Monthly Archives: July 2015

Succeeding as a ‘non traditional’ student

This is lovely, I am a non-traditional part time student as well and he hits all of the nails on the head with this advice.

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by Colin Cohen, who completed a doctorate at the School for Health in the University of Bath in south west England. Colin is what we call in the trade a ‘non traditional student’: older, part time and not working in an academic field. Many people have talked to me about what an isolating experience this can be. Colin successfully completed his doctorate, faster than many others do: I think we can all learn something from this post – especially number 2.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.27.59 amThis post is about the challenges of undertaking a part time doctorate, whilst working full time in a non-academic setting where I felt isolated from a learning environment. In particular it is focussed on how I tried to maintain momentum and motivation. I offer some suggestions about what worked for me, and hope that people who read this might avoid some of the mistakes I made…

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Writing: practice makes perfect! 

I have been up to Sheffield for my supervision meeting this month, clutching 3000 words about museums, emotions and experience that I had written.  I am aware that writing is not my strong point.   In the past I have been told I was too matter-of-fact (at school) and then I was told I waffled too much (during undergrad) and then I just didn’t think I was very good.  During my MRes I read a book on how to write essays.  Then I wrote an essay that earned a distinction.  Unfortunately this has all fallen out of my head and what I write now tends to be a brain dump of ideas. 

Our discussion about writing went along the lines of practice makes perfect.  Writing has rules and formulas to make it easier for the reading to understand the ideas that the writer is trying to put across.  Writing needs practice in the same way as a musician needs to practice.  

So, back to the blank page, or at least back to the planning stage.

My next month’s task is not to read about museums, but to read about writing.  Then apply some of that reading to my own writing.   I was asked what I enjoy doing.  In this context I like making lists (don’t judge me!), so I am going to plan my writing in list form and then write a complete section of that list.  Small steps, like practicing scales. 

I know that there are a number of PhD students who write about writing and give a range of advice about it.  I learnt today that no one is a great writer naturally.  Some people are better than others but everyone needs to practice and that is nothing to be ashamed of. 

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