Tag Archives: PhD writing

Data visualisation


Have any of you seen the utterly fabulous Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stephanie Posavec?  These two data designers undertook a project of collecting weekly data on aspects of their lives (how many times they became irritated with their spouse, for example).  Each week they converted that data into a visual form and sent a postcard of it to each other.  On the cover is the visual data and on the back was an explanation of the thought process that went into it.  Have a look at their story:

I think this is such a fabulous idea to teach students how to see data, how to think about collect it and how to visualise ways to represent the data.  For me, it combines the best aspects of research: interesting stuff to collect and creativity.  Visit their site here, if you want more.  (I’ve begun collecting data on how many times I give my dog some loving.  The data reveals what she has indicated all along: Not enough!)

Qualitative data

Today I came across this blog on qualitative data visualisation.  In the blog, author Jennifer Lyons begins with this: “Visualizing qualitative data is like making homemade risotto. You are standing over the stove (aka hunkered down with your computer), waiting patiently for the magic to happen. It’s slow and sweaty, but in the end SO worth it. There is a reason you can’t order risotto at McDonalds, and there is a reason you can’t display your qualitative findings in a nice neat dot plot. I am going to share some resources and ideas that will help give your audience a taste of your rich qualitative findings.” Qualitative researchers, are you salivating yet?  Go and read the blog!  She has a whole crayon box full of ideas.

Work-life balance while doing your PhD


Hi everyone

I’m involved in a project on wellness in academia:  What does it mean to be well in this context?  Because of this, I’m noticing articles and comments about wellness.  I came across this blog post which is part of a series of blogs.  It’s worth posting this here because many of the doctoral students I see are incredibly stressed and feel completely isolated.  Go to the blog here: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/jul/08/humanities-phd-students-isolation


Finding my voice again


As I’ve mentioned before, our family has been dealing with a long-term significant health issue (hopefully we’re on the other side of it now).  The stress of that, coupled with the day-to-day frantic world of teaching, supervising, running workshops and meeting existing research commitments has its consequences.  I find myself rushing through papers, not enjoying the process and just focusing on deadlines and outputs. What I want to say, and what I want to contribute has gone by the wayside because there is simply no time to think or to work that out. In addition to all of this is the tenure-track pressure to be ‘the good academic citizen’, someone who fits in and conforms.

Marlene Schiwy, in a book called A voice of her own (1986), talks about her own experience as a PhD student:

“…after many years of rigorous academic work, my own writing voice – the voice that had known its truth and confidently written stories at ten – had been silenced. In its place was my best attempt to sound authoritative and erudite, dispassionate and elegant. Academic writing, I found, required me to leave out precisely what I cared about most in a work of literature – ironic, since I always wrote out of a passionate affinity with a particular author or work. Where my younger voice had been spontaneous and unselfconscious, my academic voice was anxious and unsure, forever second-guessing itself in the attempt to leave no nuance unexplored, no counterargument unrefuted, no reference uncited. In the final year of writing my thesis, I promised myself that as soon as it was finished, I would get back to ‘my own writing,’ to my own voice. Then I would write to please myself…But – lo, and behold – it was not that simple. My voice had not been just waiting patiently for an invitation to return, and hadn’t gone unaltered by my years in the academic world. Suddenly I wasn’t sure what my voice was, anymore, or even whether it was still there”  (p.29-30).

How do we recognise our own voice among the many voices we have internalised over the years?  How do we develop a voice that is no longer governed by the language of the collective but is also not just created in opposition? These are Schiwy’s questions.  Her solution is in writing in a journal to “let the tongue try itself out” (p. 304). Write about what you really think about your research?  What you really want to say? Write without restrictions, without conforming and then see what can be transferred, used, and shaped into your paper/chapter.  The journal could be an old-fashioned book or a desktop document, but it’s private and it’s yours, and it’s here that you will find your meaningful voices because, of course, there will be many voices to try out.

The papers I have enjoyed writing the most and the ones where I have good responses have been the papers where my voice is unmistakable because I feel strongly about what I am saying.  This does not mean I write my feelings into the paper or that my papers are very subjective, it means that I write less passively, more actively constructing my writing around a message rather than writing just to get it done, to get it finished and to have a product that will satisfy the external demands. Writing (even academic papers/chapters) becomes satisfying when we attach meaning to it and when we’re able to weave it into our evolving life stories.

Then it’s not just about getting the writing job done but an experience of discovery about who we are.