The Value of Academic Communities Part 1: My Academic Community

On the 8th of November 2017, I gave the Postgraduate Voices talk at the Historical Geography Research Group’s (HGRG) annual postgraduate conference, Practising Historical Geography. I talked about my experience of academic communities, because of how important they have been to me during my PhD. I have decided to turn my talk into three blog posts, which I will publish here over the next few weeks.

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Myself with some of my Royal Holloway peers and my PhD supervisor at the 2016 RGS-IBG Annual Conference. From left to right: Ben Newman, Dr. Rachael Squire, Dr. Innes Keighren, myself (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

A PhD can be a lonely experience. I have spent many days sat on my own in the archives or in front of my computer. As such, I have always embraced opportunities to work or interact with other PhD students and academics. There are a number of reasons why it’s a good idea to actively participate in the academic community, ranging from the strategic to the emotional. It can lead to opportunities that are helpful for career progression, it provides access to a wealth of advice and experience, and it can be a source of support when you’re struggling. Talking to others who know what I’m going through has been one of the key strategies I have developed to deal with the stress of doing a PhD. Every PhD is different, and as such, it seems likely that every PhD student’s academic communities are also different. Because of this, I thought I should explain what I consider my academic community to be.

PhD Supervisors

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This is the only photo I could find of myself and both of my PhD supervisors. Professor David Gilbert is on the far left in the back row, and Dr. Innes Keighren is on the far right in the back row (Photo: Graeme Awcock).

In many ways, your PhD supervisors are your first point of contact with the academic world, so your relationship with them is an important one. My supervisors have been incredible, helping me through all aspects of academic life as well as the thesis itself. My department runs an annual training session on called Managing Your Supervisor, which always gets a bit of a giggle, but it is actually important to think about. What do you want or need from your supervisor? What do you expect from them? What do they expect from you? The relationship between postgraduates and supervisors varies a lot depending on the individuals involved, but it’s worth investing some time thinking about what works best for you. I have two supervisors: Professor David Gilbert and Dr. Innes Keighren. I almost always met with both of them, which I think is quite unusual from what I’ve gathered talking to others. I guess my key piece of advice is be honest with them, especially when things aren’t going well. It can be embarrassing to admit you’re struggling, but how are they supposed to help you if they don’t know what’s really going on? Your supervisors are probably your most valuable source of advice, support, and feedback: don’t waste it. However, you also have to be wary of being over reliant. At the end of the day your PhD is your project, and at some point you have to take ownership of it.

Peers

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My Masters class on a trip to the Royal Geographical Society archives in December 2012 (Photo: Innes Keighren).

There isn’t really a concise way of saying ‘people who are doing a PhD at roughly the same time as you,’ so I’ve settled for peers. There are quite a few PhD students in the Geography Department at Royal Holloway, and I have also met PhD students from other departments along the way. My peers have been really important to me, because they understand what I’m going through. It can be hard for those outside of academia to grasp a PhD; I have had to field quite a few questions over the years about what I’m going to do in my summer holiday, when my next exams are, and what I actually do with my time. Other PhD students get all that though, and more. They know it feels to get stuck writing a chapter, or hit a dead end in the archive, or have a frustrating supervision meeting. Equally, they know how it feels to have an abstract accepted for a conference, or to find that perfect source in the archive, or to get some great feedback from your supervisors. My peers understand it all–the triumphs and the tragedies. Peers are a wonderful source of advice, and if they can’t help, they can at least sympathise.

Established Academics

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Past and present committee members of the Historical Geography Research Group in 2013. (Photo: HGRG).

Another endless source of wisdom is academics who are further along their career path. I have found them to be unceasingly generous with their time and advice. Although it was a while ago for some of them, they know what it’s like to go through a PhD too, and I have been the grateful recipient of many pearls of wisdom over the years. I know it can be intimidating to talk to a high-flying professor when you are just a lowly postgraduate, but they don’t bite, honestly!

Over the course of a PhD, you get the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people, who you will probably have a lot in common with. In Part 2 of The Value of Academic Communities, I will talk about the various opportunities that I have made the most of to establish and maintain myself in academic communities.

Revolting New York: How 400 Years of Riot, Revolt, Uprising, and Revolution Shaped a City

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Revolting New York will be published early next year.

On my trips to New York City (in 2015 and 2016), I have scoured bookshops looking for a history of protest in the city, assuming that there must be one. After all, there are at least two books about London’s turbulent past. Whilst there is lots of great research about dissent in New York, there has not been an overarching survey–until now. Next year, a book will be published not just about the history of protest in New York, but about the historical geography of protest in the city. Revolting New York: How 400 Years of Riot, Revolt, Uprising, and Revolution Shaped a City began as a project by Neil Smith with some of his post-graduate students at the City University of New York. When he passed away in 2012, Professor Don Mitchell took over the task of editing the collection, and it is finally being published next year. As you can imagine, I’m quite excited about it, whilst also being a bit frustrated that I didn’t get there first!

Last week, Professor Mitchell gave a lecture about the project at Queen Mary, University of London. I went along to find about more about the project. Mitchell used various examples to demonstrate the strength of the relationship between dissent and the material landscape. We tend to view demonstrations, riots, and other expressions of dissent as unusual events, but they are actually very common, particularly in large cities like London and New York. It is actually more uncommon to have a peaceful period.

Mitchell started the lecture with an in-depth look at a decade of bombings in New York, culminating in anarchist Mario Buda’s attack on Wall Street on the 16th of September 1920 (I have written a review of Mike Davis’ excellent book about this bombing’s part in the early history of the car bomb here.) The bombings contributed to the deindustrialization of New York, as the small-scale manufacturing and transport networks that produced and planted the bombs were driven out of the city. Finance, insurance, and real estate came to dominate the city’s economy. In attempting to strike a devastating blow against the bankers of Wall Street, Buda inadvertently helped them tighten their grip on New York.

Mitchell used this narrative, and others, to argue that “landscape is power materialised.” Whilst this is not a new argument, Revolting New York applies it in a new context. Space is produced through social struggle, the result of constant negotiation and conflict between groups with different visions for that space. Protest is just one form that this process takes. As such, protest shapes and reshapes the city you see when you look out the window (apologies to those of you who are not currently in a city!)

The lecture was an introduction to the Revolting New York project, outlining it’s history, structure, and key arguments. It is particularly exciting for me because of its parallels with my own work on London. The book will be affordable too, less than £25 for the paperback, so hopefully it will help bring historical geography to a wider audience. I for one can’t wait to read it!

Academic Job Interviews: Collected Resources

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Job interviews can be intimidating, but  being well-prepared can help counter those nerves (Source: The Job Network).

I recently got my first academic job interview, after several months of silence and rejection emails. Unfortunately I wasn’t offered the job, but it was still good experience for me, and it was a huge step in the right direction in terms of getting an academic job. Whilst I was preparing for the interview, I spent time reading blog posts and webpages with advice about interviews, and other people’s experiences of interviews. Below are links to the ones I found particularly helpful.

Vitae: Academic Job Interviews provides advice about how to prepare for a job interview, what kind of research to do beforehand, what kind of questions to expect (the questions are assuming that the job is research-based though, there are no questions about teaching), and giving presentations.

Guardian Higher Education Network: Written by Steve Joy, How to Shine in an Academic Interview has some helpful tips on how to prepare for interviews, including sharing experiences with others, and orally practising your responses to typical questions.

Jobs.ac.uk: In Succeeding in Academic Interviews, Neil Harris  has some good general tips about interviews, including body language.

The University of Edinburgh Careers Service: Academic Interviews has a link to a comprehensive list of typical questions.

Dr. Nadine Muller: Academic Job Interviews is a detailed blog post written by Dr. Caroline Edwards, who has experience from both sides of the interview process.  It has typical questions, as well advice for all stages of an interview day, including lunch, which you might be expected to eat with the other candidates and members of the department. An Academic Interview recounts an interview that Dr. Muller went to, at which she was ultimately successful. At this point she had only recently finished her PhD, so the post is particularly helpful for those at a similar stage.

If you are currently looking for an academic job then I wish you luck, and remember that you are not alone!

23rd Practising Historical Geography Conference

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The 2017 Practising Historical Geography Conference was held in Manchester (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Last week, I went to Manchester Metropolitan University for the 23rd annual Practising Historical Geography Conference, organised by the Historical Geography Research Group (HGRG).  It was my fifth time attending the conference (I wrote about the last one I attended, in 2015, here), but my first time presenting. As always, I thought it was a great day, well organised, with really interesting speakers.

The day involves: two keynote speakers; two methodological workshops; a Postgraduate Voices presentation by a recently completed PhD student; and a paper by the HGRG undergraduate dissertation prize winner. This year, I gave the Postgraduate Voices talk. It meant a lot to be asked, as the Practising Historical Geography conferences have been a really important part of my PhD. I have valued the time spent with other enthusiastic researchers who have been unfailingly supportive over the last five years. Because of how much I have gotten out of these conferences, I decided to use my Postgraduate Voices presentation to talk about my place in the academic communities that played such an important role in my PhD. Doing a PhD can be a lonely experience, so I think it’s really important to take a bit of time and effort to participate in academic networks when you get the chance.

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The Royal Holloway contingent at the 23rd Practising Historical Geography conference. Left to right: Ben Newman, myself, and Ed Armstron-Sheret (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

In her introduction to the conference, President of the HGRG Dr. Briony McDonagh said that the field of historical geography was in “rude health.” By the end of the day, I couldn’t help but agree. The keynote lectures, given by Professor Jon Stobbart and Dr. Kimberly Peters, were both fantastic, and they highlighted the diversity of research being conducted in the field. Professor Stobbart discussed the construction of ‘comfortable’ homes in Georgian England using material objects, whilst Dr. Peters talked about the development of maritime ‘motorways,’ shipping lanes designed to minimise the chance of large container ships colliding head-on. I never thought that I would find maritime trade so interesting!

The two workshops were also excellent. The first, organised by Dr. Sarah Mills, was about the ethics of archival research. I must admit I generally fall into the trap of assuming that I don’t need to think too much about ethics because I research the past, but the workshop made me realise it was something I should pay more attention to. The second workshop, run by Dr. James Kneale, was about the merits and challenges of time capsules for historical research. During the recent demolition of the Temperance Hospital in London, two time capsules were found, and Dr. Kneale was asked to consult on their contents. Whilst it seems unlikely that many historical geographers will find themselves in a similar situation during their careers, we had some great discussions about the nature, meaning, purpose, and use of time capsules.

Practising Historical Geography is always a brilliant event, and this year was no different. I drove home feeling energised, with a renewed enthusiasm for my own research. I would like to say thank you to the HGRG committee, particularly Dr. Cheryl McGeachan and Dr. Hannah Neate, for organising such a wonderful event.

Preparing for your Viva: Collected Resources

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The printed copies of my thesis before I submitted them (Photo:  Hannah Awcock)

A few weeks ago, I passed my PhD viva! As my viva got closer, I spoke to lots of people about theirs, and many had actually enjoyed the chance to talk in-depth about their work. I also trusted the work that I have put in over the last four years, and trusted that my supervisors would have told me if they thought my thesis would fail the viva. So whilst I was nervous about my viva, I was also quite looking forward to it. Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed the viva, I definitely would not say it was a negative experience, and it definitely wasn’t the terrifying occasion that some people expect it to be.

I think part of the reason I wasn’t too nervous before and during my viva was the preparation I had done. I read my thesis, trying to identify anything my examiners might ask about, and made notes on a series of general questions that I thought might come up. I found this to be quite a good way of getting ready for the viva; I felt well-prepared. I put the list of possible questions together from advice from my supervisors and others, and from the websites listed below.  The list of questions that I prepared for, in no particular order, are:

  • How did you come to research the topic/how does it relate to your earlier studies?
  • Who are your intellectual influences?
  • Summarise your key findings?
  • Why did you choose your case studies?
  • Explain your relationship with theory.
  • What is original about your work/ what are your contributions to knowledge?
  • How does your work contribute to geographical debates?
  • Which topics overlap with your area?
  • What are the strongest parts of your work? What are the weakest?
  • Looking back, what might you have done differently?
  • Do you have any plans for publishing your work?
  • What did you learn from the process of doing your PhD?
  • What are the main issues and debates in this subject area?
  • Why was your research worth doing?
  • What published work is closest to yours? How is it different?
  • How have you evaluated your work?
  • How has your thinking about the topic changed as your research went on?
  • Did you have any problems with the data collection process?
  • How would you hope that this research could be followed up and taken further?
  • Do you have any questions for the examiners?
  • I didn’t get asked all of these questions during my viva, but most of them came up in some shape or form.

And here is a list of webpages and blogs that I used to collate my list of questions and for other general advice:

Nasty PhD Viva Questions by Dr. Andrew Broad is written from a Computer Science perspective, but I think that most of it is generic enough to be helpful to other subjects. As well as a list of possible viva questions, it also contains advice for preparing for the viva in other ways, such as preparing a summary of your thesis.

Research Essentials: Top 40 Potential Viva Questions is a comprehensive list of questions that your examiners might ask.

University of Leicester Graduate School: Practice Viva Questions is another helpful list.

David Denyer: Questions in a PhD Viva provides another list, as well as some general tips about the attitude with which to approach your viva. Many of the questions are similar to those in the other resources listed here, but I thin that is quite reassuring, as it shows that similar kinds of questions do tend to come up again and again.

The Guardian Higher Education Network: How to Survive a PhD Viva: 17 Top Tips is a compilation of advice from different people. It covers both before and during the viva.

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A celebratory post-viva selfie with my family and partner (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

I have two main pieces of advice about doing a PhD viva. The first is don’t blag answers; if you feel like you can’t answer a question, or need to spend a bit more time thinking about it, then have the confidence to say that. The second piece of advice is take a few moments to think before you answer each question; there’s no rush, and the examiners will appreciate a more thoughtful answer. Fundamentally though, try to relax– you never know, you might actually enjoy yourself! Whilst the viva itself is important, your thesis is what really matters. The viva lasts only a few hours, but the thesis is your lasting legacy, and in many ways, it speaks for itself.

RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2017: The Geographies of Everything

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The RGS-IBG Annual Conference is held at the Society’s headquarters in South Kensington two years out of every three (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

I spent most of last week at the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of the British Geographers (RGS-IBG). It is one of the biggest events in British academic geography’s calendar; this year there were more than 1600 participants and 380 sessions. This was my third time at the conference (my previous trips were in 2016 and 2014), and as always, I had a brilliant time. One of the things that I love most about geography is that is such a broad and varied subject; you can study the geography of anything and everything. The conference really brought that home. I attended a wide variety of sessions, on topics from digital geography to the geographies of dissent to historical geography.

For the last year, I have been on the committee of the RGS-IBG’s Digital Geographies Working Group. As part of that, I looked after the Group’s Twitter account during the conference, so I went to several digital geography-themed sessions, including really interesting sessions on the role of the digital in commemoration, and the geography of video games. Digital geography relates to a whole range of different elements of academia; it can be a topic of research, a method of research, or a way of communicating research. My interest in digital geography comes from thinking about the ways that social media and the internet is used by protesters.

Because of the topic of my research, the geographies of dissent was also a big part of the conference for me. Conferences are a great way of keeping up to date with new research in your field, and they also allow you to meet the people doing that research. I presented my research in a session called Geographies of Activism and Protest, and a had a brilliant time meeting the other presenters and discussing our research. There was also quite a large audience as well, which was especially nice considering it was the final session on the last day. I also went to some really interesting sessions on the geographies of opposition, political geographies of the event, populism, and anti-colonialism.

When I’m at a conference, I also like to go to some sessions that have nothing to do with my research or any other commitments, but just sound interesting. I went to the second of three New and Emerging Research in Historical Geography, and heard some great papers on Scottish travelling fairgrounds, the property of eighteenth-century widows, and the practice of Victorian monarchy, amongst others. The  conference’s opening plenary, on decolonising geographical knowledge, was brilliant, and I went to a lecture on land titles that was much more interesting than it sounds!

Big international conferences like the RGS-IBG are exhausting, and sometimes a bit bewildering. But they are also great fun, and can be incredibly rewarding. At the RGS-IBG, you can find geographies of all kinds, and I personally think that embracing that variety is a great way to make the most out of the conference.

 

How to Write PhD Acknowledgements: Collected Resources

I have had some feedback that the blog posts I put together on resources for writing thesis Introductions and Conclusions. The latest thing I turned to the internet for help with is my Acknowledgments, and I’m glad I did. Although the Acknowledgements aren’t assessed, they are significant, not only because it’s important to thank the people that have helped and supported you, but also because it says something about you as a researcher.

Doctoral Writing SIG: Writing the Acknowledgements: The Etiquette of Thanking suggests who to thank and what order to thank them in in order to avoid causing offence. Reading and Writing the Thesis Acknowledgment: Support, People and Identity is a guest-authored post by Lila Mantai who conducted an analysis of 79 thesis acknowledgements to explore what kinds of support PhD students value most. It made me think about the purpose of the acknowledgments, and how they might be perceived by others.

Newcastle University Writing Development Centre: Acknowledgements is a short post that provides some useful vocab if you run out of ways of saying “Thank you to…”

For Acknowledgement: Useful Expressions for Acknowledgement: Samples and Examples has a somewhat longer list of possible vocab. What’s Acknowledgment? provides a brief introduction to acknowledgments and what they should include. It is aimed more towards journal articles than PhDs, but it still came in handy.

Patter: I’d Like to Thank…The Important Work of Acknowledgments is a brief reflection on what the author of acknowledgments gets out of them. It points out that acknowledgements can situate a researcher in academic networks, showing the reader the author’s scholarly context. This is something I hadn’t thought about before.

Times Higher Education: The Best Academic Acknowledgments Ever is perhaps a better indication of what not to do rather than good practice, unless you want to passive-agressively criticise someone, or propose to your partner. It may be a reminder that it’s all been done before, so it’s probably not worth trying to be original or witty, unless you’re very good at it.

How to Write a Good PhD Introduction: Collected Resources

I recently collected together all the help I found and advice I was given for writing my thesis conclusion, so I thought I would do the same for the Introduction. Below is a list of all the blog posts I found helpful, but if you were only going to take on one bit of advice I would say make it this: Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write your introduction. It may be the shortest chapter in your thesis, but it isn’t easy and it’s important to get it right- first impressions matter! With that in mind, below are the links to some blog posts I found useful:

PhD Life: Your Thesis Introduction. This blog about doing a PhD is run by the Research Exchange at the University of Warwick. This blog post has some very helpful ideas about things you can do to get started on your introduction, and it makes the whole thing feel a bit less intimidating.

Explorations of Style: Introductions  is a general post about how to write and structure introductions. Structuring a Thesis Introduction applies these principles specifically to writing up a PhD, which is a very particular form of writing. Explorations of Style is written by Rachael Cayley, an associate professor in the school of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto.

Patter: The Thesis Introduction. I found this blog post helpful for explaining why my research matters, something I have been grappling with for quite a while!

James Hayton PhD: Leaving Your Thesis Introduction Until Last? It Could Be A Mistake… I found this post a little bit to late to follow Hayton’s main piece of advice- I had written everything else by the time I started to think seriously about my introduction. It might not be too late for you though!

Doctoral Writing SIG: How Long is a Thesis Introduction? Changing Thesis Structures. This post considers the importance of following accepted guidelines when it comes to writing a thesis introduction. Every thesis is different, but it can be a risk stepping too far outside of what is considered normal.

How to Write a Good PhD Thesis Conclusion: Collected Resources

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I asked the internet for help writing my PhD conclusion, and I got a great response! (Photo: Horia Varlan)

A few weeks ago, I started drafting the conclusion of my PhD thesis. I had absolutely no idea where to start, so I hit Twitter and Google looking for advice. I tweeted the PhDForum asking for advice, and got a brilliant response. As well as loads of good advice, it also gave me an emotional boost, reminding me that I am not going through the PhD process alone. I also found some great blog posts and websites. So I thought I would put a few of the best tweets and links together in a post of my own, in case they were of any use to anyone else.

I used Twitter’s newfangled Moments feature to collect up all the Tweets I received, they can be found here.

And links to the blog posts and websites I found, with a short description, are here:

The WritePass Journal: Writing your PhD Thesis Conclusion A nice short summary of what a PhD conclusion should do, what it should include, and some top tips. Also has links to other advice on how to write conclusions. WritePass is an organisation that students can pay to write essays etc. for them, but the WritePass Journal provides helpful advice on a range of topics, for undergraduates as well as graduate students.

Patter: What Not to do in a Conclusion, Part One: Christmas Present Five A discussion of four common mistakes in thesis conclusions.Patter is a blog run by Pat Thomson, a Professor of Educatuon at the University of Nottingham. It is a great source of advice for all aspects of academia. Conclusion Mise-en-place. Christmas Present Six A blog post about preparation you can do before writing your conclusion to make the writing go more smoothly. It poses six questions to answer before you start writing.

Global PAD Open House: Writing a Conclusion Not quite as relevant as the other posts mentioned here, as it its about conclusions generally rather than just focusing on a PhD thesis. However, it does talk about the need to be interesting and avoid being too formulaic, which I think could be an easy trap to fall into when other advice pretty much gives you a checklist to follow. Global PAD Open House is developed and maintained by staff in the Centre of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick.

PhD Talk: Writer’s Lab: How to Write your Conclusions, Part II: Doctoral Dissertation Provides some helpful practical tips, such as putting all your chapter conclusions into one document to use as a starting point. PhD Talk is a blog run by engineer Dr. Eva Longsoght and contains some really helpful advice.

DoctoralWriting SIG: How to Make a Great Conclusion Recommends starting a folder for ideas about your conclusion about halfway through your PhD. For those already beyond that point, it has a freewriting task that might be helpful. Doctoral Writing SIG is a forum for those interested in doctoral writing.

James Hayton PhD: What Goes in the Introduction, What goes in the Conclusion? A brief blog post about the differences between an introduction and conclusion, which might be helpful if you are writing them both at roughly the same time. James Hayton is a PhD consultant.

Publishing Your PhD: Some Advice

On the 1st of November, the Royal Holloway Geography’s seminar series Landscape Surgery held a seminar entitled Publishing Your PhD. Two Royal Holloway alumni, Justin Spinney (Cardiff University) and Amanda Rogers (Swansea University), returned to give advice on how to convert your PhD into publications. As someone who is rapidly approaching the end of their PhD without having published anything, I found the session very useful, so I thought I would summarise some of their advice here.

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Justin Spinney and Amanda Rogers give advice on how to publish your PhD research during a Landscape Surgery seminar in Bedford Square, London (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The first thing that struck me, which I often find when talking to academics about their careers, is that there is no gold standard. There is no perfect recipe for publishing your PhD (apologies if that is what you were hoping to find here!) Justin and Amanda have taken different approaches to publishing since they finished their PhDs, and both have successful academic careers. So with that in mind, I have pulled together the bits of advice that I think most people will find useful, which fit nicely into three topics.

First of all, have a plan, or at least think about what you want your publications to achieve. Are you publishing because you have something to say, or because you want to further your career? If it’s the latter, you might want to think carefully about which journal to publish in. Some journals are notoriously slow, can you afford to wait? Are their particular journals which cater to the discipline or subject area in which you want to work? Might you be better off trying to get a book chapter published first? If it’s the former reason, there are still questions to ask yourself, such as what kind of audience do you wish to reach? There is a huge amount of pressure on PhD students now to publish in order to get an academic job, and I for one have definitely been guilty of blindly panicking rather than thinking strategically.

This leads nicely into the second area of advice I picked up from the seminar; which relates to writing format. There a range of different publishing formats available, which have different requirements and can serve different purposes. For a Geography PhD student I would argue that a book review is nice, a book chapter is great, but a journal article is the the holy grail. Different disciplines value single-author books differently, but it seems to me that they generally come 5-10 years after a PhD, if at all. Online publications such as The Conversation allow you to respond quickly to current events, and help to get your name out there without going through the lengthy and stressful peer review process. Blogs too, whether you have your own or guest-write for someone else, help your work to reach different audiences, and allow you to test out new ideas unrestrained by the formal requirements of academic writing style. So don’t necessarily confine yourself solely to journal articles.

The third area of advice relates to other people. Academia cam often be a lonely pursuit, so I was surprised when other people kept coming up again and again during the seminar. The connections you make during your PhD are significant; supervisors, examiners, or people you meet at conferences might lead to a chapter in an edited book or a paper in a special journal issue. You might even find someone to co-write with. It could be a good way of taking on that scary first publication, but you need to be clear about what your contribution was when it comes to CVs and job interviews. How to deal with referees’ comments was also a key area of discussion. The consensus seemed to be don’t be disheartened, don’t feel like you have to respond to every comment, and be prepared to stand up for yourself and your ideas- it’s OK to refuse to change something if you feel strongly about it.

So there you have it; my summary of other people’s advice. I found it very helpful, so I hope others will too. Thank you to Justin Spinney and Amanda Rogers, and Veronica della Dora for organising the seminar.