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Overview of PG Day 2017

Postgraduate Day 2017
The postgraduate portfolio subcommittee

Welcome Session and Poster Exercise
Like all good ice-breaker activities, the “Poster Exercise” was a cleverly crafted (pun intended) practical activity with a deeper purpose. Postgrads were organised into groups, provided with craft materials and invited to create a poster which captured a common theme in their research projects. The activity of doing craft provided a simple focus around which conversation could flow easily. Participants discovered previously unknown connections between their research and opportunities for collaboration and support. The posters we produced were photographed and posted on Twitter. This encouraged participants to create a Twitter account (if they didn’t already have one), comment on the poster and further establish their new connections with other postgrads.

Panel – Day in the life of real sociologists
‘Day in the life of real sociologists’, facilitated by Luke Gahan, gave postgrads a glimpse into the working lives of sociologists both inside and outside of the academy. Vicki Williams and Gaye Mackenzie showed us that sociologists have a valuable skillset outside of academia (and that people are impressed by the title, even if they are a little fuzzy on what a sociologist is!), while Dan Woodman and Shanthi Robertson talked about the less-visible aspects of academic life (spoiler alert: so many meetings).

Workshop: Meet an Academic Mentor
The “Meet an Academic Mentor” session connected small groups of postgrads with an established academic for a casual conversation. Postgrads were invited to develop questions that they had about academia (publishing, work/life balance, the RHD process, etc) in advance and bring them to this session. This casual conversation with an experienced academic, who is not connected with their own institution or research project, provided postgrads with a unique opportunity to ask questions and receive insights that might not be able to gain from their project supervisors. It also presented an opportunity to connect with a senior academic in their field, creating the prospect for an ongoing connection.

Split session: Practical tips for tutoring and lecturing
In the first split session of the afternoon, we heard from four different academics about tutoring, lecturing and L&T research. Alex Page shared with us some great practical tips for engaging students and improving our own practice. He unpacked the tutor’s role as the point of contact, face of the course, mediator, bar setter and helping hand. He also shared with us 10 tips for being a good tutor. These included making our focus on student learning, passion, encouragement, preparation, empathy, professionalization, and reflexivity. Next up we heard from Rosemary Hancock and Louise St Guillaume who spoke specifically about teaching sociology, and contextualised much of what Alex said within the discipline. They gave us some great practical activities to employ and helped us think through how to assess tutorial activities for different curriculum and within different classes. Edgar Burns ended the session by talking enthusiastically about L&T research. He showed us how we can turn our teaching experience in learning and teaching research, and introduced us to journals that published L&T research as well as some that take teaching sociology as their focus. 

Split session: Publishing your PhD Research
In the publishing your PhD research session we heard from the current editors of TASA’s two journals, the Journal of Sociology and Health Sociology Review. Joanne Bryant from HSR spoke to us first, giving us some great insights into the role a journal editor, of the editorial board, what metrics mean and how we can understand the value of these as researchers, and how to understand what a journal is looking for from the kind of work they publish and their aims and scope. Kate Huppatz and Steve Matthewman elaborated on what Joanne outlined for their journal, JoS. They talked us through how the publication process works from start to finish, what work reviewers do and how they approach the task of reviewing, how to understand the niche that a journal works to scope out within a particular field, and then how to target our writing to journals once we understand what editors and reviewers are looking for.

Split session: Managing a PhD Project
The ‘Managing a PhD Project’ session featured a line-up of three experienced PhD supervisors: Nicholas Hookway, Martin Forsey and Peta Cook. Responding to questions about overall project management, the panelists shared some practical tips for managing our time while keeping the big picture in mind. They also spoke about being prepared for things to change and how to navigate this uncertainty while still keeping on track. In response to questions about juggling multiple things at once (e.g., teaching and publishing), Peta Cook suggested mapping out a career plan with your supervisor and making sure that the other things you say yes to are aligned with that plan. For postgrads about to start or in the early stages of a PhD, this session provided tips and tools for taming the PhD monster in 3-4 years.

Split session: What comes next? And How do I do it?
The afternoon session ‘What comes next? And how do I do it?’ demystified post PhD life as Brady Robards, Alphia Possamai-Inesedy and Joseph Borlagden shared tips and tales from their experiences in applying for post-PhD positions. With refreshing candour, the panelists talked about how to frame the skills acquired over a PhD to meet job descriptions. Brady Robards provided a glimpse of the potential performance expectations faced by ECRs, and Joseph Borlagden talked us through how to apply research skills outside of the academy. Alphia Possamai-Inesedy gave us valuable tips from the perspective of an interview panel member. For those of us on the cusp of transitioning from being a postgrad to “the real world”, this session was timely and certainly took some of the anxiety out of post-PG life!