I have recently come into two new roles that focus on student support (NUPSA Vice President and Student Peer Advisor). In both these roles, I have realised that many students do not know the wealth of knowledge which is available to them on both the university campus and online.
This list is compiled with my own specific university experience in mind. If you are in another country (not Australia) you may not have these resources. But I encourage you to reach out to your university and see if they have these available. I have used every single one of them at some point in my PhD.
Here are some places you might want to look for support:
- Twitter: Twitter can be useful to follow people in your discipline or the hashtag #phd #phdlife. You could also search via hashtags such as #litreview for whatever stage you are up to!
- Raul Pacheco-Vega website: An immensely helpful resource about note-taking, writing and everything in between (link here)
- Books: See if your library has how-to guides for PhDs. These are so useful, despite being written usually for a multi-discipline audience (check this list out for some titles)
- Library services: My university has a Senior Librarian for each Faculty. They can help with searching databases and show you anything you may have missed (such as using Boolean terms!!) and also run handy workshops on referencing.
- Graduate studies services: This is the place to find out the rules and regulations of your degree. For example, do you know the process for submitting your PhD? The required length? Any specific formatting styles required? Any regular reporting you need to do? These are all good things to know prior to your submission date. My university also offer workshops which are run through our Graduate Research Office.
- Supervisors: Draw on your supervisors. They are usually a wealth of knowledge and are there to support you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if it is about support services at your institution. They will (hopefully) know the available resources for students at your university. Also, remember that you can set the agenda for your meetings with your supervisors. This is your PhD, let your supervisors know how they can help you make the most of it!
- Form your own support group: This is a suggestion which is in most PhD “how-to” books. Find 3 like-minded friends and meet once a week (or less frequently if needed). My friends and I met once a week for two hours. During this time we would work in 25-minute sessions, with 5-minute breaks. Each week we shared our goals for the week, and if we had achieved our goals for the previous week. This kept us all on track, and we weren’t judgemental if someone didn’t reach their goals.
- Learning Support resources: does your university have a service for English-language support? My university has a service which runs grammar workshops, presentation workshops, literature review workshops etc. They also run a one-on-one consultation service. Pretty cool!
- International office resources: If you are an international student I suggest you find out if your university has a department dedicated to supporting you. It may be the office you applied for your degree through. Either way, they can usually help you with settling in, paperwork and access to resources.
- Blogs: If you are reading this, you probably already have this one sorted. But the most useful blog I have found in my PhD is run by Associate Professor Inger Mewburn, called the Thesis whisperer
- Other students: through formal mentorships or informal chats, just be careful not to rely too much on them as they are students too. At my university, we have a formal Student Peer Advisor role in which students can book 30-minute slots (FOR FREE!) to get one-on-one guidance from a student in their last year.
- Youtube: I don’t use this one too much. But I have found it very valuable for learning how to use NVIVO. Watching a video on how to use a program is very handy, as you can watch every mouse click and pause the video if needed. A good channel for general PhD advice is Tara Brabazon.
- Workshops offered by your Faculty/School/University: Watch your university inbox for information about workshops run by different people within your institution. These are usually very relevant, particularly in the first year of your degree. Remember a workshop will help you with networking, learning new skills and thinking of new ideas. I don’t think a workshop is ever a waste of time as usually, I leave with new skills and a fresh outlook on my project.
- Counselling: Don’t under-estimate the need to ensure you have good mental health. If you are struggling, make use of your university counselling service.
- Student clubs: A great way to meet people!
- Careers service: As you approach the end of your degree you may be beginning to become concerned about what you will do after your degree. The careers service at your university can usually help you with job searches, CV writing and how to write applications. If your university has this, I strongly suggest you see how they can help you!
- Your School/Faculty Office: At my university, we have an administrative team who are dedicated to just the School of Education. They are the people who arranged access to my desk, showed me what forms I needed for my fieldwork, and are generally just super helpful for anything I need assistance with. Find out who these people are in your School/Faculty and how they may be able to help you!
This is just a simple list to give you some idea of what may be available at your university. Please share anything in the comments that I may have missed!