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Showing posts with label PhD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PhD. Show all posts

2 October 2017

#PhDshelfie: Encountering remarkable medieval women in the Matheson

Inspired by the #PhDshelfie movement, we asked a few Monash PhD students to share their 'shelfies' and reflect on the books that have become most meaningful to them during their candidature. The second piece in our #PhDshelfie series is written by Jennifer Lord, a doctoral candidate researching religious communities of lay women in 13th century Marseille. 


I have to admit, in response to Basil's article, that the books I borrow from the library aren’t like family! They are more like promising new acquaintances whom I enthusiastically embrace in the hope that we’ll soon get to know each other. This quickly morphs into guilt as they sit neglected on my desk because I haven’t made enough time for them in my schedule. 

Still, there are books on my topic that I have definitely enjoyed coming to know well, not least my main primary source. I’m researching a Beguine community established in Marseilles in the late thirteenth century. (Beguines were women who aimed to lead a celibate life of prayer and charitable work without permanently withdrawing from the world into a nunnery.) My community is described in a work written in old Occitan (Proven├žal) in the late 1200s, a work that was forgotten until the 1870s when its only known manuscript was translated into French. In 2001, it was published in English as The Life of Saint Douceline, A Beguine of Provence, and I was able to discover it in the Matheson. Trying to unlock the cultural and historical meanings of this text is at the heart of my research. 


To understand the heightened emotional and somatic spirituality of women like Douceline, I’ve also been exploring the Matheson’s collection of the Lives of other celebrated thirteenth-century women mystics, such as Lutgard, Margaret of Ypres and Christina ‘the Astonishing’. I’ve felt, though, that behind this handful of exceptional women must have stood many hundreds of ordinary laywomen/beguines whose deep piety was expressed in less remarkable ways. So I’ve really enjoyed discovering Partners in Spirit,  a collection of essays by Fiona Griffith and Julie Hotchins which shed light on numerous communities of less notable religious women in twelfth-century Germany, while also revealing the co-operation and collaboration of male clerics with these women, thereby challenging some received ideas about the workings of gender in medieval religious culture. 

The text I’ve found most useful for overall historical background on the beguines is Walter Simons’ Cities of Ladies, which puts northern Europe’s beguine communities into a social, economic as well as religious context. However, the stand-out, most rewarding encounter in my reading so far has been with Caroline Walker Bynum’s essay collection Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the Middle Ages, particularly her discussions of medieval religious conceptions of community and the individual. I’ve even bought my own copy because I know it will repay multiple readings.

And when I needed light relief but felt nervous about wasting time, I visited my topic as a tourist, via Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Against the backdrop of the conflict between Empire and Papacy, Eco takes the anxieties of the men* of faith about the outcomes of reason, the desire of the men of reason to hold on to faith, the world of the scriptorium and the library, of scrolls and codices, and rolls them all together in a murder mystery in the early fourteenth century. Great tour guide!


*Sadly, yes. There is only one woman in the entire book, and she is there as voiceless object-of-desire/occasion-of-sin.


Jennifer Lord is a PhD candidate in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (SOPHIS). Her research topic is Les Dames de Roubaud: Contextualising a community of lay religious women in thirteenth-century Marseille. She also has a Masters degree in sociolinguistics and is  a professional editor and writer of many years’ standing, with publishing and communications experience in the community, public and private sectors. 



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21 September 2017

#PhDshelfie: What books and libraries mean to me

Inspired by the #PhDshelfie movement, we asked a few Monash PhD students to share their 'shelfies' and reflect on the books that have become most meaningful to them during their candidature. The first piece in our #PhDshelfie series is written by Basil Cahusac de Caux, a doctoral candidate researching language reform in post-war Japan. 


The books I borrow from the library are like family. I pick them up and take them home with me, create a space for them next to my desk at university, and regularly take them out for lunch. I would find it difficult to live without them… though their very existence sometimes causes me to doubt myself as a capable individual. My family’s real home – for the time being at least – is in the library, of which my favourite part is the collection of Japanese language books and journals housed in the recently renovated Matheson Library (Clayton Campus), which serves as a sanctuary of intellectual wealth and comedy. There I pick up books on Japanese language policy, written by the very individuals whose testimonies and actions I study as part of my doctoral thesis on language reform in Japan.

There’s the book on the Romanization of Japanese by Kayashima Atsushi, which forces me to dig deeper in my analysis to produce more meaningful research findings. There’s the book on language policy in China, which helps me reflect on the potential impact of language policy and education. And of course, there are the National Language Council Reports, which form the bedrock of my thesis’ conceptual landscape. I find in these accounts of language and society, glimpses of the ideal language speaker, language as an efficient conveyor of ideas and vehicle of culture, mixed in with disgruntled criticisms of the past and its feudal characteristics – usually dominated by malicious power relations and hierarchies.


When I’m lost I often turn to Galan’s chapter on the changes and continuities that occur in the Japanese education system after 1945 in Japan’s Postwar (Routledge, 2011), perhaps due to my inability to fathom the totality of the postwar experience (in Japan or any other country). This chapter offers a window into the political makings of society in the aftermath of defeat. It teaches me the importance of upholding compromise and tolerance as principles, both in theory and practice; a unilateral approach to a problem unfortunately often results in the weakening of the standing of others. The chapter serves as a constant reminder of the need for balance and compromise – two attributes that are often missing in my writing.

When I read, I read through the eyes of my mind. I take the time to enjoy the spaces I occupy so that I can best internalise the books I discover. The ideal space in which to do this is the library, which embraces people from all walks of life. It is where our ideas and emotions are challenged, where introspection and interaction are encouraged. It takes us in and (if we’re lucky) learns from our mistakes. If knowledge had legs with which to walk, then the library would be an open park, green, silent, and welcoming, waiting for new faces and fashions to grace its grounds. Some people leave, while others remain, to age with grace. (If libraries were parks and knowledge the human race, what would that make us?)

Basil Cahusac de Caux is a doctoral candidate at the School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies (SoPHIS), Monash University. He has conducted comparative research on the intellectual history of early and mid-20th-century linguists in the United Kingdom and Japan and is now focussed on the cultures and politics of language reform in postwar Japanese society. In his spare time, Basil runs the Kontemporary Japan Reading Group, a cross-institutional initiative promoting the discussion of Japan-related social issues and academic works.


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4 April 2017

Communicating your PhD research


Your PhD research is relevant to a range of audiences, but how will you reach them? Learning Skills Adviser Andrew Junor shares some of the key ways to communicate your research effectively.



As you begin your PhD journey, you first focus closely on the research process and development of your thesis. Before you know it, your research will generate new knowledge that people want to hear about. Below are some of the key ways you can share your ideas with different audiences.

1. Your thesis

Your thesis will express the clearest, most comprehensive statement of your research objectives and findings. Initially you will write your thesis for two small but crucial audiences: your supervisors and thesis examiners. In time, your thesis may be accessed more broadly by scholars in your field.

How can you make sure your thesis is communicating your ideas clearly?
  • Explore the Graduate Research and Writing resources on Research and Learning Online. Perhaps you need techniques for writing about research literature or reporting and discussing data?
  • Have a look at theses published by other researchers. These can provide helpful models for how to structure your ideas and write engagingly in your field of scholarship
  • Seek support for your English language skills, or discuss writing structure and academic communication with a learning skills adviser in your subject area
  • Attend a Graduate Education seminar on thesis writing, editing and proofreading. As a graduate researcher, you can book relevant professional development seminars through your MyDevelopment account


2. Academic publications

Academic publications such as peer-reviewed journal articles allow you to share your ideas with a broader audience of researchers within your field. Such publications indicate your research output and its degree of impact – but how can you reach your readers?


3. Conference presentations

Attending an academic conference is a great way to meet other researchers in your field and expand the reach of your ideas. By presenting a conference paper, you communicate your research to a niche network of scholars exploring research questions closely related to your own.

How can you make sure your conference participation inspires other scholars?
  • Prepare for an effective oral presentation: plan with a clear purpose and audience in mind, prepare a structure to convey your ideas succinctly, and practice the talk so your delivery connects confidently with the audience.
  • Anticipate how you might respond to questions from your audience. The discussion that follows a formal presentation is a crucial opportunity for communication: you might persuade a fellow scholar to change their thinking, or to remember you as an emerging talent in the field.
  • Share ideas with conference participants on social media before, during and after the conference. On Twitter, you can join the conversation by using the designated conference hashtag or interacting with the Twitter accounts of conference organisers and attendees
    .
  • Deposit your conference paper or poster on the monash.figshare digital repository. Your research document will be given a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), making it much easier to share on social media


4. Community and media engagement

Audiences beyond academia will want to hear about your research. As a graduate researcher, try to identify groups of people who will be excited by your findings: are these audiences found in particular industries, fields, professions, localities, or cultural or social groups? Where could your research have greatest public impact or engagement?

Here are some tips for communicating with a wider audience:
  • Organise media coverage of your research. Journalists are always looking for opportunities to connect interesting stories with relevant audiences. If you want help sharing your expertise with an appropriate media outlet, contact the Expertline service operated by the Monash media team
  • Give public talks. A wide range of cultural institutions invite graduate researchers to contribute to their public talks programs: these include local and state libraries, research institutes, museums, galleries and annual festivals. Think about the range of forums and audiences available in a city like Melbourne, and reach out to organisers when you see a good fit with your ideas
  • Discuss your research on social media. Like traditional modes of communication, social media can reframe your ideas in unexpected and rewarding ways. Maybe one of your Twitter followers will share a useful new resource or guide you towards more insightful analysis? As Altmetrics gain prominence, online engagement may become part of how your research impact is measured. The library can assist you to use author identifier tools such as ORCID to ensure you receive appropriate attribution when sharing research online
Research benefits from collaborative, open discussion. The more you share your ideas with others, the more clearly you will be able to communicate them - and the more likely it will be that others will be inspired by your research and offer feedback.

Still have questions about how you can effectively communicate your PhD research to relevant audiences? Talk to your supervisors or peers about their approaches, or have a chat with a learning skills adviser or subject librarian in your faculty team.

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15 March 2017

Your literature review - getting it done

Do you feel as if your literature review has a life of its own and you don't always know what it's up to? Anne Melles, a Subject Librarian and PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, shares some of the insights she has gained (and is still gaining) from her experience of writing a literature review.



Writing a literature review is a bit like working with multiple pots on a stove that all need attention at the same time. Now, I know that there are too many analogies about the literature review out there, but I’m sharing this one as I found the concept useful when writing the literature review for my confirmation document, which I’ve just submitted. So, keep reading - you also might find it useful!

The idea of pots on a stovetop refers to the way that a literature review develops over time. This means that:
  • you don’t sit down and start writing the review at the beginning and work until you get to the end 
  • the review is a work in progress on multiple fronts (or a war on multiple fronts if you’re having a bad day!) 
  • the different sections of the review all speak to each other and so sometimes where your thinking ends up in one section means that things have to be rewritten in another section. 
Some sources that I had thought were significant at the beginning of my writing later turned out to be less important. I also found that I wrote about some sources with a completely different emphasis. This can sometimes be stressful and it may feel as if you’re trying to get your head around too many things at one time.

However, getting your literature review organised is a slow process. It helps to acknowledge and embrace the messiness of the whole business. Don’t try taming one section and then moving on to the next. Try to encourage conversations between the different parts of the literature review, and also between them and your research questions.

There are different ways of doing this. Sometimes when I found myself in a dead end in one section, I left it and looked at another section. I also found that drawing mind maps helped me get outside the writing and see a bigger picture. Looking back on previous mind maps also gave me an idea of the ways in which my thinking had changed. It also showed me how sometimes I’d just gone on a long wander in the literature wilderness only to end back at an idea I’d had months ago. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as I often found that I was then able to develop this more extensively and with more conviction.

So when it feels as if your pots are going to boil over or burn their contents, take a break: turn the elements on the stovetop off and try a different approach!


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28 February 2017

Planning your PhD journey

What does it take to go through the journey to a PhD successfully?  Learning Skills Adviser Anita Dewi offers answers to key questions asked by new candidates.


Are you commencing a PhD journey at Monash? A PhD is a great avenue to build your career in academia and other areas as well - the penultimate qualification! Through a PhD you have opportunities to share ideas and knowledge in your relevant field. But what does it take to go through the journey successfully?

One of the keywords in your PhD journey is planning. Your plan needs to cover  all aspects relevant to your PhD journey. Below are some key questions that you should ask yourself and find the answers when planning your PhD:

1. How do I manage my supervision?

Your PhD is YOUR journey! This means that you need to take the responsibility for these aspects in managing your supervision:
  • Maintain good communication with your supervisors.
  • Negotiate how frequently you will need to meet with your supervisor (this will vary over time).
  • Take responsibility for scheduling supervisor meetings.
  • Take notes from these meetings and send your supervisor(s) emails that confirm mutual understanding of what is or is not expected after each discussion.
  • Think of a few alternative solutions to issues arising, and then discuss them with your supervisor.
  • DON’T rely on your supervisor(s) to solve your problems for you.
Keep reminding yourself that you’re in charge of your own journey.

2. How do I manage my 3-4 year candidature?

Managing time is not always easy. A PhD journey is a “marathon” rather than a “sprint”. A key tip is to prioritise your tasks. One of the best ways to prioritise your tasks is by implementing, and possibly modifying, the Eisenhower method to suit your needs. To give you an idea of how this method can be implemented in real life situation, have a look at this link.

3. Where can I find relevant resources and advice?

The Library has a great range of resources that you can use to facilitate your PhD journey. Below are some examples that the Library provides:
Also keep in mind that the Library provides you with one-on-one consultations with a learning skills adviser or a subject librarian dedicated to your discipline. Highly motivating writing groups are also available at different campuses. The list of these contact people are here.

4. What will I do after completing my PhD?

Don’t forget to consider what kind of career you will seek upon completing your PhD. Understanding what responsibilities and skills needed to function in this dream role or job will help you in incorporating relevant skills development into your PhD journey plan.

5. What skills do I need to develop for my PhD to be a successful journey?

Here is a researcher skills questionnaire that you will find useful. Feel free to download, fill out, and hang on to it for the duration of your PhD journey. Get back to it and reflect on it from time to time, as a reminder of the skills you need to maintain and perhaps develop to enable you to succeed in your PhD.

6. What do I need to do and when should I do them?

It is best to have a map of your PhD timeline, along with the relevant milestones, e.g. confirmation seminar, progress review, pre-submission seminar, and the thesis submission at the end of the journey.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact learning skills advisers and subject librarians at the Library for advice. All the best with your PhD journey!


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