This blog is about the craft skills of doctoral study and supervision – the things that all too often go unsaid. It’s a collection of nitty gritty insights and practices, gathered over more than 3 decades, that get people through the process successfully. The blog is driven by questions doctoral students and supervisors ask me – and the responses they’ve found useful.  It’s an extension of The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research, which I (Marian Petre) co-authored with Gordon Rugg – and to which the blog will refer periodically, but sparingly. ( Buy the book )

I’m hoping to blog at least fortnightly, but don’t be too surprised if it comes in fits and starts – as any researcher knows all too well, outside life has a habit of interrupting.  The blog will have several threads:  blogs aimed at students; blogs aimed at supervisors; resources.  Please do contact me if you wish; you are invited to ask questions or suggest topics – or to add to the dialogue.

I’m just a reflective researcher who has been supervising and mentoring students for a long time.  I care about PhD students, because I think they are the ‘life blood’ of an academic research community.  They bring passion, energy, and a fresh perspective (one might say ‘useful naivete’) to research.

I’ve had lots of relevant experience, from multiple perspectives:  student, supervisor, examiner, third-party monitor, school research tutor, university policy-maker, appeal investigator, adjudicator… And students and colleagues have viewed me in different roles;  I’ve been called a task master, critical friend, problem solver, saviour, agony aunt, ‘purveyor of evil’, ‘den mother’, among others.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with diverse students (and supervisors) – varying in age, background, nationality, ability, mode of study, personal challenges, family circumstances, drivers, interests. Although most of my experience is based in the UK, I have also supervised students in the US and Canada, examined students in multiple countries, and coached students and run workshops and doctoral consortia internationally – so I have a sense of the variations in practice, as well as what generalises across cultures. Every student is different, all bring their own challenges and triumphs, but there are many common threads that I want to explore in this blog.

My thanks to Gordon Rugg and to Open University Press/McGraw Hill for supporting this endeavour.  My thanks as well to all the students and supervisors from whom I have learned – and continue to learn. My thanks the extraordinary mentors who helped form me (and whose influence runs through the blog): Al Bloom, Russel Winder, Thomas Green, Tim O’Shea, Darrel Ince, Anne de Roeck. My thanks to those who have helped me get the blog up-and-running (although any errors are mine alone): Mark Hall, Kim Keller, Mike Richards, Mary Shaw, Roy Weil…

Marian Petre

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