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Literature Review Struggles!

Hi everyone!
In 1st year of PhD after doing my MRes (it's 1+3 programme). I am massively struggling to write my literature review. I know it won't be my final thesis worthy draft but even so, I can't seem to come up with an angle or a structure that I'm happy with. Any advice on how you all went about this?

More details: I'm doing a multi-disciplinary PhD. I'm registered in the Town Planning school but based in a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) lab. This means there's a fundamental clash of approaches between a traditional social science PhD where they (roughly) do a lit and methods in Y1, fieldwork in Y2, write up in Y3 and the way the lab does it which is fieldwork throughout so 3 case studies make up your PhD.
I have a supervisor from each area and that's what's making things extra tricky. I have regular supervisions (every 2-3 weeks) and have spoke to both my supervisors recently and have been very honest about my struggles with this. But I don't feel any better about it. Both my supervisors have different approaches and different understandings of what I'm doing. I feel like piggy in the middle even though it's my PhD!
I've read a lot, have a paper published and have enough to start writing but structuring it has got me stressed out!

Any advice would be much appreciated and may even stop my headaches!!

Getting to grips with conferences/papers/call for papers!

TreeofLife - Thanks for the advice. I was recently approached to submit a paper with collaborators and that's what prompted me to think about this kind of thing. My gut instinct was that it wasn't right for my work. But it was that situation that got me thinking. We're encouraged to publish throughout our PhD but I'm just not sure how to go about finding the right places to be looking for opportunities.

Getting to grips with conferences/papers/call for papers!

Quote From pm133:
To be honest I am a bit confused about what you are talking about here. I may be misreading but you appear to be confusing "paper" with "journal" sometimes and I don't know what you mean by "venue" either.

Can you clarify? Do you have a paper which you want to submit somewhere?

pm133 - okay, so I probably am confused. I get a lot of calls for papers from both journals and conferences. Journals are a little easier to think about as I know a lot of the ones that are relevant to my field. But for conferences, I'm less clear.

I don't have a paper to submit at the moment. But we are encouraged to apply to conferences and journals throughout our PhD and I'm trying to work out how to figure out how to find the correct places... Does that make more sense?

Getting to grips with conferences/papers/call for papers!

Hi everyone! It's a little while since I've been on here but I could really use some advice.
I'm a 1st year PhD student but on a four-year programme so already done my MRes and started my research then. I've just had a paper accepted which will be published later this year and i found that whole process fairly straightforward. Mainly because the lab where I'm based focuses towards that venue every year as it's a good fit for the type of work the lab as a whole does.

My question is how do you find other venues to publish in? Or when a call for papers comes through, how do you know whether it is a good or bad thing to submit to? And if you do want to submit, do you always have a clear idea of a paper in mind or is it something you develop? And how do you know what a 'good idea for a paper' is? I'm really struggling to get my head around it all and I'm now getting all up in my own head about it all!

My supervisors do provide advice to a certain extent but they rarely give a straight answer! This has all come up after I recently found myself in an awkward situation about to submit with two other people which I wasn't sure about and had to find a way out!

Hope all of that makes sense! Any advice is appreciated!


You have answered your own question - take some time off. Don't feel guilty about it either! You work hard and deserve holidays - life should not be all about work!

I can relate to you because I have anxiety problems and often feel the same (yes, I'm giving advice that I often don't take myself!). Have you got ways of managing your anxiety? If not, then work on that or get help from someone to work on that. Working out what works for me has been massively helpful so I know I can do different things to calm me and take my mind off my worries. Yoga is one of them but there's loads of others that help me.

Explaining my personal experience in a Masters dissertation? Advice needed!

Thanks chickpea!

It's just a new thing for me. I've been so focused on the usual academic writing style that writing about myself doesn't feel right which is why my brain can't seem to get around it! Thanks for your advice too, it's helpful to focus my mind as to what to think about.

Explaining my personal experience in a Masters dissertation? Advice needed!

I'm currently writing up my dissertation and need a little advice on how to go about one particular section. My supervisor said it would be good within the intro to briefly set out my personal experience/connection with the topic but I'm not sure how to do that?

It may help to have a little background... I did a Town Planning degree/postgrad all with a focus on community engagement. I've worked in the field of planning for a couple of years again specifically in community engagement. I now work in the health sector...yep, you guessed, in community engagement. My dissertation is looking at the challenges planners face when engaging communities and comparing it to engagement carried out by professionals within health to see if there is common ground/lessons to be learned etc. Obviously, I've been heavily involved in the topic and work side of things for a few years and my supervisor said I should set this out but I'm really struggling to do so. I'm just not sure what to explain and how to explain it? Do I refer to myself as 'I' or 'the researcher'? What angle do I take when explaining?

It may be a really obvious one but my brain can't seem to get past it!

Thanks in advance!

It's June already and I haven't started my Masters Dissertation yet?!! Feeling very anxious!

Don't panic! As the others have said, it's definitely doable!

Maybe spend an hour or two working out a plan and like Tulip said break it down into chunks. I find it really helpful but it depends how you prefer to work as to what works best for you.

I started my dissertation quite late and the way I've done it is to spend a good week or two reading literature. I copy and paste quotes and full references into separate documents as I go (already have your bibliography mostly done this way!). I also make notes, as appropriate, about any of the articles. The I approach it like a story - plan it out, the reader knows nothing so what does your intro need to include. Split the intro down into sections and then assign each section a rough word limit.

Then, do the same for you lit review. Can you organise it by theme or topic? Then within each section, bullet point what you want to talk about. Use that plan to slot the lit quotes and notes into. You then have a lit review in bullet point form all planned out. Doing it this way, I have ended up with a plan that is already almost 5000 words so I can be selective when I start writing.

Anyway, that's what I found helpful so thought I would share in case it could help you too :)

URGENT!! Festival experiences - Qualitative or Quantitative research???

Yes, your original idea does sound quite broad and narrowing your topic is always helpful for a MA dissertation so it does sound like you've done the right thing.

I think qualitative would work best given the event experience prism you explained as it will give you a greater change of delving into the different aspects. I would suggest telephone interviews would be the best option. The reason I say that is I think they are second to face to face interviews because you can still hear the person, you can prompt (if using semi-structured interviewing which I usually find the most helpful) and you can pick up on things which is harder to do by email. There is no reason why you can't record the interviews over the telephone providing you are able to conduct them somewhere quiet where you can have the phone on loud speaker. Obviously you would have to tell the participant that this is what you were planning to do and ask their consent to record but usually people are okay with it. If some aren't, then you just have to explain to them you will be taking detailed notes as you go along.

Hope this helps. Feel free to send me a private message if you feel it would be helpful.

Personal Statement

Although there are lots of articles and help guides out there on the internet, I've recently written a personal statement which was needed to get me onto my PhD course and I didn't find them all that useful. Many are either ridiculous or quite sterile (the ones I read anyway!).

I think the main thing is to first look at what they're asking for. Here's an adapted version of what they asked for when I applied which you can use as a framework: "Your personal statement should clearly communicate why you are interested in [blank], state what interests you about [blank], clearly articulate how your prior experience or qualifications provide a good foundation for [blank], state what new skills and expertise you hope to develop through [blank] and tell us why you are motivated to conduct [blank]." If you break that down into sections, you have the framework for a personal statement which could be applied to most.

For me, to make your statement stand out, you need to really show why you're applying. Are you passionate about the subject? If so, say that, describe that and use language that conveys your passion for the topic. Some elements of a personal statement have to relay some info from your CV but not all of it.

Dunham - your research background is your personal background! You did that research because you were interested in it (I presume) so therefore it's your personal background! I've never included any life-changing stories in it.

It's quite a hard one to explain without examples so I'm not sure if I will have been any help at all but I hope so. Good luck!

p.s. I had to do all of that in 500 words so it is possible!

How to cope with depression/anxiety first year PhD student

I can't give much advice about your PhD and data etc as I'm just about to start mine in September. I can, however, say I know how you feel with the anxiety! I suffer with anxiety which brings on depression too and have a lot going on (work full time, have my own business and heavily involved in other interests of mine).

I got help last year from my GP and local services. I was prescribed some medication to help but for me it was the cognitive behavioural therapy that really sorted me out. It changed my perspective on how I think about things and helps me to manage my stress and anxiety. I identified things that I need to do to stay healthy (mentally) like yoga, exercise and hobbies such as graphic design, chocolate making etc.

This might sound like a rambled message but if the anxiety is something that is constant and has always been around, maybe speaking to someone about it could really help and you could identify things that would help you to manage your stress because it's different for everyone. It's not always a quick fix...I still battle with anxiety but I now feel more in control and able to overcome it. I suppose, I just wanted to say you don't have to always feel anxious and if there's nothing that can be done about it :)

URGENT!! Festival experiences - Qualitative or Quantitative research???

Hi! No need to panic! I agree with chickpea in that you need to stop for a moment and think about what exactly it is that you want to get out of the research and how you go about it:

What is the aim of my research?
What are my objectives?
What do I already know (from experience, literature etc)?
What do I need to find out?

All of that needs to be included in your dissertation anyway so it's useful thinking. Then you need to focus on what you need to know - is that experience based, people's opinions about the festival or is it more factual about what people did, where they went, why they attended?

Personally, if you're focusing on experience, that should be the very open questions to capture people's 'stories' which is best done qualitatively. No need to be scared of qualitative work provided that you're comfortable chatting to people! Qualitative research about people's experiences can provide rich data which is difficult to get otherwise. Both have their advantages but it entirely depends on what you want out of it.

Within that you do need to consider recruitment. I know you mentioned a wider survey might give you more general results but how would you make sure they were part of those two festivals? Have you got a way to target to those specified festivals? If you did want to do qualitative then you could try telephone interviews as an option? It's quite a niche field to recruit, particularly if you are focusing on those two festivals but there are options - do they have a website forum? If you don't focus it on those two festivals - could you find forums to post on that would be relevant?

My bias is always to go with qualitative for experience but that is my personal opinion only because I design and carry out patient experience research for the NHS.

I don't know if I've been any more help but good luck!

Marketing Research

Done - good luck :)

PhD and mortgage

Quote From Caro:
Those saying house prices are cheap must not live in the South East of England (or other hotspots like Aberdeen or Bristol) where to buy a house that isn't in a dive you'd need to be earning 50k collectively at the very least. It's why I plan on moving up north as soon as I can as we have no hope of buying a house outright here =)

That's where I'm lucky! I live in the north east! :)

PhD and mortgage

I'm afraid for all those who disagree with me then we'll have to agree to disagree.

I am currently on a permanent contract with an organisation who rely on one large commission with the health service every year. I might have a permanent contract but each year our customer might choose not to renew our contract and the whole place would close. My previous work have also all been on fixed term contracts. I work in the voluntary and community sector and I love it but unfortunately short/fixed term/temporary contracts are all most offer.

In September, I start my PhD for four years - it will be longest job security I've had in my working career.

My salary for my PhD will be just under £14k not taxed. Per month I will only lose £100-150 and my current wage is £21k taxed. With the saving I make for other reasons I will actually be better off and more secure during my PhD than I have at any other time.

I realise this might not be the same for everyone but it is possible. Mortgage lenders take individual circumstances into consideration and now look at things such as your monthly outgoings (not just for bills but for leisure too) so if you're careful with your money, you have a better chance. There are also schemes like help to buy which can help depending on your situation (it did for me and my husband). So yes, I think it's ridiculous that banks don't accept stipends as it is just a salary that's not taxed!