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Researcher Development

Researcher Development

Maintaining momentum, productivity and wellbeing

Your wellbeing during your doctoral studies is really important. Not just to the success of your research, but because your wellbeing is always important.

Although, your worth is not measured by your productivity, many of us know that a sense of achievement from a productive day can boost how we are feeling, emotionally and about ourselves. We also know that we can lose momentum with our work when we are feeling down, anxious, tired and over-whelmed.

If you’re looking for a brief procrastination activity, you could read this article about the link between achievement and wellbeing (but with our productivity hat on, we might question your choices!): Bradford, G. (2016) ‘Achievement, wellbeing, and value’, Philosophy Compass, 11, 795-803.

In this e-learning course, we will explore how you can develop positive working habits, to make the most of your valuable time and energy, achieve a healthy balance between different aspects of your life, consider different times in your research that might present different challenges (such as the post-upgrade slump and coming to the end of your project), as well as the emotional impacts of researching sensitive topics. We’ll look at how you can become a self-compassionate researcher, so that throughout your work you feel more like you are thriving than just surviving.

Most people only do a research degree once(!) and so almost everyone doing one is doing so for the first time. Later in this course, we’ll look at creating positive networks around you, but right now it’s important to acknowledge that when you start (and during) your doctoral research there may well be people around you who don’t say the most helpful things. Often this comes from a place of good intentions, but it is still helpful to remember that usually it says a lot more about them, where they’re at, and their own insecurities, than representing a universal reality. And sometimes it’s just not true! Below, we have collected a list of things real people have actually said to real life research students.

Don’t believe them when they tell you…

You can download a transcript of this video.

Although perhaps well-meaning, the people who impart advice like this are generally bringing their own baggage into the conversation. The truth is: there are very few useful shoulds; the Grand Myth is that there is only one way of doing research.

We must also stop to recognise how inherently sexist, classist and ableist some of this rhetoric is. Some of these myths perpetuate deeply unrealistic and unhealthy attitudes to work, which can perpetuate a toxic culture. If we buy into these ideas, we perpetuate this culture, and therefore can all take some responsibility for not letting it continue. This isn’t always easy, especially if it is those in a position of power or authority who are communicating these messages. If that’s the case, you might want to seek support from your pastoral tutor, the Doctoral College, or through a Dignity and Respect Advisor.

It can be helpful to know that postgraduate research can be a stressful time for many people; it might shake up the way you see the world; it might bring you to your knees (and if it does, there is plenty of support out there). But it doesn’t HAVE TO. In this course, we’ll explore different ways of making your work work for you.

As part of the podcast R, D, and the In-Betweens, Researcher Development Manager Kelly Preece is doing a series of interviews of lived experiences of researching in Higher Education. You may find the following episodes interesting:

You can access a captioned version of this audio-file on Panopto, or download the captions transcript as a word document.

Debbie Kinsey

Debbie is an ECR in Medical Sciences. Her PhD is focused on museum programmes for people with dementia and their carers. Debbie has a a strong interest in embedding inclusivity in all aspects of teaching, learning, and research, and in finding creative ways to disseminate research beyond academia. Debbie enjoys eating a lot of cake, watching too much Netflix, and playing dungeons & dragons. You can find her on Twitter @Debbie_Kinsey.

Kate Massey-Chase

Kate Massey-Chase is a Lecturer at Plymouth Marjon, leading a new MA in Arts, Health & Wellbeing. She has over a decade of professional practice as a freelance creative arts practitioner, working in a diverse range of community settings, including prisons, addiction recovery services, mental health services, with young refugees, adults with Parkinson’s, and in schools. Find her on Twitter @KateMasseyChase.

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