So Thursday was the day of iDocQ 2016 at the University of Strathclyde. We spent weeks planning the event and took time to deliberate, make decisions and prepare for how the conference would run on the day. Before the day (and more importantly, on the day), we encouraged delegates to use the hashtag #iDoocQ2016 so that we had a presence on twitter and as you can see form some of the people who tweeted about the event, the day appeared to be a success.
Before I get started I just want to say a big thank you the iDocQ team, everyone who helped out and everyone who participated. I think we all deserve a big well done and I think the day was a success overall. Also a thank you to Bader and Elaine who took pictures on the day for our twitter feed (some of which have been used in this blog post with specific permissions from those involved). Anyway, the day started with the usual coffee and networking whilst student reps and staff sorted out technology. Needless to say this did not go as smoothly as we had hoped but we did only have one mishap during the day which couldn’t really be planned for. Definitely a learning curve on how to prepare for a day of conference delivery!
The event itself started with a small welcome and introduction form our main staff organiser, Diane, who gladly introduced the day and also the student reps involved. She explained the importance of having events like iDocQ so that students can come together, network and make discoveries about each other’s research.
We then moved onto our ice breaker – superhero PhD. Now each student was placed in a group with fellow students and staff, with the requirement that we all worked together. We did just that. Our task was to create a superhero costume that represented what we thought was required form a PhD. However, the costume did have to be named and also encompass some superhero powers that students thought would help in PhD progression. The designs were fantastic and as you can see form the photos on the
iDocQ twitter page, they were very innovative too! Students took a really positive attitude to this task giving superhero’s powers ranging from having integrity, being informed, having an emergency ‘call the supervisor button’ and finally an invisibility cloak so that you can spy on reviewers and decision makers within the PhD (without getting caught). The activity helped students get to know each other and also work together. More importantly (in my opinion), our group did note that each student has to have some form of craziness in them for doing the PhD and that’s what gets them through some the tougher times that they experience. For me, it was nice to work with people who I had never met before as well as people who I had. We were able to construct our ‘superhero-PhD’ in no time and present it to the rest of iDocQ.
We then heard a brilliant keynote form Dr Alison Brettle (Salford University) who is currently Reader in Evidence Based Practice and Acting Director of Post Graduate Research – so we know she has the research expertise as well as research student jazz. Alison was able to speak form her heart when explaining how her career came to where she is today but also speak as a tutor, expert and someone who knows how tough it is just to be a research student in the ever changing world of academia. Alison told us about her journey to the PhD, how it all started with wanting to work in one sector but had problems with meeting the ‘height requirements’ (being short does have its limits – all 5ft 1 inch of me knows that!). She then explained how she got into the tourism sector and worked in France for a while before moving into the library and information sciences area working on various research projects. She gave a lot more detail of her journey and personal experiences which I will leave to her to tell, but she helped us students understand that its often not a liner path we take to get where we are today, but if its where we want to be, we will end up there if we put in the hard work. Alison did her PhD by publication and was able to incorporate this route into her talk, explaining some of the reasons why she chose this over the normal PhD route.
Alison’s talk was entitled ‘Being evidence based: using opportunities to demonstrate outcomes and impact’ and she explored her research on the study of the impact of clinical librarians on patient and healthcare organisations and how the research was carried out. We heard about her work and publications on several projects, where she emphasises the importance of impact of publications and literature on decision within the healthcare
sector organisations such as the NHS. Now as I have worked in the NHS, on a project lead by a clinical librarian, I understood Alison’s points. Form my experience I understood the importance that literature holds on clinical practice and that is the exact point Alisson made. The final discussions were on the development of a value and impact toolkit that Alison has developed with her colleagues. This toolkit was designed to help measure value and impact within healthcare settings as there was no such tool existed previously. You can find much more on the website above.
After a quick coffee stop, we moved straight into delegate presentations. As you can see form my previous blog posts, this time a 20×20 was required. In my opinion each student did fantastically as it does take some work to perfect your work into 20 seconds. We heard about a variety of work from information behaviour of visually impaired people, knowledge flows and the role of social networking in job searches. Personally, I think it was a great range of presenters from different universities and also a diverse range of topics. We were able to experience research from the outsider’s perspective and got the opportunity to prize out some of the most important parts during the question time following each student’s presentation. You can see how well all delegates presented by checking out Hazel Hall’s twitter page. She kindly tweeted all of the day, including lots of information on delegates, presentations and other interesting parts of the day so please to take a look.
|Katherine Loudon||University of Strathclyde||The information behaviours of visually impaired people|
|Lyndsey Jenkins||Edinburgh Napier||Enhancing the capacity for workplace learning and innovation in Scotland|
|University of Edinburgh||Networks and knowledge flows: The Case of Scottish Space Industry|
|Alicja Pawluczuk||Edinburgh Napier University||Youth digital culture co-creation: measuring the social impact in Scotland|
|Elaine Robinson||University of Strathclyde||Panopticism in the UK Public Library|
|John Mowbray||Edinburgh Napier University||The role of networking and social media tools during job search: an information behaviour perspective|
|Iris Buunk||Edinburgh Napier University||Easier, faster, better? How social media facilitate tacit knowledge sharing practices between employees within organisations belonging to the public sector|
|Cathy Foster||University of Strathclyde||Seeking to Succeed: the information behaviour of adolescent learners|
|Liam Ralph||Edinburgh Napier University||An exploration of Police use of social media in Scotland|
|Robert Gordon University||Evaluation of The Embedded Librarian in an NHS Environment|
|Frances Ryan||Edinburgh Napier University||The role of online information in the building, maintenance and evaluation of personal reputation|
Mojeed Adekunle Amidu
|Loughborough University||The Impact of Culture on Information Behaviour: A case study of the Polio Eradication Campaigns in Nigeria|
Each delegate was then judged by a panel of experts (the iDocQ staff team). I am very happy to announce that the winner of best 20×20 presentation was Alicja whose presentation was unique and particularly excellent as she is only two months into her PhD! Other students did get special recognition for their efforts, but in my opinion everyone did their best and managed to present their work brilliantly! For me, I think my presentation went well (ish) but I did speak fast and I was very nervous. The nerves hit just before I was called up and considering that this is my first oral presentation in front of non-Napier staff, I can’t say it was a horrendous performance. You can see a copy of my presentation here, but do remember it is a 20×20 so the pictures do not so the vocabulary justice!
Our afternoon sessions were received just as well. Dr Diane Pennington delivered her session on choosing the right methodologies, exploring factors to consider when looking into and designing methodology. I hear that Dr Frank Hopfgartner’s session on time management was also a success. I overheard some of our students explain that it was interesting and very relevant in terms of techniques that can be used in their own work to help them manage their own time more effectively. Dr Lizzy Tait explored the impacts of research and how to improve it. This is particularly important in terms of the impact agenda but also to ensure your research has effect. Students were able to learn about how important impact is also what they can do to enhance their own research outputs, and I head lots of positive comments from those attending Lizzy’s session afterwards.
Professor Hazel Hall delivered her session on publishing and its benefits. I attended this one as it is really important for the PhD. Publishing helps us to disseminate work, get ourselves known in the research world and helps us to link in and network with other academics and knowledgeable others in the area. It’s also an important factor when it comes to the viva assessment as published work is quite difficult to criticise, especially if it has been published in a journal. We explored the different types of publishing, form conference publications (posters, papers etc) and also journal articles. Hazel explained important journals within the information science area so we know what type of journals to aim for to take publishing to its best. She also encouraged us all to discuss what we had already done in terms of publishing and explored the benefits of this and where it would stand in our final thesis chapters. For me, I probably need this session most. I have a journal published already but it is not massive on impact and it is not in the information science area. I am wanting to get more publications from my PhD eventually as I am now aware of the importance of publishing and a lack of publications can actually hinder the job prospects immediately after the PhD if these are not accomplished.
Our final session of the day was the discussion panel, made up of five academics. In our line-up we had:
The questions were those placed in or ‘anonymous box’ and were posed to our panel of experts. Firstly, we heard discussions on what to do if you feel your research is going in the wrong direction. The advice was not to panic. Talk to your supervisors and talk to others. If it’s going in the wrong direction research area-wise then your supervisors are the first port of call, but if it is other external variables influencing the PhD then other external parties can help. When asked if the panel ad ever felt like giving up, we got a variety of answers. One of our experts said no, she loved her PhD too much and the research was what she loved. Others addressed how to approach the problem if you feel this way, emphasising the point of the student counselling services if the feelings are not normal for you. Quite often students feel like giving up as they encounter problems and they do not know what to do. My own thought of giving up came just before Christmas least year when I was homesick and unwell, but I did get through it. Talk to your supervisors (like I did in the end), friends, colleagues and external professions (I’ve also done that too). Do anything you can to highlight these problems and find help and ways to address them. I am not ashamed to say that I have used the ‘external’ services as I knew I might have a problems that my supervisor could not deal with. I know that these services are important to student wellbeing and I would encourage all students to use these serves if required during the PhD journey, even if it is just to get a quick ‘reality check’ and further understanding. When prompted about ‘imposter syndrome’ our panel even pointed this out, saying that supervisors are not qualified mental health professionals so the role of the student counsellor is key in areas like this (but do still talk to your supervisor too!). I was very lucky during my bachelor’s degree that my supervisor was actually a qualified and practicing cognitive behavioural therapist. He was able to address problems head on and give me strategies when I was struggling which was fab. However, I know this is not the case for all supervisors and I know I just hit lucky with his skills and expertise.
When asked what one thing supervisors would like to see form their supervisors, the answers were unique to every person. One of our panel members used an example when she saw a ‘shift’ in her PhD student from being dependent to becoming an independent researcher and for her that was what she looks for (and all others pretty much agreed to some extent). Other answers included ‘independence’, ‘curiosity’ and being able to manage the expectations from your supervisor. Knowing what is expected form you makes the journey easier and a more conformable one, being open and honest throughout. For every PhD supervisor the answer will be different and I admire those who openly discuss expectations with supervisors as quite often, the topic is missed out.
When a question was asked about blogging, we had to ask our non-panel blogging expert (who was tweeting away at the time). Hazel explained that there are benefits to having a blog, but blogging is not for everyone so do if it fits, and don’t if it does not. For me, being a blogger requires dedication to actually writing a blog post. You need to set guidelines to how many times you will blog each month for example, and also stick to that. You also need to enjoy it as there is no point at all writing for the sake of writing – you will not engage you audience and it will most certainly not engage you. I blog because I enjoy it but also because it helps me to get my thoughts on ‘paper’ and get them out there. I find it quite cathartic if others know I am struggling with research or if I am happy with what I have done so getting my research out there on my blog has an importance to me in my PhD for more reasons than just one. Towards the end of the discussion, Dr Brettle explained more about the systematic literature review that she has talked about in her keynote but explained that this does not suit every PhD. She explained that often, people are unsure whether to use them and sometimes a regular in-depth literature review is more appropriate (depending on the research itself).
The final question was quite explicit: ‘What is the best advice you could give to a student understanding a PhD?’ and in my opinion these answers are what stand out the most.
- You can’t get all of your work done sitting at a computer, take a break and go for a walk to use it as thinking time.
- Make sure you still have a social life – it’s not all about work!
- You’re not trying to conquer the world, you’re working to graduate (as you wold when doing any other type of degree). Remember there is a point.
BUT, the most important advice was not actually form a panel member… it was from the student of a panel member and is something we should all keep in mind:
‘PhD’s are quite hard… but we can do it!’
And I think I’ll end my blog post on that.