Recommended for PhD Confirmation

PhD Confirmation happens about 1.5 years into your research. It is a major milestone to check you are on track before you go out for data collection. Essentially, it is a pass or fail milestone – but they don’t actually say it like that, they call it ‘recommend to continue’ (pass) or ‘recommend to revise’ (fail).

After the candidate gives their 30-mins presentation, there is an open Q & A. Then everyone (including the candidate) is asked to leave and the panel (your supervisors, the HDR Convenor and your independent assessor) discuss the work in private. Then only the candidate is invited back in. Then, in private the panel give immediate feedback on the study and the presentation and let the candidate know if they are recommending for continuation or not.

On Friday I had my PhD Confirmation Seminar

PhD Confirmation is a big deal as it is the first time you show your research to anyone outside of your supervisory team. It is where you have to submit you first 4 dissertation chapters (Intro, Lit Review Theoretical Perspectives and Methodology). My first 4 chapters comes to 191 pages and 50,718 words. Two weeks after you submit your Confirmation paper, you present your work.

So on Friday, I  presented my PhD Confirmation seminar to explain, justify and defend my bicycle NGO research study.

Here’s my PhD Confirmation flyer.

Bike PhD Confirmation- Bicycles Create ChangeA Successful Seminar! Recommended for PhD Confirmation!

I’ve been recommended to proceed with my study!

It was a very stressful and interesting process putting the seminar together. Big decisions  had to be made about what to leave in and what to leave out.

My study is pretty complex, but I managed to get it all organised on the day.

The seminar itself went well. There was a great turn out and it had the largest attendance to date! While waiting for the seminar to start, the audience started singing The Pushbike Song, which boosted the energy in the room instead of being so formal and academic (which it was) and made me feel very supported. There were some good questions at the end from the audience at the end, which I was able to answer and had slides prepared for (phew!) to the point where the questions almost looked like a plant (they weren’t!).

I got called back in and was asked the difficult questions in private. No surprises in the immediate feedback I received. The study will need more shaping and ‘massaging’ and I already have a few other ideas I’d like to change and discuss with my supervisors.

I get the Confirmation reports from my panel back in 1-2 weeks.

I’m very interested to hear the feedback!

The panel has recommended me for PhD Confirmation! Yahoo!

This recommendation goes to the Dean of School of Education & Professional Studies to be approved. It is rare that a panel’s recommendation is overturned, but I still have to wait for the official approval from the Dean.

Bike PhD Confirmation- Bicycles Create Change

I was completely wiped out at the end of the seminar.

For the last 4 weeks, it has been a massive big push to get my Confirmation paper prepared and then to arrange  the seminar.

My brain is officially mush.

I am happy with the result, but too tired to celebrate just yet.

My main task over the weekend is to have a glass of red wine while reading a good book in the bath – and recharge!

PhD Confirmation Paper

Hooray!

Finally!

I’ve handed in my PhD Confirmation Paper!

Looking forward to hearing what the independent assessor says about my 4 Chapters….Intro, Lit Review, Theoretical Perspectives & Methodology.

It was a missive big push to have it all done….I keep reminding my supervisors that I am Part-Time researcher. Also, that I only want to do one PhD at a time (…bad joke – but true!!)

Thanks to Deniese, Annalise, TK and all the others who helped during this time – I will not forget you!

Woohooow!

Bicycles Create Change.com

Now time to start on my 30-mins Confirmation Seminar for next Friday!

My eyes are sore, my brain is mush and I am (almost) to knackered to celebrate!

It does feel quite surreal to see it all not the one document  -with all the fancy referencing, formatting, images and sections.

Why do the PhD  Confirmation procedure?

At my uni – this is why you need to do a PhD Confirmation. It allows:

  • provide peer feedback to the candidate on the work completed to date through open discussion of the candidate’s research proposal
  • provide confirmation that the project is appropriate to the degree for which the candidate is enrolled
  • determine whether a candidate has made suitable progress during the initial stage of the candidature
  • ensure that adequate resources and facilities are available
  • confirm that satisfactory supervision arrangements are in place
  • identify any specific problems or issues (for example, ethics or intellectual property) needing to be addressed; and
  • determine whether the candidature should continue.

What does a PhD Confirmation paper include?

Here what my Uni requires for Confirmation papers:

  • the research question
  • where the question came from in the context of relevant literature
  • why the research question is important
  • how the research question is addressed including details of methodology
  • a bibliography of relevant literature
  • progress made to date; and
  • a timetable for completing the research
  • needs to be a summary 40 pages – or as instructed by your supervisor.

My supervisor said, don’t waste time condensing and editing a separate document, hand in the whole  first four chapters! So I did!

Why do my PhD in Africa? Give us a little taster!

I still get people asking me why my research on girls’ education is in Africa.

It’s  because that is were some of the most disadvantaged girls are.

The red areas on the map below show the most disadvantaged areas for girls education.

Bicycles Create Change.com

My PhD is at the intersection of education, poverty, culture, gender and location.

Bicycles Create Change.com

Aspects of gendered daily school travel, transport and mobility are key themes in my research.

Bicycles Create Change.comSource; Bryceson, Bradbury & Bradbury (2003).

I’ll be able to outline more once my Confirmation Seminar flyer comes out.

For now, I  very pleased to have handed in – but am also very tired,

Fingers crossed for me, and the Independent Assessor!!

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review

As I gear up for my PhD Confirmation paper submission on Friday, all thoughts are now academic. My PhD is looking at how bicycles create more positive community change and this post gives a quick overview of an academic skills workshop I attended earlier this week that will help me explain and distribute my research more widely. Viva la bici! NG.


A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review

How to write a kick-ass Literature Review? Need a publication? How about conducting a SQLR? Never heard of it?

A SQLR is a Systematic Quantitative Literature Review – it is where the best Lit Reviews are at! The SQLR technique was devised by Prof. Pickering (Griffith University School of Environmental Science) …. and it is amazing!

Here’s a quick snapshot of what it is… On the offical SQLR website it is described as..

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

I won’t go into details about what is is here – there are some fabulous resources online here and  a series of very clear step-by-step video instructions here that explains the process better than I can.

Suffice to say that it is a kick-ass way to get a comprehensive lit review completed AS WELL AS  being able to publish it.

SQLR publications are still relatively new and more often used in science disciplines. There are a few SQLR starting to crop up in the social sciences, so it is a good time to get in, as scholarly interest is increasing – and you can leverage the ‘novel’, yet comprehensive contribution it provides to a research field.

For theses, you need to do a thorough lit review anyway, so why not do a super good job of it AND get published?

Don’t get me wrong; it is a serious undertaking and hard work, but… oh so worth it!

My SQLR problem
I did a SQLR as part of my lit review. You need at minimum 15 articles to do a SQLR. Even with the help of librarians, I only found 12 publications specifically on my topic. Crap!

This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it means my area is emerging and requires scholarly attention (i.e. justification of my PhD!!). But it’s also a curse because there is insufficient evidence and breadth to establish generalizations or to formulate a theoretical framework purely based on previous work.

So I went to the Advancing SQLR session to see what my options were.

Boy, am I happy I did. Prof. Pickering sure packed a lot into the one-hour session!

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

Top 4 takeaways from this session.

1. Questions = Answers!
I had prepared questions ahead of time and I didn’t waste any time asking them. My hand was first up, and I was very appreciative that the Prof answered them directly and clearly. I got exactly the info I needed. As well as asking questions directly related to aspects of my project, I was also sure to reiterate the answers back so there were transferrable elements and general practicalities that would be applicable to other students as well.

2. Concrete examples
The PPT and handout provided included heaps of concrete examples of next-generation ideas, explanations/justifications and development techniques to include to maximise publication possibilities. See some of the examples at the end of this post – Unbeatable!

3. Analysis Inspiration
I was inspired by the ‘advanced’ level and types of analysis Prof. Pickering presented. It truly was ‘advancing’ the process on the original SQLR session. It was great to see to what degree, and the types of creative analysis that is being drawn out of SQLR data.

It was at this stage that I got some specific idea on how to meet my minimum source quotas to exceed my current 12, which the Prof. also confirmed in more detail during Q & A– woohoo!

4. The infuriating 3rd Reviewer (or in this case the in-FUHRER-iating)
As the session drew to a close, the conversation turned to getting published. One of the biggest headaches and sources of stress and anger for scholarly authors is the infamous ‘3rd reviewer’.

In response to dealing with the frustration of getting 3rd review feedback, the Prof. recommended the video below – Bloody GOLD!

(The quality is not 100%, but well worth it for the relief it brings!)

Add my own practical visual data 2 cents!

Overall I was very glad that I went to the session.

During Q & A, I offered my top picks of the most useful and relatively easy to use free (or free trial/nominal fee) design software programs that others might want to check out if they want to might want to spice up their text-heavy work and present data in a more engaging way.

Prof. Pickering appreciated the practical suggestions. She asked me to email her what my suggestions were. I also had a few attendees ask me afterwards for the names of the programs.

I felt good that I contributed something valuable for my cohort as well as getting exactly what I needed out of the session!

Now to apply it all!

Now, I need to get back to work and  look at how I’m going to integrate this into my Confirmation paper.

If you are doing any kind of research, I highly recommend checking out SQLR as a lit review methodology.

Best of luck and let me know how you get on with it!

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. PickeringA Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. Pickering

A Kick-Ass PhD Lit Review - Bicycles Create Change.com Source: Prof. PickeringImages: Prof. Pickering Advancing SQLR Handout.

Beware! The Academic Zombie Apocalypse

Usually this blog features events, initiative and personalities where bicycles create positive community change. At times, I also include some researcher aspects to do with my PhD study. This is one such instance.

Departing from our usual bicycle centred posts, the next couple of entries are PhD-orientated as I prepare my PhD Confirmation submission for next Friday. And yes…. I am freaking out! NG.


Bicycles Create Change.com. Beware! The Academic Zombie Apocolypse. Image: PhD Comics

Academic Overload

I’m preparing my PhD Confirmation paper for submission next Friday. Two weeks later I will defend my thesis in my PhD Confirmation seminar.

As you can imagine it has been very busy and somewhat stressful time.

I’ve found myself in the middle of academic overload! I feel like I am in the middle of an Academic Zombie Apocalypse!

Good grief!

The fortnight lead-in was intense anyway. Trimester at uni ended last week. Last Thursday I finished semester classes and said goodbye and good luck to my two Communication and Languages for Science classes and my HDR Writing Workshop, which, I think is ironic given my current stress round my Confirmation submission! Hilarious!

Also, last Friday I finished marking the last of 48 final report assessments for my class. This week all the paperwork, reporting, feedback, blah, blah… you get the picture!

You can see what my classes have been up to on Instagram account at: @nina_griffith_uni    #nina5903   #ninahdrwritingwksp   #eps_hdr

Anyhoo…

Finally, I thought…. now I’ll have concentrated time to ‘catch up’ preparing my submission.

Alas, not quite.

Added to this crazy time has been a convergence of workshops (see next posts). Each of these workshops is interesting and useful, but the timing is very awkward. I still have a lot to do on my paper. All I can think is that I need to be at my desk, all day every day, working on my manuscript.

It seems like I can’t escape! I need to get away!!!

Beware! The Academic Zombie Apocalypse

Image: The Conversation

I am hiding inside, not risking to venture out. I squirrel around at odd hours and lock myself up at night. I have my equipment with me at all times, and bury myself in my work and try and disappear from sight, not making a sound. When someone approaches me, I get nervous, suspicious, and cry out ‘What do you want! Stay away from me!’

It is a very appropriate metaphor. If I had less brain drain, I’d ‘flesh out’ the idea out (tee hee) but I am conserving synapses for Friday.

Bicycles Create Change.com. Beware! The Academic Zombie Apocolypse.

Bicycles Create Change.com. Beware! The Academic Zombie Apocolypse

Image: kids-army

Academic zombie apocalypse survival kit

Taking inspiration from other zombie survival kits – I’m working on developing my own academic zombie apocalypse survival kit.

I quickly vox popped some academics & PhDers for ideas on what they would include/do/have for this busy time. Here are their suggestions:

  • laptop
  • key journal articles printed out
  • trashy pulp fiction book for mental breaks
  • coffee
  • Sudafed
  • exercise
  • a critical (about work, not you!) and a non-critical friend to talk to
  • good nutritious food
  • a short holiday at the end to look forward to
  • downtime away from communications and electronic devices
  • limit of one drink per week/no drinking alcohol during this time
  • connect with meaningful other/partner
  • designated office space for undisturbed time to work
  • thinking time away from the office (sitting on a bus looking out a window)
  • hot showers
  • good poos
  • sleep

Certainly, a lot less ammo than I expectedl!

I’m going to keep the survival kit idea handy – just in case.

But  the mere act of just talking about starting a academic zombie  apocalypse survival kit has already made me feel a little better.

I think I might go to the office and smash out some more writing for my Confirmation paper!

See ya soon!

Bicycles Create Change.com. Beware! The Academic Zombie Apocolypse. Image: The bestschools.orgImage: : thebestschools.org

Griffith EPS HDR Student Conference 2016

Today was Griffith University’s Education and Professional Studies (EPS) HDR Student Conference. This Graduate HDR* Conference is organised by the EPS PhD Candidates for other Candidates. Although I am on the organising committee, I did not attend the proceedings today because I am Melbourne for another event (SSWC 2016 – see upcoming post). * In AU we call  PhD Programs HDR = Higher Degree by Research i.e. PhD or Doctoral programs. In the US, PhDs are part of the Graduate Program (Grad School)  – hence ‘Graduate HDR’*

The reason I am posting about the Graduate HDR Conference now, is the theme for this year’s conference “Aiming for the future: Learning from reflection and reality” really resonated with me. In developing my PhD research proposal, I was very strategic about synthesising certain professional and civic dimensions that I think are very important – education, social justice, community development, and of course, bikes! One of the reasons I am so motivated in my research is that it is inherently practical to implement. It is not difficult for me to translate my research into practice. This is not necessarily the case for other researchers.

 

Griffith Graduate HDR Student Conference 2016

So this conference theme aligned well with my personal approach to research. I think there is great value in exploring and trialling methods and praxis, and feel that unless research can be operationalized to contribute to a better outcome for all, then a project does not fully reach its potential. It is also an excellent forum to not only get together and network, but also to share ideas about work being undertaken. I was looking forward to hearing the abstract sessions detailing what others were working on – I find it perpetually inspiring and engaging to hear the range, types and topics that others are working on. Most of all I was looking forward to the Guest Speaker Workshop “Possibilities: Knowledge into action” session (understandably why) to get some fresh insights and motivation.

 

The need for peer contact

Whilst organising this conference, I sometimes caught myself thinking that there were certain aspects of this conference I was sorry I was going to be missing. At this stage in my PhD, I am preparing my Early Candidature Milestone (Feb 2017) and coming out of my most challenging time working on this project so far,  I recognise that I wanted to go to this Conference to reconnect with some Uni contacts. I had been feeling quite awash, distanced and anxious after not having my usual regular contact with peers and supervisors. So I was craving to discuss and mull over a few challenges and to get some suggestions, motivation and ideas. I found that just by working on organising the conference, meant that I had more contact with some of the other candidates and started feeling much better. By the time I met with my supervisors mid this week (a meeting which I had been very much looking forward to), I felt was already feeling much more settled and refocused.

 

Actioning the theme

Now that I am down in Victoria for some bike riding and exploring some research possibilities, I am back in my element – the physical realm. I most certainly would have attended the Conference had I still been in Brisbane, but I like the idea that, instead of sitting in a room talking about how to energize research and translate it into real world practice, I am out in the real world investigating ways to translate the lived experiences into research. In a strange way, I’m putting into practice the main theme of the conference, which, I suppose, if I was not there to participate, is a bloody good alternative!

I am looking forward to hearing how the conference went and some attendee feedback as to what they got out of it, what worked and what didn’t. It is a great opportunity to get the HDRers out from behind their screens to network, share and stimulate each other. You never know where a conversation topic might take you, or how participating in a workshop can unlock a new idea or direction – after all, I am now doing my PhD because I sat at a table in a workshop last year and got chatting to those around me on the table – and boy and I glad I did. I hope the attendees today had an equally provoking and restorative experience.

Now back to the bike and making some contacts for recruiting singlespeed research participants!

 

2016-hdr-student-conference-program_final

PhD Lit Review – 6 Months Review

This week I saw my supervisors for a meeting as it is my PhD 6-month review.  We were meeting to discuss my PhD Lit Review. I’ve not had a meeting with them for a while as we’ve all had things on – I’ve been working on my Lit Review, one had long service leave and the other has been working hard for the start of the Uni semester.

I’ve been keeping busy and trialling different productivity techniques and activities to varying degrees of success. I’ve missed not meeting my supervisors each month. I like the routine, and it gives me enough time to get some work done and work towards the next deadline.

I’ve been struggling the last month with my Lit Review as I’ve found myself summarising the issues to do with my topic and not fully critiquing the references as I’d like to be. I chatted to a few other full-time PhDer about getting their lit reviews done and it the consensus is that it is on ongoing progression that you keep coming back to. I asked my supervisor to see her original thesis she wrote in 1999, which she gave me a copy. I’m keen to see to what degree and how she critiqued her sources, synthesised content and expressed her analysis and critical thinking about the methodologies and theoretical frameworks – I know I have to work on these areas for my own lit review.

My primary supervisor suggested I look at the online RMIT Lit Review material as she thought it was helpful. However, I like the practicality and find having examples more instructive, so the UQ Reviews with examples is more my style – especially seeing as though there is extra downloadable info.

But to get me back on track – I’m going to first head to Randolph’s (2009) A Guide to Writing a Dissertation Literature Review, which is clear, informative and has some great info. I’ve extracted the following two tables from said article.

I find this first table useful to approach readings, and I like the idea of having questions to answer or a focus to draw out – it also helps hone key terms, methodologies and points for comparison that I would not otherwise necessarily have looked for – but most importantly I like the reminder, and I’ve found it invaluable in relation to looking for disruptions and gaps in some research aspects.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.36.19 PM

This second table is a useful editing and content refinement checklist. It helps keep me honest, structured and stimulated content inclusion and points that I need to clarify, include or emphasize. I think ultimately, I will incorporate ideas from all these three sources. After a week of marking course work (this week) and having a little mental break from my Lit Review, I’ll use these resources as stimulus to get stuck back into it and refocus the themes and work on increasing the level of critical analysis – which is probably a good thing as this will be my main task at least up until November.

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