• Natalie B.

Writing your PhD Thesis During a Global Pandemic

I am not the most active blog writer, but I felt that there was no better time than a nation-wide lockdown to write another post. For many people, these past weeks have been anxiety-inducing, isolating, and possibly heartbreaking. It has been hard, and many of us are getting used to a new normal. If you had told me a year ago, even a month ago I would be writing part of my PhD during a global pandemic I would have thought you were crazy. However, here I am, hunkered down in my flat getting as much research done as I can. The lockdown measures the government has enforced to slow the spread of the virus have made me reflect more on my normal day-to-day life as a PhD researcher.

The PhD process is an isolating one. I normally spend my days working alone at home or in a library. I usually work 6 days a week, leaving myself one day for free time. One of the biggest concerns/topics that I have heard amongst the PhD community is the PhD process is already pretty isolating, is social distancing going to make researchers feel more isolated? Initially, it was a concern; I thought to myself. I try to be involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities where I get to meet other people. However, with everything cancelled or postponed, it has left a real gap in any social interaction I was having.

Source: Wix

So you may be asking yourself, how does an already isolated PhD student fill that gap? Honestly, I do not have a perfect answer to the question, but this is what I have been doing.

Talk to your Family and Friends

You are probably thinking this is a no brainer, but I do not mean just text them. FaceTime, Skype, or get creative with other ways you communicate with your loved ones. Last week my mom and I had dinner together over FaceTime. I have lived abroad for two and a half years and that is the first time we actually did anything like that. It was awesome and we have plans to have FaceTime dinners again soon! Technology can make us feel closer to our friends and family right now, so we have to take advantage of it.

Join a Writing Group

I am part of a Shut Up and Write group and they have gone digital. They have scheduled online sessions over the next month to help writers stay motivated, keep writing, and socialise with one another. If you are looking for a group to join, I found my group on Meetup but your University might also have access to these writing groups.

Reach Out to your Supervisors or University

The University and your supervisors are there to support you through your PhD process, including these unforeseen times. If you have research or personal concerns, do not suffer alone. If they are not able to provide you with the right resources they will most likely know of organisations where you can find additional support. Please, do not be worried about speaking up if you need help, especially during this confusing time.

Take Some Time for You

Since most of my extra-curricular activities have been cancelled or postponed, it has given me more free time than I have had since I started this PhD. I actually had time to read a book the other day for enjoyment, it was amazing! I am trying to take this time to do some activities I enjoy doing, but never have time for. Whatever activities you enjoyed doing before your life became solely research take advantage of this time, as long as you can do all of these activities in the safety of your own home.

Research Push

When the government implemented the lockdown rules, I decided that I was going to take advantage of the time I had to dive deeper into my research. I did not have anywhere to go or anyone to see. I don't always get such extended time to focus, there are usually distractions I have to ignore and push to the side so I can get my research completed. That is why I am going to engage with my research more during this lockdown. However, I know for some researchers that completing work now may feel or be impossible to complete because of the current circumstances. Therefore, I am going to pass on the advice my supervisor gave me this week, think of the current global situation we are in right now, so any work we get done is a bonus and deserves a pat on the back.

Wherever you are, I hope your research is fruitful, your family is safe, and you are well. Until next time!

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