PhD Survival Workshop



The best advice I was given is that this is probably the only time in your career where someone will have read your work, shown an interest in it and want to talk about it for hours. It’s all about frame of mind.


This is an extract from PhD student Rachel Marsden’s great write up of the recent Viva Survival workshop held by PGR Studio. For those who missed the workshop, Rachel’s blog post is as good as being there.

My PhD experience, second year in

By Alison Edwards, Faculty of Health

My journey towards commencing a PhD at Birmingham City University was filled with trepidation and questions. Amongst many others I questioned whether would I cope doing a full time job too? What exactly was expected of me? and would I look stupid because my knowledge of research is pretty limited?

I’m not sure that two years in I can answer any of these questions but what I do know is that I have been caught up in the desire to make a difference, no matter how minor.

To have come up with an answer to a question, which adds to the body of current knowledge is no small thing and the journey to that point is in itself both challenging and daunting but at the same time exciting.


Life as a PhD applicant began with the somewhat bewildering concept of choosing what to study. I had some vague ideas around my choice of topic, but what I have learnt through the previous months is that you needn’t stress about it as the vagueness actually isn’t a problem. If anything, it’s an advantage, as the study I am now embarking on bears little resemblance to where I started initially. It’s actually beneficial to be able to toss ideas around with others and be able to adapt.

It’s also proved invaluable to access the knowledge of those around you. Apart from the basics within my master’s degree and various modules, my in-depth knowledge of research was lacking. You soon however, begin to develop your skills in this arena, not least from reading the copious amount of literature already out there. The main driving forces supporting me through this however, have been my supervisors. Without their knowledge and support I wouldn’t have got to the point of registration to undertake the study for real.  Access to an expert and very approachable statistician was also incredibly helpful if not essential and especially important to my chosen methodology.

Balancing work and study

Working a full time job alongside study has been the most difficult aspect. It hasn’t been possible to fully engage with the activities that go along with doctorate study, let’s face it getting even free time to read can occasionally be impossible, and so you can expect to feel a bit isolated and lost at times.  You need to look for alternative routes of support and keep the goal in sight. Having a picture of myself in a borrowed graduation out stuck in my folder just gives me the right kind of reminder why I’m embarking on this adventure.

Next steps

My next steps are into the foggy world of ethical approval. Yet another complex and tangled web of forms and new terminology.  It’s yet another process which scares me, but I know once I’ve got over the hurdle I’ve made the next step towards my ultimate goal and it’s that thought I’m holding onto.

Alison is a senior lecturer in midwifery. For more information about research in the Faculty of Health visit their dedicated research website

If you’re a research student and would like to share your experiences with our research community, email Karen Patel

Research round up – 11 September

A lot has been happening in Research world at BCU, and there is more to come…keep an eye out for an announcement next week on @myBCUResearch.

In the meantime, here is the latest research news:

UK Peatland Code Launched

Congratulations to Mark Reed of BSBE, whose UK Peatland Code was launched yesterday by the Environment Minister Richard Benyon. The Code will set out guidelines for businesses investing in Britain’s peatlands, and is a culmination of many years of work by Mark. He has described his personal research journey in his latest blog post – from the conception of the idea right through to the end. It’s well worth a read.


Twerking’ etc failing to represent British Black women

A study by Criminology lecturer and researcher Dionne Taylor has found that the overly sexualised representation of women in pop culture (for example, Miley Cyrus’s ‘Twerking’, amongst others) can have a negative impact on the self esteem of young British Black women. The study was featured on the BCU website earlier this week in case you missed it.


A Bilingual Thesaurus of English and Anglo-French

Richard Ingham of the School of English has begun work on a new project to research the bilingual lexicon of pre-modern England.

The work will focus on linguistic culture in Britain in the later medieval period. More information here.



More posts have been added to the Birmingham School of the Built Environment blog, including an interesting piece by Anthony Taft about ‘active design’ in the USA, which involves designing buildings to encourage more walking.


From Around the Web

A useful series called ‘How to be a Hackademic’ by PhD2Published is crammed with tips on productivity for early career researchers.

The Guardian also published 10 tips on writing for an academic journal.