Resources for academia

This page lists a wide range of resources for early career researchers and more senior academics. Resources cover such topics as PhD progression, how to secure post-docs and lectureships, research grant proposals and funding bodies. Pending resources include innovative teaching skills and opportunities to bridge theory and practice across academia and industry. You are warmly invited to share your favourite resources with: blog@aesop-youngacademics.net

The structure of the page is:

  1. PhD: finding a position & how to thrive
  2. Academic careers: finding jobs, thriving as an academic & research impact
  3. Getting published: best practice & ‘publish or perish’ challenge
  4. Research Grant Proposals: how to write one & secure funding

The PhD life

Finding & getting a PhD

Find advertised PhD positions on Findaphd.com and Jobs.ac.uk.

How to write a successful PhD research proposal by Prospects.ac.uk.

Note that there are significant differences between countries and institutions regarding funding opportunities, the length of PhD programmes and expected responsibilities for PhD candidates (e.g. teaching, admin, publications).

Thriving during the PhD

A PhD is an undertaking. These resources can help you thrive.

General. #ECRchat, #PhDchat #Postdoc and #PhDforum hashtags on Twitter. The Thesis Whisperer is a popular blog based in Australia. Find PhD memes and comics for some cynical humour, for example best 110 PhD comics on Pinterest.

Imposter syndrome & perfectionism. Follow Hugh Kearns @ithinkwellHugh on Twitter to help you manage procrastination, the imposter syndrome and perfectionism. Do yourself a favour and let go of compulsive perfectionism:

A good thesis is a finished thesis.

A great thesis is a published thesis.

A perfect thesis is neither.

Be visible! Create your profile on Academia or ResearchGate, tweet your research outputs and conference attendances, and blog for greater research impact. And you to need to publish, publish, (and publish some more) in your field of specialism to become a budding expert (more below about publishing).

Looking ahead. If you have begun or looking to pursue a PhD, perhaps you want to pursue a career as academic researcher, or gain essential skills to conduct research outside of academia. For better and worse, the landscape for PhD candidates and graduates has changed radically over the years. Greater democratisation means more people are becoming ‘doctors’, and there is greater diversity and exciting interdisciplinary, collaborative work taking place. At the same time, stable academic careers have become tougher to obtain – for example in Italy and in Australia. Likewise, in the United States, there is a historical legacy of conceiving of a PhD student as a ‘disposable academic‘, as discussed in a 2010 article in The Economist. In the UK as elsewhere, it is actually difficult to accurately track PhD students and graduates’ career paths. The fact is, 70% of PhD holders do not work in academia after three and a half years of completing their PhD, so it may be worth using your PhD to build a career outside of academia. And perhaps it is also time to rethink the purpose and value of a PhD… If you want to become an academic, you really need to go for it! If not, a PhD can give a very solid foundation for a wide range of careers, including applied research such as market research, policy analysis, user research in various technology and retail sectors, and so on.

Honing the art and craft of conducting research

If you are reading this page, likelihood is you already have some decent idea about how to do research. The following resources are meant as refreshers or to spur your curiosity.

Research method primers

Adapting Research Methodologies in the Covid-19 Pandemic‘ by the Earthlab at the University of Washington is an excellent primer for qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. Primarily aimed at early career researchers, it is packed with resources and relevant to all disciplines and applied research.

Likewise, Viktorija Prilenska’s must-read ‘12 useful books and articles on qualitative research methods‘ presents all-time classics for qualitative research and mixed methods in just under 5 minute. A great guide for both aspiring and seasoned researchers.

For the ethnographically inclined, the Digital Ethnography research group at the London School of Economics provide a comprehensive reading list about digital and classical methods in social and cultural anthropology.

Transcriptions: interviews, webinars…

If you conduct interviews or host online webinars and workshops, you will likely want to transcribe conversations. Smart otters can do it for you: Otter.ai is paid service that can save you a lot of time. It won’t replace the time invested in pre-loving your data as you would with manual transcription. As Caitlin Hafferty argues, the software “is not 100% accurate and it might not be the best, most reliable choice for everyone”. Plus there might be ethical issues in letting a third party software number-crunch through your data. But it can help process more interviews than you normally would be able to.

VIVA / PhD thesis defence

Start preparing for the VIVA. The earlier, the better!

ACADEMIC CAREERS

Finding a position

You can find advertised post-doc and academic positions on Jobs.ac.uk, Findapostdoc.com, and ResearchGate. See also Times Higher Education for academic and research job openings across the world. 

The career advice portal on Jobs.ac.uk provides advice about academic job search and career development.

Word of mouth and personal networking can do wonders too, both for finding positions and establishing collaboration. Here are five ways to better networking.

black binocular on round device
Seek, and you shall find (in academia or elsewhere!). Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Thriving as an academic

To thrive or survive as a successful academic, you will need some essential skills and qualities (as per the online guide to academic careers at the University of Manchester). These are:

  • networking
  • time management
  • resilience
  • presentation skills
  • leadership and management

The Times Higher Education portal also provides useful resources (note: content access by subscription). See how to put goodness at the heart of your (academic) labours, and ten rules for succeeding with kindness. Academia does not have to be the wild wild west.

Another key survival skills as an academic is the perennial ‘teaching-research’ balance. Doing this with mindfulness and kindness, in defense of both people and planet, is arguably the next frontier in terms of true, lasting resilience and impact, particularly as we reach enter the next critical phase of the Anthropocene. As a lecturer, one also needs to contend with student expectations in times of uncertainty and high tuition fees in several parts of the world. A recent study shows that only half of UK university students think their degree is good value for money.

Research Impact

VITAE gives the full low-down on what research impact is and how to demonstrate it. Useful for all researchers (early-career and senior).

The UK ESRC also provides an overview of what constitutes research impact.

Blogging can increase your impact by helping to disseminate your work and ideas. See the following posts to motivate you to blog more: Blogging for impact (2019), On the importance of blogging (2014), and Writing, impacting, timing in academe (2014).

Social media can also help for research: see the comprehensive resources provided by Newcastle University library about the value of different kinds of social networks. 

Podcasts. The UK ESRC provides basic advice for making a podcast. Feedspot provides 11 urban planning podcasts worth following, including the American Planning Association’s podcast, and The Urbanist provided by Monocle magazine.

GETTING PUBLISHED

How to get published

For high-ranking journals in spatial planning, scroll down to the ‘Journal Rankings‘ heading on the Planning-related journals page.

Publish and/or Perish

To be an academic, you are normally expected to publish. The ‘publish or perish‘ pressure is real: the challenge can either be disheartening or motivating, depending on the perspective… But so is the ‘publish and perish’ trap. To swiftly jump over the hurdles of early-career and long-term academic development, a good advice is to start publishing early,  and publish often.

Is slow academia the key to a more balanced academic life? Proponents of slow academia make a cogent case for pursuing fewer research outputs to leverage higher quality research and free up more quality time for teaching and mentoring students. The post Slow Academia and the neoliberal university provides an overview of the pros and cons, and implications for the quality and quantity of academic work.

riding the turtle
Academia: learning to ride the turtle? Artwork: Bronze sculpture entitled “Searching for Utopia”, by Belgian artist Jan Fabre, exhibited Plaza della Signoria in Florence. Picture credit: Florence 2016-07-16 044-LR, by James Abbott on Flickr, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic
Kannon_Riding_a_Dragon_by_Harada_Naojiro_(National_Museum_of_Modern_Art,_Tokyo)
Academia: learning to ride the dragon? Artwork: Kannon Riding a Dragon by Harada Naojiro (1890) (National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo) on Wikipedia.

RESEARCH GRANT PROPOSALS

The ability to write successful research grant proposals is key for budding and senior academics alike. It is a continuous learning process. Brace yourself for some thrills and chills (i.e. successes and disappointments). Recycle your best research proposal ideas for later if you are not immediately successful. The funding trend seems to be toward greater collaboration and demonstrably impactful research.

Based on her own experience and observed best practice, Mennatullah Hendawy shares ‘11 tips for successful project proposals’. The advice is compelling, concise and forward-looking.

The UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funds a lot of research relevant to spatial planning, and provides the following advice: How to write a good research grant proposal. A three-part guide: 1) preparing; 2) writing the actual proposal; and 3) designing impactful research and final proofreading. Check out their calls for research bids.

The UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) also provides an informative presentation of how to write a good grant proposal.

The London School of Economics (LSE) provides a concise, infographic-based overview of how to write a research grant proposal. The advice comprises three main steps: 1) planning / scheduling; 2) evaluating the cost; and 3) ensuring the highest quality.

money pink coins pig
The art and craft of getting research funding –  a lifelong learning curve. Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Innovate UK is a government funding body that issues innovation competitions in a wide range of areas, many of which are relevant to spatial planning. Here is their business innovation guidance for business and academic organisations.