Some notes on the transcription…

I wanted to provide a transcript of The PhD Life Raft podcast episodes to make the material more accessible.

I have used an automated transcription service to produce this document. These, as we all know, are not 100% accurate. Please excuse the odd typos and grammatical mis-translations. I hope that you will find the documentation of this conversation useful.    

You can find the full interview here: https://thephdliferaft.libsyn.com/

Emma  

So lovely to have you here. I’m always so grateful for people I know you are very busy and taking your time to talk to us is such a gift and I’m always blown away by people’s generosity of spirit. So thank you for being part of that generous scholarly community and offering your experience and your wisdom to us.

Amal  

Thank you for the invitation and I’m really delighted to be here. I absolutely love and listen to your listen to your podcast. As a supervisor. So I think yeah, I really am very grateful for the invitation. Thank you.

Emma  

Bless show. Thank you and we were just saying what we about about this conversation and encouraging conversations between PhD researchers and their supervisors. And this is so important, that kind of communication is really key. In fact, this is a whole other episode we could be doing. I might get you back in a minute. Because that isn’t that isn’t what we’d agreed to talk about. But actually, it really is. It’s a really important one. And if the podcast is a way to kind of start to put put thoughts and ideas out there for everyone to start thinking about and I I’m absolutely delighted about that. Blimey this that would be amazing. But today Today we have agreed that we’re going to talk about disseminating material along the during the PhD journey and some because that’s something that people aren’t sure about a show about doing or then how to do it. And you’re going to share your experience so I’m really looking forward to that. But before we do that, I I’m going to ask the same that I asked everybody in terms of sharing your PhD journey and how that was for you. Okay,

great. Thank you. So my PhD journey was between 2011 and 2015. That was in the School of built environment, University of Salford and I was a full time PhD student at that time and it was a funded PhD by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council EP SRC. What I did on my PhD or what was the thesis title at the end? Of course, I didn’t know that that would be my thesis title, which I think is always yes, we do the research. We have a starting point and everything but you don’t know what you will end up with or what you will finish up with. So my thesis titled was implementing green business models in the UK construction industry opportunities and challenges. And what I did in my PhD Of course, now I have very clarity around what I did. I have that clarity back then.

Emma  

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Amal  

Yes, so my PhD was really an interdisciplinary research. What I did is I looked at the green business model concepts and ideas from business and management literature. And the work that is being done there. And I have adapted and made that suitable for construction and built environment. At that time when I was researching in 2011. I think I barely found any paper that looking into the same thing. Within let’s say, within that within built environment or even construction, so it was very, very rare. Now things have kind of like moved on. And and the main idea behind the phases is almost trying to innovate our thinking towards that green transition, what we do how we can do it and that was kind of, let’s say, the the outcome of the PhD. In terms of the journey itself, I think I would say it was it was kind of like a really strange journey in a sense, where again, when I look at PhD, usually I look at kind of like three factors within the PhD is usually the postgraduate researcher themself who’s ideally they supposed to be almost like self select, and also kind of like an independent learner they they are having that openness for learning and adaptation along the way, and also the institute or the university where you are based this is very, very important because I I kind of like see them as they are the way they went that they are creating the right conditions. So they are creating the right let’s say training, they look at your needs and what are the general needs that you need to be able to sell to kind of like succeed and complete on time as well within let’s say within the timeframe that you have been given. And then the supervisors which again, they are definitely important so they are the one that they offer the guidance, and they make sure that you have got that autonomy within your PhD so they don’t intervene that much. And at the same time, they don’t neglect you that much. So it has to be really kind of like a balance. I think it’s it’s very difficult to explain it how it is done. But I would roughly see it as yes you want to give that to give the PhD, that kind of autonomy. And at the same time you want to give them a little bit of loose structure or some structure some directions so that they can no one understand that they are going in the right direction or they need to change something maybe and revise the thing that they do ya so that I would say roughly was my PhD and I think my all those kinds of like three factors were right in a way and that’s why like it went well and I completed on time. And I think I had like just like normal issues like almost like a little bit of problems in data collection. Not finding the right people to interview and kind of those let’s say practical stuff, but then again, kind of like a dealt with it from that let’s say research perspective, and finding different ways different type of analysis so that I can still get something out of it. Even if I didn’t have the number that I wanted to have.

Emma  

I love it. No more issues. I love that. I think it is really important to name that though because I think that when bumps come in the road and they will come that’s the thing they will come every PhD it can be really destabilizing. And if if if we can normalize the fact of the that there will be issues exactly look lots of issues and some people have more than others and some people have, you know, there’ll be different types of issues depending on on your particular project and your particular situation. But everyone has them and I think it’s brilliant because, you know, obviously, you’ve got a good news story and you saw that actually the process was generally smooth for you, but there were still issues which you had to manage. And but I think what you highlighted there in terms of your own resilience, your university, your institutional support, and then your supervisors support and getting that kind of that fine balance between allowing you space, but providing a structure and that is there’s an art of supervision in there. And also about being matched I think being matched with a student having that sense of of being able to work together. That’s that is that’s tricky, but yes, can be magical.

And I think also it needs the time as well. It definitely I think it’s needed, although it’s like no one is talking about this idea of let’s say build let’s build a trust or build that relationship. But that is like a really essential part of this relationship building and I think people get it from experience, or they might have it they kind of I don’t think they would have a structure for it. But they would almost like deal with it as kind of like one to one basis how you build those relationships, how you build those working relationship between us. Between the supervisor and the postgraduate research has been done. And again, yeah, we need to kind of like think about that in our timing as well.

Emma  

Yes, yes, it is and it needs it needs work and grows alongside and shifts alongside the PhD because it will be different types of supervision. At different stages as well, isn’t it? Yes. Yeah.

That’s a really good point. Yeah, that different type of supervision during different time or different stages of the PhD. I think that’s a really key one. Thank you for highlighting that.

Emma  

Oh, bless you and say this is I already think we need you back to talk about supervision. in more depth, but we’re all kind of we’re gonna here’s to normal issues while having that on a t shirt normal issues. So this this time we agree that what you’re going to talk about particularly was disseminating material. So can you talk to us a little bit more about what you mean? By that and what might be involved in that? Okay,

great. So I am using the word dissemination in purpose because the idea is is almost like every discipline is very different in the way that they disseminate the research. And when we say dissemination is almost sharing and communicating the research as you go within the PhD. And this is good to start from something even as small as participating in the seminars that’s happening within let’s say, your institute or within your university. There will always be spaces very informal. And you might just come and talk about, let’s say the starting point of your PhD, maybe you start with a specific let’s say theory or a framework or something that you are starting from, maybe you can even talk about the proposal if you are in the very start starting stage of your PhD. So the idea is really communicating and talking about your research in whatever form or shape that is suitable and relevant for the discipline that you are coming from. And and then and the idea is almost like to build that within the years of the PhD, let’s say you can almost like look at it as a scaffolding maybe. So the starting point is maybe I’ve talked about my proposal, even if I’m not clear about it, and I think again, we need to kind of like really be comfortable that we don’t know because we are doing research so when you’re doing research you don’t know the answers. You are following a process you are trying to think about okay, what are the possibilities you are trying to make sense of things? And and again, that talking and communicating your research and disseminating and going to different places. It does help a lot with with the PhD itself so you become better at articulating your PhD. You become better at understanding where you come from like which discipline that you kind of like draw some, let’s say lessons from and then you can grow from there. Let’s say the next step, it might be a peer reviewed conference. And again, in the PhD, you want that feedback, you don’t want to finish at the end and then you come to your Viva without being kind of like talked and disseminated your research in those forums. Because again, all this will help you have to be ready for your viva. And then maybe after that you can say okay, now I have done this experience, what next what I can do in the next stage, it might be now you already have got your empirical let’s say you have engaged with your discipline, the empirical kind of, let’s say, data or the origin and data that you are bringing, you interacted with your field and then you start to have some kind of like, initial findings from your research. Again, you don’t have to wait until you have everything done, but you can you can share those initial findings. You can test them you can test your thinking process, what it is like what how the how people are perceiving that. And then again, you might think about okay, can I do a journal paper now peer reviewed journal paper, because you get those reviewers back and forth and you almost you engage with them in that discussion in that research discussion. They might disagree with this, but then you might either defend it or kind of like put your reasons why this is suitable. So all this is really good preparation and then maybe if you have got an opportunity for if someone invited you to kind of come on, even to teach maybe your research methodology, why not? That’s again, that’s a form of dissemination. Maybe there is a very specific topic within your PhD that you’ve covered in so much details. You can get an invitation Someone asked, Can you come and talk about this? And I think you’re saying yes to those opportunities, where you kind of have that broader engagement, broader dissemination is really, really helpful. And even now we have podcasts as well. So maybe someone would ask you to come and talk in a podcast for a very specific thing without within your PhD. Again, you can say yes to those ones. And you really learn a lot from those processes. Absolutely. Great Learning. And it’s I call it like you become Viva ready. Because yeah, because at the Viva it’s an in the UK context is an open exam book. So everything is in front of you and usually as examiner’s we go almost like page by page or chapter by chapter and try to ask, almost like testing the knowledge and understanding that you have done this research and then you have got the reasoning behind everything. And it’s literally is a similar process. But if we build that earlier on the PhD by the time you are in your viva, you already maybe have talked in six places or seven places or maybe have submitted your conference paper or a journal paper or a seminar. And you can also put that into your thesis so it becomes almost like this thesis is supported by and then you put all the engagement that you have done all those disseminations you have you have done during the PhD and and I think that’s again that’s a really great value and a great learning experience as well for the PhD. So that was that’s kind of like my thinking around the dissemination.

Emma  

Oh my goodness, there is so much good stuff in there. So much good stuff. I think yes, working backwards. This idea Yes, of you don’t want to get to your Viva and have never publicly discussed your work. Yeah, because I think we’re creating the work, aren’t we and often sitting at our own desks. Yeah. But actually it’s a very different skill to discuss it and extrapolate and an answer questions on so I think giving yourself that rehearsal. I love that idea. Love it is really important to think about it like that. This is kind of like a bit of sort of Viva because of course this isn’t completely petrifying. This is why lots of us avoid it right because it’s just feels so scary.

I know. It’s so scary. And I remember I remember. I remember my first ever experience, it was just, I just Yeah, I can’t until now I can remember like how I felt. But the idea is even with those feelings as long as you have almost like practice well, and you have let’s say done like a mock thing with your supervisor or even with your peers, you are you’re ready to go. And we learn through that.

Emma  

Yeah, well, what I love also about what you said, is this sense of laddering it and just start small. Yeah, like you say even if it’s just you’re gonna talk a little bit about the questions that you have, yes, in a departmental seminar, or a group of other PhD researchers. To hear yourself talk about it. Like you said, when you hear yourself talking about things. Often different ideas come to you because you’re kind of you’re exploring and people are gonna ask you questions and draw things out from you. And, and hopefully if you have a home crowd on your side, be really encouraging to have people listen to you know, you’re sitting there on your own trying to work this out, to have people listening, attending going, Oh, have you read this thing? You know, what about this? Would you like to come in here this paper or go can you come and talk to us about this? It can really open doors and material that you would never thought about because someone else’s is is talking about it and having people really listen to you? Yeah, that can be such a gift and really encouraging. They’re really encouraging. Yes. And I think knowing that, as you say going at a speed that feels comfortable for you. So you probably some I know some people do this, but for me, it wasn’t the right thing to do. But for some people, you know, a big international conference is the first time out all power to you or to you. But I think that thinking about what feels manageable and what feels comfortable and you know is there some way that you know that other Pete other friendly people are going to be there you you know you might present as part of a group might need to start with I think taking it in your in your in your stride. But I think this sense of thinking about how you’re going to scaffold that. Yeah. And then also obviously, reminding us that how brilliant it will be when you do get to that viral moment, to have the peer refereed kind of rubber stamp? Absolutely no, this has been accepted as a journal article. That is definitely a message to your examiner’s that this is valued within the field.

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think also another tip that might be useful. When I look at I think I looked at few conferences and an even sometimes few workshops and they do have a dedicated PhD track. Yes. And I feel Swan are very friendly because they here they want to kind of again they want to train you. They want to be that kind of like supportive environment where you can have like, yes, you come and you have peer reviewers who have been, let’s say, been examining and also been supervising PhDs, so they do have lots of experience around how to give feedback. And yeah, how to kind of even how to give you almost like that. Feed feedback. Forward, like for your future presentation, what to do. What are the things that you can consider so maybe as again, if you are someone who really saying oh, this is definitely not for me, maybe try to find those dedicated places for PhD tracks. And they usually they have that kind of like sense of training and learning built within them as well. So that might be a useful point.

Emma  

That’s a brilliant, brilliant tip. And I think, as you say, it’s kind of it’s it’s all feedback is all useful material. And this this sense of probably go before you’re ready, because you’ll almost certainly never feel ready I think ever, never ever so that kind of as low risk as you can make it. Give it a go. Have someone friendly in the room. And to give you feedback on it. And I think also, just to jump back to what you said before, it was really important in terms of submitting things to journals. Again, you’re going to get golden feedback there is I thought for edit from editors who had who are, you know, at the cutting edge are going to give you thoughtful reflections on your material, how it sits in the in the bigger discourse that can be so useful, even if it’s a rejection is still really useful information in developing your work.

Definitely, definitely I cannot agree anymore, I think yes, because, again, if we just really, really think about it, it’s all feedback. You want that feedback. You want someone to talk to you you want someone to test your knowledge. You definitely want to do that before your Viva because as we said Viva is really testing your knowledge about what you have done and asking you any question as long as within your thesis, but also in the Viva there is lots of questions around the things that you have left out why you have left them yes. So it’s not just about yes, your scope, that’s fine. But also examiner’s will ask you questions around. Why have you did you consider x and y and Zed? What happened to this one? Why this context? Why this methodology? Why this approach? And you have to give justification for all of those things. You are absolutely responsible for what you have written and submitted. Yes,

Emma  

exactly. That and being able to manage that is a whole different skill set and you want to practice that. You do want to practice that and build your confidence with that. Because the last thing you want when you get to that five a day is to to and well we I mean everybody is going to be nervous, nervous or honest, sliding scale between nervous and completely, you know, throwing up before you go in kind of thing where people are going to say, but if you at least have, like you say have at least had a kind of few run outs you’ve had a sense of how this feels, and confidence in talking about and receiving questions on your material. I think this is this is brilliant, brilliant. we ever get to you said I’m really passionate about this subject. And I was like brilliant. I love it. I love it. There’s a kind of this scaffold scaffolded approach and the sense of being clear in terms of what what it’s about. It’s not You’re not just doing it for the sake of it’s actually there’s a there’s a kind of real focus for this kind of activity. Absolutely.

Yes. Yeah. Because I think when we look at the PhD is is so the PhD is a training to become an expert, to become an I think I used to say a lot independent researcher. Yes, definitely independent researcher. But I think also it’s very important to think about the PhD by the end of it. You supposed to be the expert on the topic that you have done. Yes. And that’s part of the training. So to become an expert, you need to be asked questions, you need to be able to give answers. You need to be able to justify things. And if you don’t have the answer, that’s absolutely fine. You can say I’ll look this up. I will check this out. I didn’t consider this I will look into it because you don’t want to kind of like make things up as a as an expert that that’s part of being professional and saying, Oh, I didn’t consider this bass. Sounds interesting. I will go and check X and Y and Zed. And that’s fine. So I think yeah, thinking about that thinking about the end goal and trying to almost like mimic that end goal. While you are doing the PhD. I think that’s the kind of like the essence of it.

Emma  

Brilliant. Brilliant. So I hope this has inspired people to go find opportunities to to talk about their work and disseminate their work and and other people are hungry for it. They’re waiting. They’re waiting to hear what you’ve got to say about this topic. So put it out there.

Yes, yeah. Absolutely. Out

Emma  

of all of that ammo. What, what would be your top tip?

Okay, am I allowed to have like three top tips? Oh, of course you’re. And I’m saying that because I want to give you those three tips one as a supervisor and another one as yeah as a head of postgraduate researcher and the third one as a PhD examiner. So the first one as a PA as a supervisor. I will say the first tip is a good PhD thesis is a finished one. So finish that work. That’s number one. Thank you. And then number two, as a post graduate researcher, heading my institute, I always say find the resources that are available within your university and use them for your own achievement. There is a lot of things that is available there is a lot of support, anything that you can think about there is a support service within the university. So definitely make use of those services. And the last one as the examiner whenever like I have a PhD examination, most of the time or not posted the time actually all the time. I look if this work has been disseminated before or not, and that gives me a lot of kind of like a quality assurance I would say, Okay, I’m too relaxed. Now I’m fine because this has been tested. This has been done somewhere else. So the value of those dissemination and publication during your PhD, it does make your Viva much kind of like a better experience and it gives that assurance to the examiner.

Emma  

This is genius. This is genius. from the horse’s mouth there everyone. Well, thank you so so much. It has been such a pleasure. And I know that this will be useful for lots of people because it’s it’s something that that we don’t sort of reflect on enough I think and it’s thank you so much for kind of inviting us to see it as a as a as a parallel process really, for the PhD.

Thank you, Emma.

Emma  

And thank you all for listening