Digital productivity for doctoral researchers: five-day bitesize course from Technology Enhanced Learning

An overhead shot of a woman working with two connected computers and a laptop.

This short online course, running over five consecutive days from Monday 9th to Friday 13th November, is a chance to explore the tools that interest you and learn alongside other researchers, with Technology Enhanced Learning on hand to guide you.

Members of the TEL team will be on call to answer questions, contribute to discussions and try out things with you. It’s up to you when you engage with the course and how much time you spend on it, but you should be able to cover the basics in 30 minutes a day.

The course focuses on how digital technologies and services can support us to work in more efficient, dynamic and connected ways. Many of the approaches and tools you will explore can be used for personal/domestic activities as well as work and study.

The five days will cover:

  • Teamworking with Microsoft Teams
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Managing and organising tasks
  • Notemaking
  • Reflection, tips and tricks

Sign up via Sussex Direct by November 6th, when bookings will close.

TEL’s online bitesized courses are short, facilitated self-study courses. Each course is split into five ‘bitesize’ pieces – one a day Monday to Friday. Each day builds your understanding to give you a solid foundation. Members of the Technology Enhanced Learning team will be available throughout the course should you have any questions or wish to learn more about any of the topics.

IMPORTANT: Changes to the way UEA Online Training Series is booked

The banner for the UEA: University of East Anglia online training series, showing UEA university buildings and university logo.

The UEA Online Training Series, run by Dr Simon Watts, is open to all doctoral researchers at Sussex.

Due to exceptionally high competition for places, all sessions between 17 November and 26 January will be opened for bookings NEXT MONDAY 26 OCTOBER at 12 NOON.

Please remember that these workshops are repeated throughout the academic year. If you aren’t able to secure a place, there will be the opportunity to do so in the spring, and further dates are being added as demand dictates.

Please also be mindful of how useful each workshop is to your development at this point – it’s tempting to grab hold of every training opportunity going, but there is little value in attending a workshop on career prospects or academic publishing, for example, if you’ve just started your PhD!

The research methods modules and workshops on writing research proposals and securing a first academic post are also running exclusively for Sussex researchers; see the listings on the RDP website to book onto those.

If you’re still struggling to access a particular workshop, session recordings can be requested through the Training Series website as a last resort, and this is a great alternative for those who can’t book the live sessions. They will be delivered to you at three points throughout the year, see the website for further information.

RDP course: Using reference management tools to help your research

Orange banner reading 'managing references'.

Your PhD is probably the biggest piece of research you’ve undertaken so far, and juggling numerous references to articles and other resources can quickly get out of hand. It’s also a pain to have to write out and format your citations and bibliographies manually. Luckily, there’s an app for that!

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 automatically.

There are a number of software options available, and choosing the right tool for you will depend on your personal preferences and technical requirements. The Library is providing training on three different reference management tools this month: Zotero, Mendeley and Endnote.

Take a look at the Using Reference Management Tools self-guided course, and follow the materials to learn about reference management, explore the software and choose the one that suits your needs. Then book onto a Library Q&A session if you have any queries or need further support.

Course structure:

  • Step 1: Watch this 30-minute introductory video which will outline what reference management software does and the tools that are available.
  • Step 2: Choose which software option you want to explore – there are online tutorials for Zotero, Mendeley and Endnote.
  • Step 3: Follow the tutorial, and practice adding, managing and citing different types of materials to get a feel for the functionality.
  • Step 4: Sign up for a live Q&A if you get stuck or have any specific questions – these aren’t training sessions, but an opportunity for hands-on troubleshooting from one of the Library team. There are Q&As for Mendeley (26 Oct), Endnote (29 Oct) and Zotero (3 Nov).

UEA Online Training Series for PGRs 2020-21: details online now

A person wearing headphones and sitting at a computer screen is silhouetted against a sunset sky.

The UEA online training series for doctoral researchers offers research and professional skills training in a ‘live-taught’ online format. Training sessions are delivered via a virtual classroom, often on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings 7pm-9pm but also on weekday mornings 10am-12pm. 

The series is organised and administered by Dr Simon Watts, PGR Training Coordinator for the Faculty of Social Science at UEA, who also teaches the majority of sessions.

The series consists of five themed modules, each with a number of sessions repeated three or four times throughout the year: 

  • Module 1: Academic Writing
  • Module 2: Qualitative Research Skills
  • Module 3: Finishing your PhD
  • Module 4: Teaching Skills
  • Module 5: Quantitative Research Skills

The module on qualitative research now includes a new session on using NVivo. We will be repeating this and several of the other sessions exclusively for Sussex researchers; once scheduled, these will be available to book on the RDP listings webpage.

In a change to the series, each individual session will open for bookings three weeks before they are due to run. The first session, running on Tuesday 6th October at 7pm, will open at 7pm on Tuesday 15th September, and so on throughout the year.

Make a note of the sessions you are interested in and when the bookings will open. Booking is always competitive so make sure you book early to avoid disappointment.

For more information on the individual sessions and for booking details, visit the UEA Online Training Series website. The Doctoral School does not deal with bookings. If you have any problems or want to ask a question please email simon.d.watts@uea.ac.uk or ssf.advancedtraining@uea.ac.uk.

Festival spotlight on… Finishing Your Doctorate panel discussions (Tuesday 16th June)

We are very excited to be holding our first ever panel discussions on Finishing Your Doctorate, one each for Arts and HumanitiesSciences, and Social Sciences.

The discussions are designed for the middle to late stages of a PhD and will be taking place on Tuesday 16th June (11.00 – 12.30), as part of the Festival of Doctoral Research (15th – 19th June).

Owing to the success of the Starting your Doctorate panel discussions that we hold during Induction for new researchers, we wanted to replicate the opportunity for later-stage PGRs. It will be a chance to 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:

  • Research collection
  • Conducting field research and travelling
  • Undertaking data analysis
  • Writing and editing
  • Receiving feedback
  • Preparing for the Viva process
  • Life after the PhD

If you have any specific questions/topics in mind that you’d like answered in the discussions, please email researcher-development@sussex.ac.uk (subject: panel discussion).

You can get involved in the discussion by signing up through the Sussex Direct booking link for your discipline area: 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Festival spotlight on… workshops

A promotional image for the Festival of Doctoral Research #SussexDocFest.

The Festival of Doctoral Research is a chance to showcase the variety of Researcher Development training we provide to help PhD students at Sussex gain essential study skills and prepare for the future.

With contributions from the university’s Library, Careers and Research Ethics & Integrity teams, a mental health and wellbeing workshop from Dr Sophie Valeix, and webinars from the UEA Online Training Series and the Brilliant Club, the festival schedule gives a real flavour of what the Doctoral School has to offer. If you’ve not attended any RDP sessions before, now is the time to dip your toe in!

Check out the Festival webpage for the full programme of events, and take a look at the RDP listings for our regular schedule of training workshops, which are being delivered virtually over the summer.

Monday 15th June

  • 10.00 – 12.00: Preparing Impactful Research Proposals (UEA) 
    This session will consider the writing of effective research proposals and the best ways to create a compelling ‘case for support’ that will clearly deliver on the stated research aims.
    Book a place
  • 14.00 – 15.00: The Scholars Programme
    The Brilliant Club’s Scholars Programme provides paid roles to PhD researchers tutoring in schools. Siri Minsaas, the programme officer, will be joined by Isilay Taban, a Law PGR at Sussex and a Scholars Programme tutor. 
    Book a place

Tuesday 16th June

  • 14.00 – 15.30: Introduction to Open Access Publishing (Library)
    Explore the rationale for Open Access practices, the current state of the field, how to establish new journals, and researcher/publisher funding opportunities, particularly in light of ‘author-pays’ models.
    Book a place

Wednesday 17th June

  • 11.00 – 12.30: Networking and LinkedIn (Careers)
    Discover how building networks and using LinkedIn effectively can help you develop your research profile and build your future career.
    Book a place

Thursday 18th June

  • 14.00 – 16.00: Looking After Yourself During the PhD
    This workshop examines the mental health and wellbeing challenges linked with doing a PhD and provides tools to manage those challenges and maintain good mental health, as well as to cope with mental health difficulties. Learn about the support that is available, identify your triggers, and reflect on self-care strategies that work for you.
    Book a place

Friday 19th June

  • 11.00 – 12.00: Ethical Review: what it means to you and your research
    Lauren Shukru and Tim Parkinson from the Science & Technology and Social Sciences & Arts Cross-School Research Ethics Committees will be presenting a quick overview of the university ethical review process, and offering you an opportunity to ask questions.
    Book a place

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.