I previously committed to writing up the key points that I found helpful from the courses and events I attend as part of my PhD.

Practice Research Assembly

This week I attended the OPD course on Preparing for your Thesis Monitoring Committee and also attended a Practice Research Assembly arranged by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities.  The keynote speech was given by Professor Joyce Yee from the University of Northumbria who has written papers on practice-based research.  She started with a definition of research – systematic enquiry whose goal is communicable knowledge and the role of practice in research – “a study where practice is used as an interrogative process.” Durling et al 2002: 82).

Practice-led v Practice-based

She spoke of practice-led research as that which leads primarily to new understandings about practice which is normally produced in text form without the inclusion of the creative work (although this might be done) whereas practice-based work is where the creation of an artefact becomes the basis of the contribution to knowledge.  This type of research is about using research to inform practice, improving practice outcomes, and is individually driven rather than being a contribution to broader knowledge.  This immediately led me to think about my work.  At the moment it feels that my direction is through practice-led research with clear practice outcomes which would be included as part of my submission – a hybrid model.  In addition, it will be interdisciplinary in nature.

Creative Practice and Methods

The speaker provided some examples of PhD submissions including some novel ways of approaching research and presenting work and ideas.  These included:

  • Reflective practice
  • Submission of six speculative essays
  • Combination of philosophy, reflective practice and interviews – similar to my current approach
  • Contents page produced as a mind map to show the conceptual links and numerous pathways through the thesis – really like this idea and would be relevant to my thesis in due course

Common Characteristics of Research in Practice

Our speaker talked about some of the common characteristics of research-based/led research:

  • Mixed method – a “methodological bricolage” – the phrase apparently borrowed from the social sciences
  • Reflective practice – reflection in action, reflection on action in process of continuous learning.  Key:  use of practice as an interrogative process
  • Multi-modal approaches – reflection and exploration, analysis and knowledge generation
  • Structural innovation in the thesis – unconventional narrative structure, non-textual devices

Also liked the phrase of text and practice being in constructive dialogue – words and images.

Note on Interdisciplinary Research

  • Situate research in main subject area
  • Interdisciplinary can refer to the method or the subject area
  • Research questions should be specific and in the primary subject area

Preparing for your Thesis Monitoring Committee (TMC)

As PhD researchers we have a TMC every six months.  I am expecting my first to be held in February/March.  The Terms of Reference of the Committee are as follows:

  • Monitor progress of PhD
  • Monitor effectiveness of supervision
  • Raise questions and concerns
  • Assess quality of written work
  • Provide experience of viva voce-type defence
  • Act as vehicle for transfer to PhD in some Schools

We were given some useful advice in terms of the questions that might be asked at TMC:

  • Tell us about your research?
  • Why did you choose this research?
  • What are your main research questions?
  • How did you arrive at your methodology/theoretical framework?
  • Why does your research matter?
  • What are the key texts/studies/names in your field?
  • How do you plan to analyse the data?
  • Are there ethical considerations?
  • What are weaknesses/limitations of your research as it stands?

General Notes

  1. We were advised to be honest if we do not know the answer or how to answer a particular question.  Note it down and agree to follow up before next TMC.  Do not waffle and try to answer!
  2. Be conservative in your six-month plan and don’t over promise
  3. Gantt charts may help with long-term planning
  4. Don’t be defensive in TMC – demonstrate a willingness to engage with different perspectives
  5. Suggested the production of a rolling abstract as your research evolves – 350 words.  Refine each month.



 OPD course.  2020.  Preparing for your Thesis Monitoring Committee.  University of Dundee.

 Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities Practice Research Assembly https://www.sgsah.ac.uk/e_t/pra/session-one/ [Accessed on 6 November 2020].

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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