Welcome to this lightning guide to the benefits of blogging at De Montfort University’s Research Conference for Doctoral and Early Career Researchers entitled: Your Research Journey: The challenges of writing. I have a blog that I update when I can. Often it is as a result of doing literature reviews or writing articles and experiences as I pursue my PhD. There is also other stuff on there I like to share – family history, travel and random ideas to get off my chest. As I only have ten minutes I just want to give you some key points about blogging that will hopefully inspire you. I am Head of Public Engagement at DMU so it is important that I encourage all staff and students to deploy a variety of methods of sharing knowledge. Once such was of reaching out and sharing ideas is blogging. Continue reading
Here is a piece of writing that I did recently that ambitiously I was hoping to turn into a research paper and send to an academic journal. My PhD supervisors’ feedback was that the scope was too broad and I should refine it. Since that conversation, I have taken those words on board and I’m currently developing a more focused research plan, which will potentially spin-off a number of pieces of research from this initial idea. I wanted to investigate where students’ awareness of austerity is motivating them to volunteer in the new era of Higher Education tuition fees.I thought I would blog my original writing as it will prove a useful reference point as my ideas and writing develops on this subject area. Obviously I’ve made it blog friendly and cut some details around data gathering and methodology out – oh and there’s no findings! On the other hand, it does present the notion that somewhere within this subject matter, there is an opportunity for further investigation.
So my Project May 2016 is over and we are now a few days into June so I have had time to reflect on how it went. To recap, I got tired of reading life hack after life hack and wanted to put some to the test. There were some trends I wanted to put to the test. These were:
- Small changes are habit forming
- A healthy diet would probably make me feel better
- More exercise would probably make me feel better
- Organising my time better would lead to benefits – particularly to my PhD study
- Getting up earlier – because it is supposed to make you superhuman
- And loads of other stuff that I can’t possibly believe but hey, let’s see…
I charted my progress weekly here But let’s take these point by point on reflection, now the month is over:
I’m in to week 3 of my experiment in May. Last week I was seriously questioning whether this had actually been of any benefit of all. However in the past few days, things seem to have taken a positive turn and I’m starting to feel smug. Not quite American Psycho smug (pictured) but not too bad either. The running seems to be paying off. I’ve now completed 45 miles for the month against a target of 62 with nine days to go. Stupidly I forgot to do an official weigh-in on Friday, but I’ll do one this week. Continue reading
Last week I blogged that I wanted to make a few changes – partly in light of things I’d read, but partly because I wanted to make a few changes. Bluntly I want to eat/drink a little less, exercise a little more and increase my PhD inputs/outputs. There is some reoccurring advice from the motivation gurus and life hackers that I’m trying to adopt to make positive changes over the next four weeks. I believe if I put some of these to the test it might 1) prove such advice is totally useless or 2) prove these people are highly annoying but were right all along. Even Leicester City winning the league (pictured) hasn’t stopped my quest for the truth… Continue reading
I am sick of motivational quotes and “life hacks” that, if followed, are potentially going to make me the world’s greatest person that ever lived. In fact I’ve read so many of those lately that if I’d spent the time in the gym, or reading something of worth, instead of searching for a quick fix to my general lack of fitness and my inability to cram all the things I want to achieve into a seven-day week, I’d be probably be sorted. I have therefore come up with my own little experiment to see if there is any value in the advice I’ve been reading lately or whether those that achieve such a superhuman lifestyle are indeed, just not of this planet. There are keyboard Yodas everywhere – Facebook is a rich ground where these motivational thoughts are shared and shared again by those who, I assume, want to position themselves as some kind of low-rent enlightenment guru. Add to this to some of the people who write on @Medium – who share their secrets of success, or other people’s success and really do position themselves as upmarket lifestyle gurus, and in some cases, charge you good money for it, then you realise free advice is everywhere. From reading all this stuff, I have noticed some trends that I want to try adopt over the next four weeks. Continue reading
I recently presented at the Annual Conference of the University Association of Life-long Learning at the University of Oxford. As I am not an academic, rather a practictioner as Head of Public Engagement at De Montfort University, I do not present things too often. In fact this was the first time I presented anything related to my PhD research. The University of Oxford was one of the pioneers of the University Extension movement in the United Kingdom. My presentation was in Rewley House, Oxford’s home of extramural activity where for over 100 years academics and communities have undertaken learning activities together (see photo). I was very proud to be presenting my work in such historic surroundings, if a little nervous. In my verbal introduction to the delegates, I explained that this research, done specifically for this particular conference, was an opportunity for me to investigate something that had been bugging me for a while. Namely, do the great things universities say are happening when they work with communities actually happen? Or do they assume they happened? As it was a conference for academics and practitioners, the research was written for a broad audience and the presentation was not particularly framed in the language of social science. With this in mind, if you have any questions about the detail or methodology, please tweet me @TheNewStatsman – otherwise here is the corresponding article I wrote for the presentation:
There is a growing interest in how universities work with the public to pursue projects that aim to deliver mutual benefits through engagement (Owen and Hill S, 2011; Watson, 2007; NCCPE, 2015) and while public engagement in higher education is not a new concept (Robinson F, Zass-Ogilvie I, Hudson R., 2012), there is now a need for greater accountability from funding bodies and authorities, increasing the need for universities to demonstrate how they connects their work with people beyond the campus (Wellcome Trust, 2011). This literature review aims to discuss two elements. It sets out to provide analysis of the existing literature around university-community engagement. It also identifies a gap in the literature around evaluation of engagement activities. Higher Education sees its third mission, beyond teaching and learning, as sharing its knowledge to benefit the wider public (Goddard J, 2009) (Boyer, 1990). How this is achieved can take many forms, from people taking part in research, school children participating in Higher Education taster days to community groups using campus facilities (Robinson F, Zass-Ogilvie I, Hudson R., 2012).How universities engage with people from outside their organisations differs from institution to institution (Universities UK, 2010) and how this is described is inconsistent across the sector, nationally and internationally (Hart & Northmore, 2011), (Mason O‘Connor K, et al 2011).
I always like reading about PhD students’ experiences and like to contribute to the work of the staff who work in De Montfort University’s Centre for Learning and Study Support who have really helped me find my feet after returning to academic study after 20+ years… A lot has changed in that time, from advances in technology, to support for study. This week the centre asked me to answer three questions in order to create materials to help new research students due to start at the university in September. I thought I’d blog my answers (as it’s merely a copy and paste):
I. What three research-related words would you have liked to have defined for you when you first started your PhD?
1) Paradigm – heard this a lot. I’d much rather they’d said theories, patterns or concepts! Continue reading