Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Reading, Writing, Supporting (Anthony Condon)

They say a PhD is a lonely road.

It’s all too easy to spend all day behind the computer, in the lab or deep in the archives. But we’re social creatures and even if we’re alone in our topic, it doesn’t mean we need to be alone in our shared experience.

Do you want to read, write and be supported in a group environment?

I’ve gotten a lot out of the two regular Shut Up and Write! sessions I attend at the Melbourne campus.

One's on Tuesdays 9.30 - 12.00 in the Postgraduate Study Area (aka The Qantas Lounge) on Level 2 of the Library and the other is on Thursdays 9.30 - 12.00 in the Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC), room 114. I've also been a part of the 'how to write a journal article in 12 weeks' workshops (get in touch with Kirsty Duncanson to know when the next one will start up). I like the social aspect of sharing what we’re writing, as well as remaining accountable to a group to keep our work going.

It's for these two reasons that I’ve decided to start a reading, writing and peer support group (snappy name pending a group decision). This initially started out as a reading group. In the History department, we have many reading groups, but I wanted something where I could focus on what I was reading rather than something general. I also wanted to hear what other people in other fields thought about the things I was reading. In return, I thought I’d be able to offer the benefit of my context for other peoples’ reading and gain insight into a broader range of topics.


After all, you never know where the next great idea may come from, and interdisciplinarity is all the rage these days.

So, I gathered together a few other folks who I knew were interested in doing work outside the office and asked if they’d be interested. I raised the idea of incorporating a writing group into the reading group. Once a month, instead of sharing something we’ve read for our research, we’d share something we’ve read of each other’s. Having had a couple of people from outside History read my writing has given me some really great feedback, especially in making myself write more clearly and engaging a wider audience.

I read in one of the RED posts about Mastermind groups and thought, “why not do this too!”. So, for the last part of our hour each week, we have a little check-in to see how each other is feeling and if there are any issues that are dragging us down.  Then we share advice on how to deal with these issues. It could be things like dealing with supervisors, getting funding, or coping with aspects of life outside of our PhD that are getting missed because of our big project.

It’s been suggested that the ideal number for these groups is around 6, but appreciating the full lives we all lead, I’d like to have a couple more than that to make up for absences.

So, if you’re interested in joining our little group, please drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list. Even if you’re unable to make the time and place we’re meeting (see below), or you don’t really want to follow our format, get in touch anyway. If a few of you are in the same position, I’ll be able to hook you up and you can start your own group. I’m also happy to share anything I know about setting up and facilitating such a group (which, is very little at the moment but what I’m learning along the way), as well as get feedback and guidance from people who have done a group like this themselves.

Just because we’re on the path to becoming experts in something very specific doesn’t mean we’re experts about the road to getting there.  There’s a lot that we can learn from each other.

BONUS POINTS: I’m going to apply to RED's Intellectual Climate Fund to get that sweet, sweet catering budget.

A group that learns together, graduates together (or hopefully graduates, at least...).

The yet-to-be-titled PhD interdisciplinary reading, writing and peer support group meets on Wednesdays from 2.00 - 3.00pm in Social Sciences (SS) room 301. For more information about joining the group, or to offer advice, please email Anthony Condon.

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Anthony Condon is a cricket historian at La Trobe University. He writes regularly for The Roar and creates weekly YouTube videos on cricket and doing his PhD, Anth's One Minute Week.

Anthony is currently writing a book on cricket and Australian national identity. He tweets at @anthcondon.

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