Festival of Doctoral Research, 15th – 19th June 2020

The Festival of Doctoral Research is back! Just because we are not able to meet in person isn’t going to stop us from our annual celebration of doctoral research at Sussex.

Taking place over five days (Monday 15th – Friday 19th June), the doctoral community will come together for a range of events, workshops, and competitions, with plenty of opportunities to get involved. We will be providing updates and adding more events over the next few weeks, so stay tuned to the Festival Homepage and on Twitter #SussexDocFest.

Here’s a round up of what’s on offer throughout the festival so far.


The Three Minute Thesis event takes centre stage on Wednesday 17th June when doctoral researchers will take to the (remote) stage to present their research in just three minutes! This year’s participants are from varied fields, and will be vying to win the first-place £500 towards research and a place in the Vitae UK semi-finalsSign up to the event to tune in remotely, to learn about the amazing richness and breadth of doctoral research at Sussex, and to vote for your favourite for the People’s Choice Award!

While you’re waiting for the 3MT final check out a summary of the 2019 competition and also an interview with Noora Nevala, last year’s winner, who shares her 3MT journey. She discusses what she learned from training and preparing for the final, the skills she developed, and her top tips for this year’s participants.

A black woman wearing a Pride t-shirt sits on the street in Cuba. She has a pride rainbow in the shape of Cuba painted on her neck and is looking directly at the camera. Research Image Competition 2019 winning photograph, by Evie Browne.
Photograph by Evie Browne – 1st Prize, Research Image Competition 2019

We are excited to take a deeper look into Sussex research through the Research Image and Research Poster competitions. Doctoral researchers from all years and disciplines are invited to submit an image or poster to offer a visual perspective on their research.

Entering is quick and easy, so get your Image or Poster applications in by Friday 5th June to take part! You can look through the 2018 and 2019 shortlisted entries for any needed inspiration. All 2020 shortlisted entries will be showcased throughout the festival for people to view and to vote for their favourite, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday afternoon as part of the prize-giving ceremony alongside 3MT.

On Tuesday 16th, we will be holding our first ever panel discussions on Finishing the Doctorate, one each for Arts and Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences. Raise your queries and engage in discussion with Directors of Doctoral Studies and late-stage/finished researchers from your field, who will provide insights into what to expect and how they dealt with issues such as conducting field research, undertaking data analysis, and the Viva process.

There will be a variety of webinars and workshops for you to engage with and learn from. The sessions cover topics on mental health and wellbeing, networking, preparing research proposals, and much more:

The Library team is bringing a brand new event to the Festival in the shape of the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. This event is for anyone who is interested in learning how to improve diversity on Wikipedia by developing pages on notable women, LGBTQ+ and BAME professionals and underrepresented issues missing from the free and open encyclopedia. Book your place to contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge, and help to address under-representation and bias. If you’d like to find out more, you can check out what’s involved in an Edit-a-thon, and read about the value of being a Wiki scientist and why we need more women in Wikipedia.

Poster for Sussex Research Hive Doctoral Researchers' Quaran-Time Capsule project.

There will be plenty of fun taking place on Twitter under the hashtag #SussexDocFest, including the Research Hive’s #QuaranTimeCapsule which invites you to share the photos which have represented your lockdown PhD experiences.

Poster for the Sussex Research Hive Quiz Evening on Thursday 18th June.

On Thursday 18th June, put your general knowledge to the test and be in with a chance of winning vouchers at the Hive Scholars’ Quiz Evening.

And for even more light-hearted amusement, book your place for Games Night on Tuesday 16th. There will be fun, laughter, and, of course, Cards against Humanity.

Poster for the PhD Game Night on Tuesday 16th June. A dice with arms, legs and a superhero cape points at a laptop screen and says, 'Go Play!'.

Remember to stay tuned to the Festival homepage and on Twitter #SussexDocFest for more fun and updates over the next few weeks!

SPRU PhD Forum (Thursday 14th & Friday 15th May 2020)

The 26th annual SPRU PhD Forum is going online this year, with presentations live streamed on YouTube over two days. You can access the full schedule below:

Thursday May 14th – live on YouTube: SPRU PhD Forum Day 1
Friday May 15th – live on YouTube: SPRU PhD Forum Day 2

Two further sessions will take place on Zoom – on Thursday afternoon, a workshop on researcher wellness during Covid-19, provided by Sussex Doctoral School; and on Friday afternoon, a panel on academic career development from the ST Global Consortium. If you would like to join, email D.Wemyss@sussex.ac.uk for Zoom links.

Join the LinkedIn group and follow on Twitter for regular updates, and contact sprudoc@gmail.com for further details.

RDP Remote: Ten new Library Research Support courses (May and June)

The Researcher Development Programme are pleased to add ten new courses from Library Research Support to the workshops and webinars available online. The Library sessions are running throughout May and June and cover a range of topics including reference management tools, open access publishing, and keeping up-to-date with the literature in your field.

Click on the Sussex Direct links next to each workshop to find out more and to book a place. All attendees will receive an email with a weblink and any necessary materials in advance of the date.

Literature searching with Scopus and Web of Science – With useful guidance from the Library Research Support team, this workshop will show you how to make the most of these two major resources and develop search techniques that you can transfer to other more subject-specific databases.
6th May, 12.00 – 13.30 Sussex Direct booking page
5th June, 10.30 – 12.00 Sussex Direct booking page

Finding theses and dissertations for your research – This session introduces several online tools that can be used to access dissertations and theses from academic institutions within the UK and beyond.
15th May, 14.00 – 15.00 Sussex Direct booking page

Using reference management tools – Reference management tools enable you to create a personal database of references relevant to your work. These tools can help you gather bibliographic data from a range of sources, organise and manage this data, cite references in your writing, and generate bibliographies. This course consists of a short video training session introducing three reference management tools – EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero – and a self-guided tutorial leading you through the main features of each, so that you can decide which tool suits your needs.
Sussex Direct booking page

The Using reference management tools course will be followed by three live Q&A discussions with the Library team. Explore the course materials, choose the tool that works for you then join the relevant discussion for help with any queries or issues:

Keeping up to date in your subject – this workshop will explore the tools and techniques available to keep you up to date with the research going on in your subject area.
11th June, 11.00 – 12.30 Sussex Direct booking page

Introduction to Open Access publishing (part of the Festival of Doctoral Research) – this session provides an introduction to Open Access publishing from both a researcher and publisher perspective.
16th June, 14.00 – 15.30 Sussex Direct booking page

Understanding publication metrics – this practical workshop will introduce you to some of the tools you can use to measure the research impact of authors, articles, and journals.
24th June, 11.00 – 12.30 Sussex Direct booking page

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic

As a doctoral researcher you will currently be facing a lot of uncertainty. You might be worried about your funding or visa status, juggling study with family or work, or dealing with disruptions to your research. That is to say nothing of the psychological impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on all of us.

If you are feeling anxious about any aspect of your personal or professional life, or you’re simply feeling overwhelmed, it is okay to ask for help; the services and resources below may be useful.

If you don’t know where to start or even how you are feeling, join our online workshops to discuss wellbeing and mental health knowledge and experience in a safe space. The Looking After Yourself during the Covid-19 Lockdown workshop on Wednesday 6th May will give you the tools to think about your own unique mental health needs, how you can help yourself concretely, and when you may need professional help. Book a place on Sussex Direct.

You may also be interested in these upcoming RDP workshops:

  • The Healthy Researcher: how to look after yourself and keep going (12th May)
  • The Productive Researcher: how to keep writing (14th May)
  • Stress, Resilience and Strengths: a digital workshop for researchers (4th June and 7th July)

University services are open, and operating virtually. The Student Life Centre are trained to help you if you’re struggling with anything from emotional, relationship or financial difficulties to health problems, self-motivation or university procedures. Get in touch with them on studentlifecentre@sussex.ac.uk. The Student Support Unit is available online for disability-related enquiries (this includes high levels of stress/anxiety lasting at least six months): email disabilitysupport@sussex.ac.uk.

Silvercloud is a free, interactive self-help app promoted by the counselling team – see their self-help webpage for details, and guidance on other common psychological issues.

The Doctoral School wellbeing website, developed by the Office for Students-funded U-DOC project, includes video interviews with PGRs, links to university services and tools for self-care. Our new suggested self-care strategies gif is available to download as a PDF poster, if you’d like to use it as a visual prompt in your work space.

The Wellbeing Thesis website was co-created by King’s College London, Derby University, PhD researchers and the Student Minds charity. The Managing Adversity topic may be particularly useful, alongside bitesize videos on breathing exercises, chair yoga and getting a good night’s sleep. See key themes on the homepage or use the menu to explore videos and downloadable resources.

If you’re seeking support for yourself or a friend the Student Minds website has a section on coronavirus, and one of their consultants, Dr Dominique Thompson, has blogged about coping with coronavirus anxiety. Follow her DomInSixtySeconds YouTube channel for more.

And if you are feeling isolated and want to connect with other PhD researchers we’ve pulled together some of the key platforms elsewhere on the blog. See the new Things To Do During Lockdown section on the Student Hub for ideas.

RDP online course: How to edit your own writing

Every researcher needs to edit, whether you’re working on your final thesis, a chapter, or a journal article. We have therefore worked to give you the tools and support for getting your writing into shape.

Instead of a one-off session, this course will provide you with on-going access to materials and guidance from the facilitator, Dr Catherine Pope. Through activities and tutorials you will cover:

  • How much time do you need for editing?
  • Improving your structure
  • Signposting your argument
  • Maintaining consistency, clarity and connections
  • Wrangling with grammar and style
  • Proofreading your own work
  • Soliciting and implementing feedback

Visit Sussex Direct for more info and to sign up. We will change the date for the course regularly in order to keep it on our Events page. If the course is fully booked, sign up to the waiting list and we will contact you.

RDP Remote: six new workshops from UEA Online Training Series (May and June)

We are pleased to add six workshops covering qualitative research issues, publishing, and looking beyond the PhD to research proposals and your first academic posting to our Researcher Development Programme.

The workshops are part of the University of East Anglia’s Online Training Series delivered by Dr Simon Watts, and will be exclusively available to University of Sussex doctoral researchers.

Academic Publishing
This session will introduce and discuss the practicalities of academic journal publishing. Various means for choosing a target journal will be considered, as will the mechanics of writing an effective paper (including a summary of the aims of each section of an academic report).
Sussex Direct booking link

A Comparison of Qualitative Methods
This session will compare and contrast the aims, data collection preferences, analytic style, limitations and appropriate usage of four different qualitative methods – grounded theory, thematic analysis, interpretative phenomenological analysis and narrative analysis – in order to identify the types of research questions that suit each method.
Sussex Direct booking link

Qualitative Interviewing
This session will consider three different types of interviewing (structured, semi-structured and unstructured), but with a particular focus on semi-structured or ‘qualitative’ interviewing. Other issues covered will include the nature of interview questions, the design and structure of an effective interview schedule and the mechanics of conducting a successful interview (with different people and to deliver on our research aims). 
Sussex Direct booking link

Analysing Qualitative Data
This session will consider and discuss a range of issues relative to the micro-analysis of qualitative data, including the analyst’s perspective (the aims and nature of their engagement with the data), coding systems, how to choose extracts for analysis in a systematic fashion, the meaning and importance of interpretation, generalising from qualitative findings and various write-up issues, including the relationship between the analysis and discussion sections of a qualitative report and the creation of impact.
Sussex Direct booking link

On the Job: Securing a First Academic Post
This session will focus on a number of relevant issues, including the need to establish an academic identity, how to recognise a ‘gettable’ post, and particularly the generation of effective and job-tailored application paperwork (including CVs, personal statements, and covering letters).
Sussex Direct booking link

Preparing Impactful Research Proposals and Grant Applications
This session will consider the writing of effective research proposals and the best ways to create a compelling ‘case for support’. Coverage will include the generation of a clear rationale, the statement of a defined and delimited set of research aims and questions, the proposal of a study (or series of studies) – as well as appropriate methods and analyses – that will clearly deliver on the stated research aims.
Sussex Direct booking link

New Careers Workshop: Boosting your career skills from home (29th April)

Wednesday 29th April, 13.00 – 13.30 (Online)

The Careers and Employability Centre (CEC) has announced a new session next Wednesday 29th April, exploring how you can continue to enhance your career skills remotely. Top tips will be shared on how to explore your options, develop your commercial awareness and how to be active online.

If you are nearing the end of your PhD you may be concerned for the future, but remember the skills and experience that you gain during this uncertain time can be added to your CV and discussed with any future employers.

You can sign up to the session here via Sussex Direct and will receive a weblink for the event the day before.

This is the latest remote workshop from the CEC series for doctoral researchers, including:

RDP Remote: six additional online workshops confirmed

In addition to the Social Media Bootcamp, we are pleased to confirm six additional remote workshops to the Researcher Development Programme, facilitated by the wonderful Dr. Sarah Robins-Hobden.

The upcoming sessions will address topics such as dealing with stress in the current context, effectively communicating your research, overcoming perfectionism and imposter phenomenon, and freeing up time and attention for your workload.

Stress, Resilience and Strengths: a digital workshop for researchers
In the acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic you might be facing concurrent challenges of conducting your research from home, tutoring small humans, anxiety over the welfare of family members, a restructuring of your social life, dealing with persistent uncertainty and, it seems, a national shortage of toilet paper. This session could help you manage stress better, focus on your resilience when you need to, and create a greater sense of agency, while acknowledging and working with the very real limitations you might be experiencing.
Tuesday 21st April (10.00 – 12.00) Eventbrite booking link
Thursday 4th June (13.30 – 15.30) Sussex Direct booking link
Tuesday 7th July (13.30 – 15.30) Sussex Direct booking link

Communicating your Research to Non-Specialists (online)
This workshop will provide you with take-away tools to support you in understanding your audiences, choosing what to include and what to leave out, constructing an engaging and meaningful narrative, and how to tailor the detail of your research (and its impact) in accessible language.
Tuesday 5th May (10.30 – 12.00) Sussex Direct booking link

Tools for Handling Perfectionism and Imposter Phenomenon (online)
Experiencing either perfectionism or imposter phenomenon (or both) may mean you put yourself under more pressure to achieve, whilst at the same time you find your stress increases, productivity declines, and confidence becomes undermined. This workshop will provide you with a selection of techniques to manage your thinking and stress levels in a positive way, and to effectively handle perfectionist tendencies and imposter feelings if they arise.
Thursday 28th May (10.30 – 12.00) Sussex Direct booking link

Wrangling Your Workload (two-part online workshop)
Competing priorities, tight time frames and a sense of overwhelm are common in research roles, where researchers are striving for consistently high standards in an increasingly competitive field. In this workshop, we will review a range of strategies to reduce work-related stress in the research environment and empower you to free up time and attention for your own wellbeing.
Monday 22nd and Thursday 25th June (10.30 – 12.30) Sussex Direct booking link
Please note: This is a two-part course taking place on Monday 22nd and Thursday 25th June (10.30 – 12.00 on both days). Participants are required to attend both parts. 

RDP Remote: Writing into Meaning: voice, audience and reflexivity in writing (29th April)

Following the Creative Ways to Stimulate your Writing workshop earlier this month, we are happy to confirm the next workshop designed and facilitated by the tremendous ESW trio Dr Emily Danvers, Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith and Dr Rebecca Webb.

The Writing into Meaning: voice, audience and reflexivity in writing workshop takes place on Wednesday 29th April (13.30 – 15.00) and explores the connection between who we are and what we write, and also what place audience, context and identity hold in the production of our ‘writerly’ voices.

Follow this link to Sussex Direct for more info and to book a place.

Distant Viva Voce examinations and thesis submission during the Covid-19 outbreak

A new set of Sussex guidelines regarding online thesis submission and Distant (online) Vivas during the Covid-19 outbreak has been released. The new guidance is available here, and features on the Advice for Supervisors and Doctoral Researchers (during Covid-19) webpage.

The UK Council for Graduate Education has also developed A Guide for Institutions and Candidates, which includes support for PGRs approaching an online viva.

The Doctoral School Researcher Development Programme is running online versions of the PGR viva-preparation workshop, which will take the new guidance into account: