PGR Experience: Part-Time Reseacher
As someone who researches superhero comics in the name of her thesis, I’m very familiar with the concept of reboots. I’m not a fan- they usually seem to entail cancelling a perfectly good comic and replacing it with yet another Spiderman origin story (urgh Peter Parker, more Gwen Stacy please!). I am, however, willing to make an exception when it comes to part-time research. Conversations there need a massive reboot, stat.
There’s no denying that there’s a lot of negative waffle connected with being a part-time PGR. Who hasn’t heard offhand comments about how “you won’t get funding”? Or even just odd attempts to define part-time PGRs according to the same limited criteria? Let’s not start on the mildly clickbait articles out there either.
I’m not suggesting we start backflipping around the cloisters in capes- actually, that might be fun- but I hope to share my experiences of being a part-time PGR, and hopefully shed a more positive light on the process.
Feelings of guilt when we’re doing something not research-related can be strong for all PGRs, but even more so when you’re part-time. Since switching from full-time to part-time research, I’ve come to realise that all of my time is valuable- not just the hours I spend staring at my laptop. The days devoted to my internship, or teaching are equally beneficial, giving me the opportunity to develop other skills, earn money to fund my research, and think about something other than the significance of cyberspace in Batgirl.
I burnt out on a spectacular scale in my first year when I was full-time, and I’m now very strict with my diary. It's important to remember that there will always be other opportunities in the future, and that it won’t be easy to produce coherent writing, or accomplish a task to a high standard when you're exhausted because you've divided yourself between too many other things.
Another lesson I learned quickly was to ignore others’ research habits or claims about how much they’re accomplishing. Comparing yourself to others is a sure-fire way to nurture imposter syndrome and a waste of the time you do have- not to mention, their work and habits probably have nothing to do with your thesis. In the words of Taylor Swift, ‘shake it off’. Focus on your research, and what works for you.
My supervisors were instrumental in helping me manage my move to part-time. Whilst it’s not always possible for part-time PGRs to work on campus, I definitely recommend establishing regular catch-up emails with supervisors. For one thing, this is a good way of establishing targets and good working habits, but it also keeps your supervisors in the loop on a more general level. Should the unexpected happen, they are then aware and are therefore able to negotiate deadlines, or offer advice if needed.
It’s also really important to have support away from academia. Researching can be lonely, so I make sure that I have regular contact with friends and family- quick text messages, spontaneous coffee breaks, and weekly gaming nights alleviate the isolation, as well as ensuring that I take a break for self-care.
If you find that you need additional support, take a look at Stuart’s brilliant post for advice on where you can turn to for help on campus.
Contrary to whatever Jessie J may sing, for Glasgow City Council, it is all about the money, money, money. To them, being a part-time PGR equals having more cash to burn than Bruce Wayne.
There are a few hoops to jump through, but the University has a webpage about council tax which covers the additional forms you’ll need to fill in so that you can apply for an exemption or discount.
All part-time PGRs are different- there are countless factors as to why we decide to study part-time, and my experiences likely differ to those of other part-time PGRs. We’re really keen to hear from other part-time PGRs at UofG. Do you have any comments or questions about training, or other aspects of PGR life? If so, please get in touch- comment on the blog, tweet @UofG_PGRblog, or email myself and Elizabeth Adams. We’re also conducting the Postgraduate Research Survey (PRES), which provides the opportunity share your views on doing a research degree at Glasgow and feed into decisions on policy and practical issues. This is a national survey and results are reviewed by the Deans of Graduate Studies, the Researcher Development Committee, the Students' Representative Council and other relevant groups. Check your inboxes for more information.