Twitter as Ersatz PhD Supervisor

As a busy mum of two, I knew that embarking on a part-time PhD was going to test me.  I also learned very quickly that I would  have to stand on my own two feet as a researcher if I was going to survive my PhD.  Fortunately starting my PhD coincided with me joining Twitter (the oft maligned social network) and what a relief it was to discover within the Twittersphere a veritable treasure trove of tips and top advice for every stage of the PhD journey.Twitter_FS2

Twitter has been a constant companion throughout my PhD journey ( I am in my final year now).  Yes, Twitter has regularly distracted me and allowed me to indulge in bouts of procrastination but it has given me so much more than this.  Twitter has served as:

1. an outlet for my frustration at my own lack of progress and intellectual weaknesses,

2. access to a network of fellow sojourners on the PhD journey,

3. a source of advice and reassurance when specific help was needed,

and perhaps most valuably Twitter has served as a gateway to a seemingly bottomless repository of blogs, tweets, websites and even a MOOC – to guide you on the uncertain and often lonely march through the doctorate.

As a part-time doctoral student I knew that I would not see my supervisors that regularly but I underestimated just how difficult it would be to get face to face meeting time with two seriously busy professors.  Disclaimer: I think my supervisors are amazing people and their advice, however infrequently proferred, has invariably been insightful and game changing. But, the reality is that they have not been there quite as often as I might have wanted.  You may be in a similar situation, and I want to reassure you that Twitter can taken on the mantle of “ersatz  supervisor” with some success.  I even managed to encourage one of my supervisors to read a draft journal paper by threatening to name and shame him on Twitter (not a course of action I would recommend for most PhD students, but it did the trick !)

So here are my top Twitter/Blog resources that you may wish to connect with, at whatever stage of the PhD you find yourself.  The beauty of each of these is that they are all gateways to a myriad other resources – and something for whatever situation, emotion or problem you are facing.

1. The Thesis Whisperer by @thesiswhisperer 

The “goto” source for all matters PhD related, whether writing advice, reassurance or pitfalls to avoid.  My all time favourite post is The Valley of Shit – a dark place in which most PhD students find themselves at some stage.

2. Patter  by @ThomsonPat

Another fantastic resource on all matters academic writing related.  So many helpful posts including Devouring your data , Discussing the findings: its about taking flight and Seven reasons why papers are rejected by journals

3. How to do a literature review produced by Aurelie at @HowtoLitReview

A feast of posts all demystifying the process of mapping, synthesising and articulating the literature.

4. The Happy PhD written by @_AJDavis

An uplifting resource designed to help take some of the pain out of the PhD process. There is also a great little eBook that you can get for free at Finding your Academic Voice

5. How to survive your PhD

I havent done this MOOC, as I am feeling quite positive about my PhD at the moment (perhaps because I have yet to submit) but from the tweets I have seen it looks fantastic – Amazingly about 13000 people registered for it.

6. Say it once, say it right by @PJDunleavy

Invaluable advice on how to structure a journal paper, or thesis chapter.

7 Ten truths a PhD supervisor will never tell you

It may be too late for some of these tips if you have already begun your PhD, but nevertheless this article is essential reading in my view – after all forewarned is forearmed.

I wrote this post as a response to the specific challenges that I have faced when completing my PhD (and as a primer for my other half who is finally considering doing a doctorate) but I wonder if it is equally valid for any challenging educational or professional situtation. For example: the international MSc student adapting to a new educational culture and the strange customs and rituals of their new home, or the newbie academic faced with competing and often overwhelming demands for teaching, research and impact excellence.

Helpfully, Sue Beckingham describes Twitter (and social media in general ) as a personal learning network (see Using social media to develop your own personal learning network ) and I totally agree with this  – provided of course that you are discerning in who you follow and what you tweet.

What do you think?

Are there other essential PhD resources that you would add to this list?

















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