SMARTlab PhD Seminar – Monday Morning

The PhD seminar week kicked off with a warm welcome back to all the gang and a special welcome to new students from everyone here at SMARTlab.

Cathy O’Kennedy led the group in a warm up to connect our bodies and minds and our external and internal focus through a range of movements and group and individual task. Robbie Perry then rounded off our warm up with some quick vocal exercises to get the group in peak form for the day ahead.

Lizbeth, Leslie and the faculty Chris, Esther, Mick and Deveril introduced the week ahead. Leslie explained that this summer PhD week will focus on the ‘practice’ in ‘practice-based’ and with this as our theme will be:

  • revisiting the online discussion group started by Susan Kozel (on maternity leave) around practice based PhD and some of the models available;
  • having 4 one hour case studies of practice-based PhDs from people who have graduated through our programme;
  • having a showcase of students practical work on Monday afternoon;
  • encouraging students to show and contextualise work from their practice in the series of student presentations that will happen throughout the week.

Leslie informed the group that the broad theme for the October seminar will be ‘focus on methodologies’ and the theme for February will be ‘focus on writing’.

Leslie then took the students through the schedule of events for the week. (Schedule online).

A new student handbook, prepared by Lizbeth, Leslie and the faculty is at the printers and will be coming back by the end of the day. The group was encouraged to read the handbook and use it as a reference and potentially to suggest new content for it for a seminar by seminar update (i.e. tips on the best proofreaders, the best binders, helpful resources etc.).

Lizbeth informed the group that the major change to the UK law in HE impacting on our group, in particular overseas students, is that it is REQUIRED that a student be physically on campus 6 weeks of the year. Our students are all on campus 3 weeks of the year for the PhD seminar week and it is up to students to work out plans for the other 3 weeks in consultation with their supervisors and to document time spent in the UK if they are overseas.

Lizbeth also noted that students may no longer enter the program ‘direct to PhD’ student status, but instead will all enter as MPhil/PhD students and then ‘upgrade’ to PhD students after they have completed 2 chapters and passed a viva.

The group then took part in a conversation around ‘practice based PhD’ and what that means (and has meant in the past) to different people at different institutions. Camille noted that there are several links on the student Drupal site from the practice based PhD discussion thread that are really helpful in terms of giving clear examples and some excellent case studies.

Lizbeth clarified that in the context of our programme at UEL practice based PhD means a 30,000 min – 80,000 maximum word thesis that makes a contribution to the thinking in your field and which can incorporate practical work as part of the material that is submitted and examined though students may chose to write about their practice but not be examined on the practical work. As a doctor of philosophy students must clarify who else’s thinking they are drawing on to put their work in a scholarly context and that they must be able to articulate how future scholars/practitioners might draw on their work via the original contribution to knowledge they make via their PhD thesis.

Kate passed around Estelle Bartlett’s book Practice as Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Inquiry. This is a book around the group that she said was a fantastic example of practice based PhD work, mostly from Australia but some from the UK. The book also dealt with issues of dissemination for practice based work. People noted that they would love to have a copy of this book for the lab.

Turlif pointed out the similarities between the way a PhD would be written up in a science discipline and the way it is written up in a practice based humanities context.

Camille raised the issue of intellectual property (IP) and who has ownership of a students IP, the student or the university. Lizbeth clarified that the student owns the IP of their work. If a students work is funded by industry then they may need to look for special clauses.

Esther recommended that everyone get a creative commons license to attach to anything they publish on the web and clarified that students can publish in journals while they are PhD students as long as they credit the work properly. Lizbeth noted that students should be a bit cautious about this. She noted that the rule of thumb used to be no more than 25% of the work could be pre-published but acknowledged that this is changing now, but still students should be cautious and get advice when thinking of publishing work that will form part of their thesis.

Kate asked if a performance counts as a publication. Lizbeth noted that this is a grey area, but that yes, it does. Lizbeth advised students to get programmes, exhibition catalogues, reviews or any other form of public citations of the work whenever possible, including soliciting reviewers to write something about the work if possible.

Deveril noted that if you are submitting performance work it is important to think early about how to get the examiners to your performance and crucial to think about how you FRAME the work to them either through writing or through a verbal introduction or both. As a doctoral student submitting practice, you should tell the examiner what you want them to look at in the work and why.

Lizbeth noted that students are not supposed to have any direct contact with supervisors prior to viva, so if you want to invite an examiner to a performance you need to let your supervisory team do this for you. Camille suggested that at the next seminar it would be good to look at any practice based specific methodologies that have evolved over the past decade or so and Lizbeth suggested that people bring their top examples to the group and perhaps we can publish a joint paper on practice based research methodologies.

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