Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to get your PhD and avoid the PhD struggle

My supervisor Deveril who has been behind me helping me to shape a new understanding of videojournalism and news has written a post about how to get a PhD. I thought I would share it with you. You can read my response below.

Dr Deveril

Getting the thesis supervision right – avoiding PhD struggle

It is a sad ‘fact’, based on what I’ve seen over the years, that many PhD researchers are not receiving the kind of supervision they need. Writing a thesis is only part of a wider set of processes of research, but it is one that needs to be handled carefully so as to ensure the researcher doesn’t crack under the strain.
From being misdirected to being neglected by a supervisor, a researcher can be wrongly led by their most important ally in the PhD struggle — but why is it often characterised as a ‘struggle’? It doesn’t have to be. It can be treated as any other long term project and be planned and managed and made enjoyable. It will still present challenges to most — as it should — but fun intellectual challenges rather than those born out of frustration and hopelessness.
I think I have helped a number of PhD researchers to realise their thesis through simple steps such as ‘milestoning’ their writing, critical debates around ideas, engaging with their ideas and helping them to focus their research question. Additionally, I enjoy close-reading, and teasing out issues in the writing process that create blocks.
From fixing grammar to expanding on pertinent ideas, the role of a supervisor and reviewer of the writing should be that of a constant guide — from beginning to end of the research and writing. And often it is early on that the problems develop, only to become large-scale obstacles later on.
I advise the laying of firm foundations — or if further on in the process, the stripping back and re-laying of the foundations to the process. Identifying the issues and fixing them so that the researcher can realise their potential can occur at any stage, but fostering good habits and following best practice is important, the sooner the better.
Working with media, cross-disciplinary artists
I have worked with researchers in the media, cross-disciplinary artists, performance experts, and designers. Each one is different. Each has different needs. I treat each person individually, and talk with them as much as possible about their requirements, their difficulties and their preferences.
I like to become as engaged in the work as possible, and act as a close observer of their activities. Recent Internet tools such as Google Drive are great for allowing a concerted effort and on-the-spot commenting and fixing of minor errors — thereby saving, potentially on hours of tedium later on.
A thesis is a researcher’s own work, but it often comes out of a collaborative or group process; it depends on the support networks built around it; the communities the researcher is part of. Having someone who is with you each step of the way, or someone who can engage with you at crucial times, is often a missing part of the process.
Please contact me:
@DrDeveril If you feel that I might be of some help, contact me. Each case is considered according to a number of criteria, and discussions would need to be had before any work was carried out. Of course, I can make no guarantees of PhD success, but I can help with certain things like getting your writing back on track, tidying up arguments and structure, and scheduling your writing.