Why you need the support of other Doctoral Researchers

Four differently coloured wooden pawn playing pieces lined up next to each other.

As we come out of lockdown and a period of uncertainty and anxiety, and with the University still shut, never has it been more important to connect with other doctoral researchers than now. If you are looking for ways of linking up with other people in your School or in the wider University to form a mutually supportive group that ‘meets’ online, then read on…

Very early on in my PhD I realised that it was going to be a lonely few years. Without lectures and seminars to attend and with supervision just once a month the opportunity to connect with other people and talk about my research was limited.  I didn’t spend much time on campus, preferring to work at home, but this meant that it was difficult to link up with other doctoral researchers in my School.

I decided that I needed to reach out and talk to other people about the difficulties and stresses of doing a PhD and to discuss how they manage the ups and downs of PhD life. I found three people in the School of Education and Social Work and we formed an online support group. We are now in our third year and we all really value it.

We meet on Skype once a month and update each other on our research, discuss ideas and research methods and anything else that comes up. It has been really useful to pick each other up when things are not going so well and to celebrate our successes together.  We have supported each other through research proposals, ethics, fieldwork, analysis and now writing up. We carried on ‘meeting’ even when one of us intermitted due to illness and we intend to continue until we finish our PhDs.

I’m pleased to say that the Doctoral School has taken on board our idea and is now promoting it throughout the University.  If you would like to be better connected with your fellow researchers and want to feel the support of a group of people who are having similar experiences to you (good and bad), then I recommend that you get involved with a group.

Contact your PhD Convener to see if they can match you with people in your School, but if they can’t, fill in this simple form and the Doctoral School will connect you with suitable people. You may also want to read these guidelines on how to set up a group before you start.

Our group has operated without a hitch and everyone is respectful and supportive. If, however, you have any problems then Katy Stoddard in the Doctoral School is there to help. Whatever stage in your PhD you are, I thoroughly recommend an online support group to you and urge you to set one up as soon as possible.

Claire Durrant, doctoral reasearcher in social work