In the early weeks of my PhD I have been trying to take advantage of all the research training options offered by the University.  It is recommended that we undertake around 80 hours a year.  On the basis that a lot of the courses are relatively short (an hour and a half) that equates to a large number of sessions.  To date I have completed the compulsory and very comprehensive Research Integrity Training including the following modules:

  • Introduction to Research Integrity and the Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research
  • Ethical Approval and Practice
  • Plagiarism and Recycling of Text and Research Outputs
  • Authorship
  • Collaborative Research and Data Management and Integrity
  • Peer Review and Publication Ethics

I have followed the Safety Services Online Training including modules on Induction, Risk Assessment, Using IT Devices Safely, Lifting and Carrying without Injury and Electrical Safety.

In addition, I have attended two Organisational and Professional Development courses – Working Productively at a Distance and Getting to Grips with Referencing – How to Cite Right and Avoid Plagiarism. 

I use this blog in the same way that I might have taken notes in times gone by.  I therefore plan to note take home points from all the courses I attend which I believe are worthy of recording in terms of developing my study skills or the way I approach my work.

Working Productively at a Distance

I am working entirely at a distance at the moment and this presents additional challenges to starting a new course, in a new institution with lots of new people to meet.  These are the key points I noted down:

  1. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t – on what you can control and what matters.
  2. Supervision – take responsibility and ownership of the relationship with supervisors – what are the rules of engagement, what are they expecting, what am I expecting, be honest and open. Clarify a process and the technology to use for a quick check in – what might have been in normal times popping your head around their door.  WhatsApp.  In seeking feedback on writing, clarify how good work should be before presenting to supervisor (would they prefer to see a rough draft rather than you spending hours perfecting a piece?), ask if I am interested in specific feedback.
  3. Community – be bold in connecting with others – just drop an e-mail. Prioritise those that give you energy.  Check out on-line writing groups.  Good example University of Glasgow Psychology Twitter.
  4. Better done than Perfect! Thinking process – go for a walk.
  5. Organise the practical aspects of life – large vats of soup!
  6. Planning and Timeline – what do I need to do to get to the next staging post eg TMC or upgrade.
  7. Rituals that help me transition to and from work – turn computer off!
  8. Try the Pomodoro technique – a technique devised in the 1980s where a timer is set for 25 minutes to work on a specified task and to give it your undivided attention. If another task comes into your head just write it down and move on. Take a short break.  Can extend to 50 minutes with a 10-minute break.
  9. Timeboxing – complete in (say) 2 hours no matter what. Good enough rather than perfect.
  10. If a task will take less than 2-minute’s then just do it.
  11. Keep context to do list as well as PhD work.
  12. Deep Work by Cal Newport – have got this and currently reading.
  13. A PhD is a walk to be enjoyed!

Getting to Grips with Referencing – How to Cite Right and Avoid Plagiarism

I have set up EndNote to manage my referencing but understanding the basics and particularly the reasons for doing it was very helpful.  These are the key points I picked up:

  1. Key reason for referencing is to locate ideas within the existing field of scholarship – part of conducting professional research.
  2. Must always include citation and reference.  So, number of citations and references should be the same every time.
  3. References section should include every source cited in a piece of writing.
  4. Bibliography – provides wider information about reading that has influenced my thinking.
  5. To avoid plagiarism be precise in note taking. Always use quote marks and record all reference information alongside.  When writing down your own thoughts use own initials.  Use citation and references protocol in writing notes and blogs.
  6. – website about Harvard referencing. Can access via Dundee account.  You Try feature is very helpful.
  7. Library at Dundee has dedicated EndNote page.
  8. Use quotations sparingly and only when it is so special, I couldn’t say it any better myself.
  9. Paraphrasing – Purdue University On-line Writing Lab. Avoid over-quoting.  Putting someone else’s ideas in your own words.  How would describe/summarise a book or article with the book shut.  Present person’s idea – so what, why is this important?  TEA – Topic/Evidence/Analysis – each paragraph should have all of these.
  10. Direct citation: Smith (2020) contends that . . .
  11. Indirect citations: It is argued that . . . (Smith 2020) . . .
  12. Secondary referencing: x references y.  Should try to go back to the original source.
  13. Citations count in the word count of thesis. References and Bibliography do not.
  14. Check with supervisor whether Harvard referencing system is good for DJCAD and Philosophy Department.
  15. Can access Academic Skills Centre for a 1-2-1 on writing and referencing etc.
  16. Question to follow up about my blog (Critical Research Journal). This is my primary thinking source – my note taking.  If it were a paper journal it would be an evidence source, part of the evidential trail.  If actual wording or quote – link to original blog?  If generally referring to an idea previously articulated?  My blog will be archived – it won’t always be there.



 OPD course. 2020.  Working Productively at a Distance.  University of Dundee.

OPD course. 2020.  Getting to Grips with Referencing.  How to Cite Right and Avoid Plagiarism.  University of Dundee.


Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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