North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership

Staying connected through virtual writing groups

Hannah Slocombe, Geography & Environment, University of Liverpool (2019 Cohort)

With the rise in remote working as well as limits on social opportunities during the last couple of years, virtual writing groups offer a great way of working with others whilst apart.

Since I started my PhD, I have been involved in several virtual writing groups. These groups meet once a month via Zoom or Microsoft Teams and bring together students and staff in a supportive space to encourage dedicated writing time.

Typically, these writing groups begin with an informal catch-up and a discussion of each person’s goal for what they want to achieve during the day, whether it be working on a couple of paragraphs towards a chapter, transcribing an interview, or writing a conference abstract.

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New Beginnings: Starting the PhD Journey and Managing Change

Ryan Peacey, Criminology, Social Policy and Social Work, University of Manchester (2021 Cohort)

In late September 2021, I started my PhD in Criminology at the University of Manchester. When I received my place, and later my funding, it came after a period of prolonged uncertainty during the pandemic. Knowing I was at the start of a journey during which I would begin paving my way towards a career in academia, I was both anxious and excited. After an unexpected year out, I was excited to once again have the opportunity to immerse myself in my studies and further develop the research I had undertaken during my masters. Despite this, I felt the familiar anxiety about the change that starting a PhD would entail: how will I find studying at a new university? What will my day-to-day look like? How will I know if I am doing enough? Am I good enough to do a PhD? I share this as I feel some of these fears will likely be relatable to fellow early PhD students (and those who are considering a PhD), and in the hopes that doing so may help ease some of those fears.

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Organizing your own reading group

Jingwen Zhang, Social Statistics, University of Manchester (2020 Cohort)

Solitary work and limited social life are common for PhD students, but are we doomed to be lonely? How can we find companions on our personal PhD journeys? One way to help us come together with those with similar interests is to organise a reading group.

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Historical research in and beyond the archive – everyday encounters with local history

Ella Bytheway-Jackson, Geography and Environment, University of Liverpool (2019 Cohort)

During my Masters programme (Class of 2020) the pandemic forced the CASE partner to my MA and PhD research, Wirral Archives, to close. My main source of data was completely shut off for an unknown period of time. I acknowledge that this is not a unique story – colleagues in the MethodsX Archives Collections and Documents of Life Stream faced equally anxiety-inducing closures, especially when the collections they intended to explore were overseas. More broadly, as a research community, we have had to learn to adapt our plans and revise expectations over the last couple of years.

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