Not sure what all this Shut Up & Write Tuesdays nonsense is? Well here’s what you need to know…

By Siobhan O’Dwyer

Shut Up & Write Tuesdays is pretty simple. You shut up, you write, and it’s on Tuesdays. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity. When it’s done right, Shut Up & Write Tuesdays is a powerful way to develop, maintain, and protect an academic writing practice.

Developed by creative writers in San Francisco in the late 2000s, the Shut Up & Write model was quickly co-opted by academic writers and has been gaining in popularity ever since.  Although there are no set activities and no feedback is provided on the writing that’s produced, academics have found that writing together in a public place makes the writing process visible and social, provides a positive sense of peer pressure, enhances networks, and increases productivity (Mewburn, Osborne & Caldwell, 2014). But for those who work remotely or part-time, have family responsibilities, or juggle teaching and research, it can be hard to meet in a physical location. So in 2013 I created Shut Up & Write Tuesdays, a virtual Shut Up & Write group that allows academics from all over the world to come together on Twitter.

A recent evaluation (O’Dwyer , McDonough, Jefferson, Goff & Redman-Maclaren, in press) found that  Shut Up & Write Tuesdays fostered a sense of community, provided support and guidance for writing, shifted the emphasis from product to process, and led to quantifiable outcomes such as academic journal articles, books, book chapters, and PhD theses. By virtue of the digital format, these experiences were also international and inter-disciplinary.

From humble beginnings in 2013, Shut Up & Write Tuesdays has expanded into a global community. There are now three Twitter accounts – @SUWTues (for folks in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific, and parts of Asia), @SUWTUK (for folks in the UK, Europe, and parts of Africa and the Middle East), and @SUWTNA (for folks in America and Canada) – which received more than one million views in the first six months of this year alone.  And as Shut Up & Write Tuesdays has grown, it has also come full circle, with many of our online participants being inspired to set up offline groups.

Whether you’re writing online or face-to-face, the steps are simple:

  • Set your intention for the session. Telling others what you’ll be working on keeps you accountable.
  • Use the Pomodoro Write for 25 minutes, have a 5-minute break, rinse and repeat.
  • Share your progress. Telling others how you went is a powerful way to reflect on your own practice.
  • Encourage the progress of others. Supporting others helps you build a community and learn that you are not alone in your writing struggles.
  • Reward yourself. Treating yourself to coffee, cake, or a walk in the sunshine is the most important part of the writing process.

Editors Note: USQ researchers can join others to write on Toowoomba and Springfield campuses at 10-11am on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month. Check your ReDTrain Bulletin email for details.

Doctoral supervision: The candidate’s perspective

By Nona Press

The reason for undertaking a PhD varies for many students, and the expectations of the journey also vary, but the outcome is always the same – i.e., a significant contribution to knowledge and practice, as an embodiment of a research inquiry. The research shapes and indeed often dictates how the candidature is undertaken and supervised. There is a growing body of literature about PhD supervision, narrating the voices of not only the supervisors but also the candidates, often as autoethnographic individual reflective pieces. In contrast, my three supervisors and I had recently undertaken an empirical investigation of our respective conceptions of doctoral supervision, as a collaborative autoethnography and an interdisciplinary, phenomenographic case study, an outcome of which was a contribution to a forthcoming edited book on research supervision. The reflections in this blog post draw upon the findings of this study, and relate to my lived experiences as a PhD candidate as a whole.

My candidature began at another institution as a part-time student. After a year, I continued the journey at USQ from 2012 onwards, where I am privileged to work with three supervisors from two disciplines (education and nursing). Experiencing different universities, institutional practices, supervisory teams and, for that matter, supervision styles gave me important points of reference as I reflected upon my experiences. With distinct and contrasting practices and styles between institutions, these experiences shaped and re-shaped my understanding and expectations of doctoral supervision. In the phenomenographic interview for the study noted above, my conception of supervision was interpreted as a “pedagogical commitment”:

My lived experience of supervision…is that…it’s like an enculturation…into the discipline where your supervisors are affiliated….You’re given the opportunity to grow with guidance. You’re given the opportunity to interact with your community environment with the kind of tools that will allow you to grow….So my learning about methodology, for example, wherever that takes me, is very much situated; I am living it. But they’re there to guide me, to challenge me, to question me….Because in this relationship feedback is the most important [element], coupled with guidance.

For me, the interpersonal dimension of supervisor-student, supervisor-supervisor, and student-supervisor relationships was critical for my holistic growth as a researcher and academic. It is significantly more productive, for example, to work with a cohesive and supportive supervisory team who actively supported not only the candidate but also each other. In my experience, a positive environment was critical, whereby I was nurtured to take ownership of my research by a united supervisory team. Without such unity, receiving conflicting guidance was completely counter-productive to a point where I felt any disagreements between the experts were caused by me – much like how some children feel between disagreeing parents. Notwithstanding, drawing on my positive experiences, my understanding of doctoral supervision as a pedagogical commitment has deepened. Nowadays, I think about it as also relating to mutual learning opportunities.

My thesis is nearing completion and I am aiming to submit for external examination at the end of the year. I must say, as my understanding of supervision became clearer over time, the more enjoyable the doctoral journey. So for you fellow candidates out there, think about what your conception of doctoral supervision is – what do you mean when you say “doctoral supervision”?

First in the family

By Ruth Wagstaff

As I paid the deposit for my youngest son’s grade 12 formal dinner last week, it dawned on me that in seven months time my youngest starts university.  This has personal significance for me, because my nuclear family (ex-husband, our children, and I) are the first complete nuclear on either side to have attended university.  And yes…not only was I the first to go to grade 12 and go to uni, but I am the first to have completed graduate diplomas, and to have undertaken a PhD.  I have never spoken to my sisters or father about the historical nature of my education in the family, and am not sure that it is appropriate.

I have no doubt that my sisters and father (there are no brothers, and my mother died when I was in my mid-20s) are happy that I have found my niche in the world.  Each of us have carved our own special place in the world, and we enjoy entering each other’s world from time to time.  We are not a close family, but we stay in contact.  We connect where share common views, but differences are rarely discussed.  One of those differences is our level of education, and attitudes toward education.

I have wanted to attend university since I was 10 years old.  Rather than doing traditional girl subjects: typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, and home economics, I  took academic subjects that would open up almost every university course available: the high level maths, science, and music.    However, rather than go to university I did my nursing training at the local hospital (I was one of the last hospital trained registered nurses).  I began university when I was 27 years old.  This decision was no surprise to my sisters as they considered me to be the family brains and different from them.

Going to university changed the dynamics between my sisters and me in subtle ways. It drew us in closer because I became comfortable with myself.  I found the university experience intoxicating and liberating.  It is also kept us apart because the world of university was very different from what their worlds.  They could never understand the highs and lows of higher education.  They could never understand the concept of 15 weeks intense focus and long holidays. They certainly were aware of,  but were unable to appreciate, the intensity of psychology honours year.  And I am of the opinion that it is unreasonable to expect them to understand the emotional and academic journey of a PhD.

One of my sisters was of the opinion that I was a miss-know-it-all.  That was, and is, far from the truth.  University has shown me how much I do not know, how many unanswered questions there are.  I learnt to deal with the miss-know-it-all comments.  I know that she still feels intimidated by the educational journey my children and I have taken, because she justifies her children’s and own choices with, “Whatever makes you happy”.   I agree with her, and move the conversation to another topic.   When it comes down to it, keeping doors open is more important than continuing a conversation that I know will lead to misunderstanding.  It is okay to agree to not agree.

One slave many masters

By Fiona Russo

My husband and I had a bit of a ‘discussion’ last week. Neither of us meant for it to happen, but we somehow got into one of those ‘my life is harder than yours’ competitions. I was lamenting the state of my calendar, complaining that I didn’t have a single day available for PhD work without some type of appointment or scheduling problem in the mix. I was trying to work out how I could pick up the two older children from opposite sides of the city just half an hour apart without leaving anyone stranded or unsafe. I had four very different articles due (as a freelance writer) by Friday, and only three half-days’ worth of child-free time.

He was lamenting his priority list at work, talking about how there were never enough hours in the day and he was going to have to forego some important tasks because he was too stretched to fit them in. I started to say (quite stupidly, I realise) how much I envied him the luxury of dropping some items off the list. ‘You know, since your single taskmaster [his employer] can obviously understand that you are but one man with a limited amount of resources at your disposal’. Ha!

I suppose I was looking for some understanding about how difficult it is to balance being one slave to many masters. I feel like I can’t afford to drop ANY balls, because each comes with reasonable demands that are equally important/urgent. My problem is that there are just too many of them. In return, Michael explained that he feels similarly at work, not because he has ‘many masters’, but because he feels the pressure of being our primary breadwinner. He feels that he has to overachieve and outperform everyone else all the time, more so because he wants to be available to the family in the evenings and at weekends.

Luckily, this potential pressure-cooker situation wasn’t so awful. We were both being very careful not to descend into argument territory, but it was a close thing. Sometimes it’s really tough to see each other’s perspective when we’re too busy keeping ourselves afloat.

This week, we had the chance for some role reversal. He had just finished a major project at work and had put in significant overtime. He was taking a well-earned couple of days off and had offered to facilitate the kids’ schedules so that I could spend some uninterrupted time in the office. This is an opportunity I don’t often have, so I gratefully downloaded the information he’d need:
“In the morning, Dylan feeds the cat and packs the snacks, Emily makes the sandwiches, and Susannah packs everyone’s bags. You’ll need to leave by 8.15am to drop off Susannah [6] by 8.30am. Dylan [12] and Emily [16] should be dropped off by 8.45am – they can’t catch a bus to school because there aren’t any at the right time in the mornings – they can bus home in the afternoon. Charlie[5]’s ECDP sessions [Early Childhood Development Program for children with disabilities] don’t start until 9am so you’ll have to double back for that drop-off – she’ll need to wear her Theratogs there, I’ll show you how to put them on later but factor in about fifteen extra minutes for that – Nanna does pick-up on Tuesdays so don’t forget to leave the wheelchair and parking pass. On Wednesday Charlie’s off to kindy but you’ll need to pick her up at 1pm and take her to the hospital to get her new AFOs [orthotics] fitted. You can drop her back at kindy after if you like. On Friday morning, she has speech and occupational therapy in Ipswich at 9.30am for an hour. Dylan should be home by 4pm every day – if you’re not home, ask him to text you to let you know that he got home safe, Susannah goes to after school care on Tuesday and Wednesday but needs to be picked up at 2.45pm on the other days, Emily has Music Extension on Tuesday afternoon until 5pm – she’ll ask if she wants a lift home – she’ll bus home around 5pm on Wednesday and then she’s going straight from school to work on Thursday and Friday so make sure she packs her uniform please…”

…I trailed off. Michael was looking at me with his mouth open, blinking rapidly.

“Are you okay? Is this too much? I can do some of the morning runs if you like – the timing takes some getting used to.”

“No, no, I just think we’d better write some of this down. I can’t believe you hold it all in your head.”

To add insult to injury, Michael’s week of ‘relaxation’ came with a side of nasty illness (always the way, isn’t it?). To his eternal credit, he didn’t succumb to the dreaded lurgy and did all of the running and ferrying and fetching and managing as promised, getting himself some antibiotics and snatching the odd micro-nap along the way. He made copious notes about schedules and appointments, and worried the whole time about the growing pile of work on his desk in the city as he deliberately avoided his phone and emails.

As for me, I was wracked with wife-and-mother guilt as I went to work in the morning without having changed a nappy or made a single breakfast. I tried madly to meet every goal I’d set for myself that week. I turned myself inside out trying to format my lit review without worrying about whether Dylan got home safely, or organise my reference material and not wonder whether Michael remembered to leave the parking pass at school for his Mum, or attend a meeting without feeling guilty that somewhere in the same building (I have a hospital-based supervisor) Charlie might be feeling scared as they plastered her little legs, or listen to a lecture and not feel anxious about Susannah forgetting to go to the front gate after school on Thursday.

I think we each got a good taste of life in the other’s shoes, and by Friday evening we were having a different kind of discussion.

“I’m completely knackered.”

“Me too.”

“Movie in bed?”

“Sure.”

(five minutes later) “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz……”

Lost

By Susan Sharpe

I often ask myself why I enrolled in my PhD, what I am really doing and whether studying a PhD will change my life or other’s for the better. In such times, I find myself making lists, weighing options, lying awake all night, truly confused and sometimes doubting where I am heading. Two years gone and I do not feel that sense of purpose and sense of clarity I once had while writing my application. I feel stuck at the edge of my mind as I scroll through posts on social media or listen to my fellow students say, ‘It is a tough world!”

I struggle to understand this sense of loss – to understand why, after finally boarding what should feel like my ride to destination ‘Dream come true,’ my world seems out of sorts. Nothing is clear. Suddenly my sense of judgement and confidence, my hope, dreams and aspirations are crowded with such an unsettling speculation. ‘Will I make it? Will I not? When will it all make sense? When will I be at peace with this decision? What is the purpose? To what end? Why am I doing this? What was I thinking? – just a few of endless questions that swim through my head.

And as I regroup to re-frame my journey of inquiry, I see those faces, the ones I cannot accustom to. They show when I tell that I am studying my PhD. You should see these faces, on friends, colleagues, my bosses and all those who earn more money than me but have no postgraduate degrees. ‘You are crazy! You must be insane! I do not know how you do it!’ they say. Can’t say I blame them. After all, even in my day-to-day life and encounters, I feel like part of me is evolving and changing along with my doctoral journey.

Suddenly I feel this excitement about what I know, my topic, my literature review, and the passion to share it. What I could publish a paper or an article about what I have read so far. Perhaps that would help give me clarity. Where do I start from, who is my anchor? Suddenly I remember the stories of rejected drafts. Now I know why they say ‘It is a tough world.’ And as fear of the unknown engulfs me, I am suddenly reminded that it was never about landing a six figure job or a publication gig. That I may, for now, not be clear about my destination, but will one day. In a trice, a short spark of certitude, I know that in the middle of this PhD provoked equivocation about the future, I’m only experiencing my own very biased perception of this journey. This is especially obvious when I consider that I haven’t reached the destination yet.

Above all, I am certain that I am more than my PhD journey. I am not the degrees I have acquired or the one I am currently working toward. I don’t even have the desired research profile to land that dream job, but I am still me and it is up to me to chart my own path and remain my own advocate because I am me!

Wikipedia: the Original Virtual Makerspace

By Robyn Edmanson

wiki

The cover of the book commemorating Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary. Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Within research on the architecture of academic participatory libraries, there’s a worrisome discord between the rhetoric and reality of allowing library users to fully participate in library systems, particularly in terms of information seeking. An example is the reluctance of many academic librarians to acknowledge students’ research information seeking behaviours and the value of open source tools like Wikipedia.

Despite research showing 70 percent of students use Wikipedia as a kick-starter to research, some still equate openness with unreliability, mostly due to a persuasive argument almost a decade ago against it based on its perceived lack of authority, completeness and reliability. Until Nature compared the error rate of Wikipedia with Encyclopedia Britannica I would have agreed, however, take a look at the information architecture in most Wiki entries and I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I am. The information is presented logically, comprehensively and with illustrations to aid understanding.  Wikis are now a valuable, freely accessible tool in students driving need for background information for their assignments. And the best part is Wikipedia’s collaborations with librarians and other ethical mavens to ensure accuracy.

Wikipedia has leapt mountains of intellectual scorn from some quarters to encourage collaborations between cultural institutions such as museums and libraries through initiatives such as #1lib1ref where one librarian added one reference to advocate through editing wikis on topics such as LGBT, Asia Pacific Art, Toowoomba and even the University of Southern Queensland. There aren’t many web sources to which librarians, or library users for that matter, can contribute, but Wikipedia is one of them, so embrace your inner intellectual maker and critically contribute to our collective intelligence or run the risk of being left behind.

Productivity in Backpacking: tips from a nomadic PhD student

By Madeleine Arber

I decided to contribute a blog post to ReDBlog about my time solo backpacking whilst continuing my research studies. I’m fortunate enough to have the ability to drop everything (apart from my studies) and travel anywhere I want whilst working, within reason of course! This isn’t my first time backpacking or travelling solo. I have fine-tuned the art of living as cheaply as possible in any region of the world over the years (sometimes this involves sleeping in a car on a secluded beach). But this trip I wanted a new challenge: to fine-tune the art of backpacking and working at the same time. This article may contain some tips which you can apply to everyday study or travel.

Initially I came over to Europe (where I am based now) for three months to conference-hop and complete a research collaboration, but after putting forward a strong case to my supervisor, I managed to extend those three months to six months to complete further research. The following are some working-while-travelling tips!

Your office – the thing I miss most (besides my dog):

  • Wifi – be prepared to give up all your details and your soul in order to connect to reasonable, sometimes incredibly slow wifi to check your emails to see if that thing has been processed yet.
  • Believe it or not Hostels are not the most productive of places. They may have wifi included, but your roomies will most likely want to party. Hopefully you can fall asleep in all kinds of environments! Instead head to a café and buy the cheapest thing on the menu then stay for HOURS at a time! Be prepared to listen to all types of music, from jazz to reggae. Bring your headphones if you need silence.
  • Don’t expect to get access to another university’s libraries. This is particularly common in the UK and Ireland. Access is allowed to the students who attend that university. You can apply for a week study pass if you have a letter from your university explaining why it would be beneficial for you to access their library. Unlike cafés, libraries don’t sell coffee though…
  • Know how you work best – not having an office means I don’t have easy access to printing/copying/paper in general. I’ve learnt to use ‘soft’ electronic copies on everything (including travel bookings). I found that sometimes I still need to jot notes down on paper or draw diagrams to fully understand things. This also goes for your most productive hours – are you a morning productive person? This means you get to explore the city by night!
  • Keep in contact with your supervisor! They may have no idea exactly where you are in the world, but you need to make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of timelines and work commitments. Don’t just send them holiday postcards through snail-mail, use your email, or your phone if you want a nice big bill! (Skype has affordable phone calls with skype-credit if necessary)
  • Remember to network, particularly at conferences, which are the perfect networking ground! Here you can corner the author of the research you’ve spent hours reading – think of future research opportunities it may lead to! It’s very important to also take full advantage of the conference’s food, wine, and coffee package.

Your backpack (the closest thing to home on your back):

  • Travel as lightly as you can – this means you won’t be carrying those references books you so dearly love around with you (you’ll be relying on pdfs from now on!), it also means if you are attending conferences or visiting research institutions while away, you may want to look presentable. Quick! Throw in a blazer and find clothes which don’t crush easily and dry quickly. Jeans are acceptable for most occasions.
  • Don’t move around too much and exhaust yourself trying to see everything and everyone! It is tiring enough switching between currencies, let alone travelling distances! It’s important to remember to treat yourself well – get enough good sleep, healthy food, and plenty of water.

General life advice (should you choose to accept it):

  • Be nice – most people are good human beings.
  • Try to learn your ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in each place you visit.
  • Experience the culture, but give yourself enough time to relax and every once in a while have some familiar treats to cure any homesickness (this is just an excuse to eat chocolate).
  • Remember to enjoy yourself. Your life isn’t just your PhD. You’ve earned some time off for yourself.

Time to go see the world!

Serendipitous Family Moments

By Ruth Wagstaff

I am sure that I am not the only PhDer who feels somewhat disconnected with their children.  I spend a lot of time on the computer reading or writing.  I also work 4.5 day/week, parent a son in grade 12, support a daughter at a distant university, and try to stay connected with my Dad, step-mother and eldest son.  Like many women studying, I do not have the support of a husband or partner.  Recently though, I have found that the skills that I am developing as I journey through uni is changing the relationship with my children in unexpected ways.

Recently my daughter was writing her first “serious” literature review and asked me to help her. She is in her third year of a performing arts degree, and has just completed her first research methods course.  In the process of helping her with formatting and writing style, I learnt a lot about her own struggles. It was a time of genuine learning for both of us.  I also learned a little more about the fine detail of APA.  All of this was unexpected, and helped each other to appreciate each other as adults on the life long journey of learning.

I have also seen my still-at-home-completing-high-school son begin to blossom.  He seems to understand that the PhD is part of a belated adolescent phase in which I am rediscovering myself after my marriage breakup.  Consequently, he will pick-up a broom, put washing and and out, empty and fill the dishwasher all without having to ask.  Sure, he finds that continual mess is stressful, but the key is that he owns it now, and picks up after himself. But he also tells me he does it because he knows I have deadlines to keep and time is precious.

On the other hand, when the still-at-home-completing-high-school son is under the thumb with exams and due assignment, I pick up the slack and do more.  We have learnt to work as a team.  The only rule is to look at the whole picture in a person’s life and help others to avoid melt down. Before you think this to too perfect you, we still have moments of melt down, but we have learnt to look beyond the moment, say sorry even if we think we are in the right, and to be kind to each other.  Before studying, these life lessons were just words but now they are embedded into our lifestyle.

A specific serendipitous occasion was the night my still-at-home-completing-high-school insisted that we watch Zootopia on Netflix.  I had become so absorbed in marking that life existed of work, mark, sleep.  My son reached out to me and in doing so reminded me of the world outside my quest. It was a single act of care and insight that touched me deeply.

So from now on, rather than seeing the PhD as a journey that separates, I will remember it as a time when it brought the family together.  My parent journey includes the cutting of parent/child bonds we can develop adult/adult bonds and live as independent adults.  I am already  proud of my children’s transitions into adults, of their independence, and how they support each other.  And on graduation day, we will all be celebrating.

USQ’s Inaugural Software Carpentry Session

By Francis Gacenga

This week 29 USQ researchers staff and students from across USQ’s research institutes, centres and faculties participated in the first ever Software Carpentry Workshop in Toowoomba.

Image courtesy of USQ Photography

USQs Inaugural Software Carpentry class

Software Carpentry workshops aim to help researchers “get more done in less time and with less pain by teaching them basic lab skills for research computing”1. The hands-on workshop at USQ’s Toowoomba campus covered basic research computing concepts focusing on task automation, data management, program design, and version control. A common challenge faced by most researchers is getting the most done within time and funding constraints. IT systems are designed to help but sometimes create complications and get in the way. The researchers who attended the Software Carpentry Workshop were introduced to ways of getting the most of IT services and systems to efficiently complete common research tasks.

The researchers first learnt how to automate common tasks such as directory, folder and file management, using pipelines of commands and how to build efficient and automated workflows using the Unix shell, a computer operating system commonly used in Virtual Machines (VMs) and High Performance Computers (HPC). A basic introduction to programming with Python was provided and participants familiarised with using Python for data analysis and presentation. The participants got an introduction to automated version control using Git and learnt how to use Git to track changes, version and merge files while keeping repositories in sync across different computers facilitating collaboration among different people. The workshop provides an essential foundation in getting the most out of research computing and data services and infrastructure provided at no cost to researchers at USQ by the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR)2, National Computational Infrastructure (NCI)3 and Research Data Services (RDS)4 through the QCIF (Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation)5.

The event has received positive feedback and there are an additional 15 who have expressed interest in attending a second session to cover statistical analysis. The workshop provided a gentle introduction to working with a computer command line interface, opening up new possibilities and resources that enhance researchers outcomes and experiences. The format of Software Carpentry Workshops make it easy for all to learn as no background training is required. At the workshop there were three instructors and seven helpers in the room ensuring that help was always available when required.

The lessons covered are available online for the participants and anyone interested to access freely online at http://software-carpentry.org/lessons/. There is also a vibrant and very helpful software carpentry community online that is ready to provide ongoing help as well as ongoing local support from QCIF’s eResearch Analysts.

The workshop was organised by the Office of Research Development, sponsored by the ReDTrain initiative, supported by QCIF and the Software Carpentry Foundation and administered by certified instructors and volunteers from UQ and USQ. Researchers had opportunities to learn as well as network over the two days. The workshop was a success and there are plans to run more Software Carpentry Workshops in the future. If you would like to learn more about Software Carpentry or are interested in attending a workshop contact the author of the blog at eResearchServices@usq.edu.au.

 

Reference:

  1. http://software-carpentry.org/workshops/
  2. https://nectar.org.au
  3. https://www.rds.edu.au
  4. http://nci.org.au
  5. https://www.qcif.edu.au