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Supervision without Borders

The story of the Thesis Whisperer and the growth of a 'feral' research community...

Inger Mewburn

on 12 July 2012

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Transcript of Supervision without Borders

Roughly 1/3 of PhD students never finish their degree (At RMIT University it's about one in four) But we know that online "Just put something online for the part-timers" The are aged between 24 and 65 which means: Barbara Lovitts ('Leaving the Ivory Tower', 2003) 'Pluralistic Ignorance' Failure to recognise that others are suffering similar feelings/problems, misconstruing these feelings as inadequacy and then 'leaving in silence' 49% are
Part Time Only 51% are
Full Time And tend to manage their own time, so there are very few 'touch points' Blackboard = Fail It's no wonder research students don't like having their time wasted.

They already have 'a life'

'Mixers' work better if they have a purpose 'Sense of Anonomie' Failure to become 'socialised' into the discipline: to understand what it means to be and act as a full community member (not a student - a colleague) Glorified filing cabinet What sort of supervisor do you want to be? Supervision without borders: social media and 'feral' research communities or: 'How I became @thesiswhisperer' Thanks for listening.
If you want to contact me...

email: inger.mewburn@rmit.edu.au
web: www.thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com
twitter: @thesiswhisperer Who am I? ... wife, mother, aunty, cyclist, teacher, PhD holder, citizen, greens voter, research fellow, actor network theory geek, architect (?)...... Social media does more than 'store content': it creates a sense of teacher presence The person doesn't have to be 'real' to create a sense of presence. One of the most popular twitterers is
Darth Vadar. We want to be concise. PhD students have to do a lot of reading so no posts will be longer than 1000 words

We want to learn from people’s stories about doing a research degree – but we don’t need to hear about your topic. There’s enough journals out there for that.

We are not a ‘how to’ guide to doing a thesis, but we are happy to dish out practical tips and techniques that work for us.

We don’t want to just talk about writing – successfully finishing a thesis or disseration is about more than that. But we don’t want to be sued, so we are going to always keep it nice.

We want to stimulate conversations so our posts will always be opinionated, hopefully without being obnoxious.

We want to hear your voice. Doing a thesis can take the fun out of anyone’s writing. This is a place you can relax because there is no examiner watching.

We can’t pay you. But we promise to never rip off your work and present it as our own. If you want to write for us it is because you have an urge to share your experience and help others (but beware: it may travel further than you think ... note the licensing arrangements below). The first thing I did was write a (sort of) Mission Statement for the blog which encapsulated this teaching philosophy Is there a risk in giving away your knowledge 'for free'?
"If one candle lights another: does the first candle go out?" Research supervision is taking place in an 'information rich' environment... What does it all mean? Medical doctors now routinely contend with patients who have read up on therapies and treatments before they walk through the door... Why did the walled garden approach fail? Some thoughts:

Not enough 'critical mass' to get over the lurker problem
Too many extra clicks, 'gates' and passwords
Not in the 'workflow' of the candidate
Not visible and searchable on Google
Not easily shareable
Trust issues (branded as a 'university' blog) These can be summarised as:
Understanding of 'unwritten rules'
Emotional support
Advice on 'soft skills' (communication and technology)
Advice on productivity (and procrastination)
To see what other PhD students are doing
A guide to other resources Most popular posts Is this blog a practice of 'supervision without borders'? Am I treating victims of war? Clues might be found in what students come looking for..... and where they go The Problem Why do candidates drop out? Family issues Money problems Sickness Employment opportunites Program not what they expected Things we can't do much about Things we can do something about Solution? The vision "Build it and they will come" ...this reality Online communities don't just 'happen' - they take work Most of it is 'articluation work': "the work you do in order to do the work you do" You can have: And end up with Here's our other problem: They might have a couple of these Unless it's done properly, an online community can do nothing about this It's not simply a case of The (social media) solution My Blackboard blog had 26 visitors over a year
My Wordpress blog has had just over 50,000 hits to date It's all connected Each of these are 'touch points' where you maintain contact with your audience.

Different channels do different things. Have a different attitude to knowledge We are not the only profession dealing with this
changed dynamic Accelerating popularity distorts this (latest post got 1600 hits in a single day). No. of hits Or does the blog make visible a practice of 'self supervision'? This means you have to: The problem became: how do I create a persona? Here's our problem Challenge to authority Who is authorised 'to know' about how to do research? Maybe we need to look here? A Horse whisperer does animal magic through reading the horse's body language and
understanding their fears Thesis One day a student rang me and said "I hear you are the Thesis Whisperer" Student's I realised I had been thinking about identity like this When I needed to thinking about identity as a performance Of course, I'm not the only one... What does that mean for us as supervisors? And / or be dealing with this... Most clicked links:

"It's a PhD, not a Nobel Prize" paper
Download of the 'Scrivener' writing app
Other Student blogs Search Terms:
(other than variations on 'thesis whisperer')

what do you learn by doing a PhD?
Phone apps for researchers
Zotero / Endnote / Mendeley
"I hate my PhD supervisor"
Academic Coach
Write a better PhD
3 minute thesis
Presentation mistakes
PhD work is lonely
How to write a lit review
Best books on doing a PhD Who am I?
Full transcript