25:11,110
The reviewers might might have picked up and how helpful is it, at least in in STEM specifically to compartmentalise in this way?
00:25:11,110 --> 00:25:17,610
I mean, I'm assuming most reviewers will take it in a relatively chapter by chapter like fashion.
00:25:17,610 --> 00:25:23,100
They will actually, in this subject it's actually the most common format for these conversations will be to let's start with
00:25:23,100 --> 00:25:30,060
chapter one and then two and three and so on you can you can approach this and examine other ways entirely up to you,
00:25:30,060 --> 00:25:35,940
how you approach it. But with the agreement of all the examiners, you could go it in a very much wider way.
00:25:35,940 --> 00:25:40,050
And just and just start with the really broad questions about, you know, what have we learnt?
00:25:40,050 --> 00:25:46,530
How does this how does this how does the findings of your thesis change the way we think about the original questions you set out?
00:25:46,530 --> 00:25:53,400
And then just sort of pick up on individual bits of it as you as you sort of navigate through that conversation.
00:25:53,400 --> 00:25:59,970
And that might be the more appropriate way to do it. If, for example, as exceptionally to be fair, but if, for example,
00:25:59,970 --> 00:26:07,110
the candidate had already published all of their results, chapters in the peer reviewed scientific literature,
00:26:07,110 --> 00:26:15,930
then it might be appropriate to have a slightly different style of conversation in the viva, where you just go at it from a much broader perspective.
00:26:15,930 --> 00:26:20,010
I was going to ask actually on that subjects, would you recommend, therefore,
00:26:20,010 --> 00:26:30,180
at least in STEMM subject that candidates try and sort of publish as much as possible prior to their PhD just to give themselves that insurance?
00:26:30,180 --> 00:26:34,610
I wouldn't say recommend because it's so project specific. You know, some it's some projects.
00:26:34,610 --> 00:26:38,760
The results only come towards the end. It's just a necessary part of it.
00:26:38,760 --> 00:26:44,460
You know, if you're working on a longitudinal study of a mammal in the wild or something,
00:26:44,460 --> 00:26:49,920
you might only get all of your data in the final year and so on. So it's almost impossible to publish as you go.
00:26:49,920 --> 00:26:56,160
But, you know, in in this subject area, we are we're all obsessed, if you like,
00:26:56,160 --> 00:27:01,590
in our careers are judged on the numbers and quality of the publications that we produce.
00:27:01,590 --> 00:27:09,420
And so, you know, all all supervisors will be encouraging you to look for opportunities to publish as you go.
00:27:09,420 --> 00:27:14,510
Based on that, then, would publication make you untouchable in a viva on a given chapter,
00:27:14,510 --> 00:27:18,540
or is that, as I suspect, something of an oversimplification?
00:27:18,540 --> 00:27:25,290
It's an oversimplification, but, you know, the role of the examiners is to make sure you have been examined.
00:27:25,290 --> 00:27:31,350
You know, it'd be remiss of them just to have a laid back conversation if you just because you've published everything,
00:27:31,350 --> 00:27:37,710
they would be looking to test you on your thoughts about what are the most significant parts of what you've found.
00:27:37,710 --> 00:27:42,990
And, you know, why should we care about what you've found and how could this apply to fields, you know,
00:27:42,990 --> 00:27:48,240
outside of your immediate gaze and subject area and so on, mean they will as experienced academics,
00:27:48,240 --> 00:27:51,360
they will want to make you feel like you've had an exam,
00:27:51,360 --> 00:28:02,510
although a constructive and enjoyable conversation that just for the final part of our conversation, I was wondering if we could look at little bit more.
00:28:02,510 --> 00:28:07,950
Are some of the outcomes. We've briefly touched on these already.
00:28:07,950 --> 00:28:10,230
But just to begin with the basic points.
00:28:10,230 --> 00:28:17,910
Am I right in thinking that the standard outcomes od pass with no corrections, with minor corrections, major corrections,
00:28:17,910 --> 00:28:27,370
that sort of range of outcomes and of course, other ones alongside that are broadly consistent in STEM subjects as well as in HASS?
00:28:27,370 --> 00:28:29,100
The potential outcomes are the same.
00:28:29,100 --> 00:28:36,150
And at the end of the viva of the examiners will send you out of the room, you know, physically or figuratively speaking,
00:28:36,150 --> 00:28:40,770
if it was a virtual viva and they'll have a conversation about what their recommendations are going to be,
00:28:40,770 --> 00:28:44,700
then they'll call you back in and they'll tell you verbally what the recommendation is.
00:28:44,700 --> 00:28:50,700
Of course, if it's no corrections, it's just a case of, you know, slapping each other on the back and wishing you well.
00:28:50,700 --> 00:28:54,960
If it's if the recommendation is for major or minor corrections,
00:28:54,960 --> 00:29:02,400
then they'll explain to you why they feel that's justified and what you're required to do for the award.
00:29:02,400 --> 00:29:09,020
And then you will be sent the written up report once they've conferred and actually got it down in writing.
00:29:09,020 --> 00:29:17,100
You will be sent that within a few days usually, and you'll be given a period of time in which you need to turn it around and resubmit it.
00:29:17,100 --> 00:29:21,300
And then once the revisions are received back at the university administrative hub,
00:29:21,300 --> 00:29:29,900
they will be sent to the internal examiners whose role is just to go through and check that you've done all that you were asked to do.
00:29:29,900 --> 00:29:35,160
And if there's any uncertainty in their mind about that, they will confer with the external examiner.
00:29:35,160 --> 00:29:39,600
But in most cases, the external examiner isn't consulted at that point.
00:29:39,600 --> 00:29:47,970
And it the case in sciences as it is in, has subjects that you're not allowed to contact your examiners for further feedback.
00:29:47,970 --> 00:29:54,060
No, it's really important you don't contact the examiners. It compromises their position.
00:29:54,060 --> 00:29:57,420
They won't welcome the approach and it and it contravenes our rules.
00:29:57,420 --> 00:30:04,310
And regs so potentially would render the examination invalid and you'd have to do it again.
00:30:04,310 --> 00:30:10,170
There is that the option of going through your supervisor. But that can only happen once.
00:30:10,170 --> 00:30:15,090
As I understand it. Yeah. I don't know about the frequency, whether it once or whatever.
00:30:15,090 --> 00:30:22,270
It's some it. It's not generally considered to be a good idea for any one to confer with the examiners would be my advice.
00:30:22,270 --> 00:30:27,520
You can go back to the internal examiner would be that the supervisor could approach the
00:30:27,520 --> 00:30:32,880
internal examiner and ask for clarification about the wording of something that would be okay.
00:30:32,880 --> 00:30:39,490
Yeah. I think that would be fine once. And what is the distribution curve, if that's the right term?
00:30:39,490 --> 00:30:46,330
Look like what percentage of candidates will get no minor major correction.
00:30:46,330 --> 00:30:52,870
So in our college, minor corrections is the most common outcome.
00:30:52,870 --> 00:31:00,160
Something like 80 percent of submitted theses will get minor corrections, no corrections,
00:31:00,160 --> 00:31:12,070
about 10 percent major corrections or other potential outcomes like a fail or award of a lower degree and MPhil or that sort of thing.
00:31:12,070 --> 00:31:20,760
That would be, you know, in the single figures. And how do people tend to react to all of the different outcomes that they might achieve?
00:31:20,760 --> 00:31:25,410
I went into my viva I remember hoping for minor corrections.
00:31:25,410 --> 00:31:28,930
Is that sort of the attitude to take, would you say? I think so.
00:31:28,930 --> 00:31:32,410
I mean, if you if you've prepared the thesis, you know,
00:31:32,410 --> 00:31:38,170
if you've if you've had it read by your supervisors and you've gone through rounds of revision and so on, us,
00:31:38,170 --> 00:31:43,570
as should be the case, then everyone should feel reasonably confident that the point that which is submitted,
00:31:43,570 --> 00:31:47,480
that this is going to get a pass with no no major difficulties.
00:31:47,480 --> 00:31:53,830
That's why major corrections or a fail or award of a lower degree is that is a relatively rare outcome.
00:31:53,830 --> 00:32:00,060
Yes. Can I ask first what constitutes minor corrections as opposed to say no corrections?
00:32:00,060 --> 00:32:08,320
Yeah. So minor corrections is typically could just be a list of typos, you know, or very minor things.
00:32:08,320 --> 00:32:13,240
Like I think you should reference this additional area of literature, which you haven't mentioned.
00:32:13,240 --> 00:32:21,610
If that list of very minor issues becomes increasingly very long and pervasive throughout the thesis,
00:32:21,610 --> 00:32:28,300
then potentially that could in itself swing it towards major corrections because it would require longer than,
00:32:28,300 --> 00:32:34,750
you know, just two months to fix sort of thing. It's it's a wholesale rewriting that could potentially constitute major corrections.
00:32:34,750 --> 00:32:42,370
The more common justification for the requests of major corrections is if there are aspects of the analysis,
00:32:42,370 --> 00:32:48,420
i.e. the data analysis in STEM that require doing again.
00:32:48,420 --> 00:32:53,740
And that could potentially also the interpretation, because the results are not known,
00:32:53,740 --> 00:33:01,060
because the analysis hasn't been revised and might not require more data gathering.
00:33:01,060 --> 00:33:06,360
Or would it be a question for major corrections of reinterpreting the data they already have?
00:33:06,360 --> 00:33:12,670
If it required more data to be collected, that would almost invariably constitute a recommendation of major corrections.
00:33:12,670 --> 00:33:14,980
Because you can't predict what the outcome of that would be.
00:33:14,980 --> 00:33:21,670
That would in fact probably be the sort of thesis that might be failed and would be, you know,
00:33:21,670 --> 00:33:25,880
you're asking a student to do more work, substantially more work and then try again.
00:33:25,880 --> 00:33:30,610
That that would that would be major corrections. But it's typically it's typically, you know,
00:33:30,610 --> 00:33:35,890
examiners might not like the way that the statistical modelling has been done and they feel there's
00:33:35,890 --> 00:33:41,260
a reasonable chance that it could render a result that you think is statistically significant,
00:33:41,260 --> 00:33:46,840
being non significant, or it could be that they think there's more to this story,
00:33:46,840 --> 00:33:50,530
that your analysis hasn't done it justice and, you know, you should do it in a different way.
00:33:50,530 --> 00:33:57,010
And that, almost by definition, is is going to result in a recommendation of major corrections.
00:33:57,010 --> 00:34:02,350
Presumably, the simple fact of there being more can be done in a given area would not be enough to constitute corrections, though.
00:34:02,350 --> 00:34:06,410
It's more to do with your individual project. Yes.
00:34:06,410 --> 00:34:14,770
And will more to be done to properly interpret the outcomes of the results that you've posed and the results from your studies?
00:34:14,770 --> 00:34:19,210
This has nothing to do with the fact that you may not have covered all the different things you might have done.
00:34:19,210 --> 00:34:23,110
That's not their role, but that's not their role to assess.
00:34:23,110 --> 00:34:29,740
And how the candidates usually respond if they come out and provide them with major corrections as opposed to, say, minor corrections.
00:34:29,740 --> 00:34:36,640
It's usually apparent by the end of the discussion that, you know, if if a thesis is going to get a recommendation of major corrections,
00:34:36,640 --> 00:34:41,140
I think the candidate would come out of the viva pretty much expecting that outcome.
00:34:41,140 --> 00:34:47,680
It wouldn't typically be a surprise. They'd be told at the end. You know, we're recommending major corrections for the following reasons.
00:34:47,680 --> 00:34:55,450
But I think because of that, the nature of the conversation that they've had for the last whatever is two and a half to four hours,
00:34:55,450 --> 00:35:02,380
then they would they would have a rough idea of what way the wind is blowing by the end of it.
00:35:02,380 --> 00:35:07,340
How do people tend to respond to that? Is it sort of disappointment, acceptance somewhere in between?
00:35:07,340 --> 00:35:14,260
Well, I think in acceptance. I mean, most of us, you know, we some people some people will submit a thesis where they know there are issues,
00:35:14,260 --> 00:35:20,890
you know, they expect there to be conversation about one ot Two aspects of that already have an inkling that they're going to be asked to do revisions.
00:35:20,890 --> 00:35:23,260
It's just a question of how much they're asked to do.
00:35:23,260 --> 00:35:29,980
And I don't think it's it's not usually a surprise some people will hand in a thesis in a wishing
00:35:29,980 --> 00:35:36,340
they'd had an additional two weeks to polish all the little bits which that could otherwise have done.
00:35:36,340 --> 00:35:38,300
And so they'll be expecting some revisions.
00:35:38,300 --> 00:35:45,170
But it's just down to the judgement of the examiners really to decide whether it's whether they want revisions and whether it's major or minor.
00:35:45,170 --> 00:35:47,020
There are a couple of other points I'd make.
00:35:47,020 --> 00:35:56,290
One is that, you know, if it were a recommendation of no corrections doesn't mean that the thesis is absolutely polished and there are no typos in it.
00:35:56,290 --> 00:36:02,530
It it's it's at the discretion of the examiners to make a recommendation of no corrections if they feel that it's.
00:36:02,530 --> 00:36:06,010
I mean, clearly, it's you know, it's really top notch work.
00:36:06,010 --> 00:36:14,260
They just they don't want to burden you with going through and fixing the fact that you you've missed a Full Stop on page 116.
00:36:14,260 --> 00:36:19,270
You know, that that's that's the sort of thing the recommendation. No correction doesn't mean there's absolutely nothing wrong.
00:36:19,270 --> 00:36:24,850
It just means they've taken the view that you've done far away enough for the award.
00:36:24,850 --> 00:36:31,540
So just to conclude, could I ask what your advice would be to somebody who comes out of viva specifically with major corrections,
00:36:31,540 --> 00:36:36,400
whether they expected it or otherwise? Well, you know,
00:36:36,400 --> 00:36:41,020
take a minute to digest what's being asked of you and the scale of the task of what you need to do and
00:36:41,020 --> 00:36:46,420
then confer with your supervisory team and come up with a plan about how you're going to tackle this.
00:36:46,420 --> 00:36:55,060
And the timeline of when you're going to achieve this and so on. I think it's worth the risk worth reflecting on the fact that a recommendation
00:36:55,060 --> 00:36:59,560
of major corrections or minor corrections or whatever the recommendation is,
00:36:59,560 --> 00:37:03,550
it is down to the examiners in their judgement to come up with this view.
00:37:03,550 --> 00:37:09,220
But but that decision is also checked by two other senior experienced academics.
00:37:09,220 --> 00:37:12,370
It's checked by the college director of postgraduate research.
00:37:12,370 --> 00:37:23,420
So every single examiners recommendation that gets submitted back to the PGR administrative team then gets referred to the college director of PGR.
00:37:23,420 --> 00:37:32,590
So me in CLES and I go through and I'm specifically looking to see whether I feel the list of recommendations that they've come up with.
00:37:32,590 --> 00:37:39,250
Sorry, the list, the list of revisions or amendments that the examiners are requesting justifies the
00:37:39,250 --> 00:37:44,560
recommendation that I'm looking for correspondence between the recommendation of major minor,
00:37:44,560 --> 00:37:48,960
no corrections and so on. And the revisions are being asked for.
00:37:48,960 --> 00:37:55,240
And I and I will sometimes challenge the examiners on that and occasionally I'll overturn it.
00:37:55,240 --> 00:38:04,460
But it's usually it's usually the case that I agree with the recommendation after the college director of PGR is checked,
00:38:04,460 --> 00:38:08,320
that it then gets referred to the dean of the doctoral college as well.
00:38:08,320 --> 00:38:18,460
So to two other people have checked this. And so it should be a sort of a robust recommendation.
00:38:18,460 --> 00:38:23,710
Thank you very much to Jon Blount there for taking the time to discuss these questions with me.
00:38:23,710 --> 00:38:33,750
It's certainly been really interesting for me from a predominately humanities perspective to get a STEM view on these questions of the viva,
00:38:33,750 --> 00:38:38,590
and that would nevertheless hopefully be useful for people from all manner of backgrounds.
00:38:38,590 --> 00:38:43,060
I hope it is a useful topic to discuss.
00:38:43,060 --> 00:38:45,540
If you're preparing for your own viva yourself.
00:38:45,540 --> 00:38:53,290
And I also hope that this interview that we had has done double duty effectively as an episode of R, D and in betweens
00:38:53,290 --> 00:38:59,790
Thank you very much to Jon again and thanks for joining me.
00:38:59,790 --> 00:39:04,620
And that's it for this episode. Forget to like, rate and subscribe.
00:39:04,620 --> 00:39:31,531
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