Undertaking a PhD or Masters dissertation often means doing independent research, which can be an isolating experience. In addition, many research students are choosing to study part-time or to work off-campus due to insufficient HDR workspaces, which can make it difficult to build relationships within Faculties. This, combined with increasing pressures on research students to complete their degree within a minimum time frame, often being pushed to publish journal articles prior to submission, means it has never been more important to actively build connections within your Faculty, peers and research community. Making these connections can not only open doors for you in the future, but also give you a sense of belonging and support during your candidature.
Starting research can be incredibly daunting. Whether you have come to Australia from overseas; have moved interstate to pursue your research; or are doing research in an unfamiliar Faculty, knowing where to start can be challenging. One of the first steps is to contact the Postgraduate/HDR Research Coordinator from your Faculty. Usually there is an email bulletin specifically for postgraduate students you can sign up to. These emails will let you know about upcoming events, conferences, seminars, social events, and other activities happening in your department.
Additionally, each Faculty/School/Department will have a Postgraduate Student Representative who can help you with issues you may experience during your candidature. Often Postgraduate Student Representatives will attend staff meetings or sit on committees, providing feedback from the postgraduate community to University staff. If you do not know who your Postgraduate Rep is, ask your Postgraduate/HDR coordinator.
The value and importance of networking and making connections within academia and industry cannot be underestimated. Students with an expanded network of connections have an edge when it comes to applying for grants, co-authoring publications, award nominations, conference participation and even job offers. Being well connected in your Faculty/Department/School also means you are able to better navigate the full extent of the facilities, funding and services provided to you by the University.
SUPRA organises a range of events throughout the year specifically for postgraduate students. All events are announced in our fortnightly newsletter, eGrad. You can sign up to eGrad when you join us.
It’s worthwhile having a look at blogs and other online research communities to find like-minded students and friends online. Great blogs for research students include:
Professor Barabazon has created a ‘Podcast and Youtube’ channel on issues research students pitch in the comments:
Social media is becoming more important for academic life. Whether you are in the first or fifth year of your thesis, the importance of having a digital footprint in the current postgraduate climate is considered by many to be essential to your academic success.
Social media engagement provides you with more than just a platform to share your research. It is a gateway for you to seek out academics and other postgraduates with similar research interests, find out about upcoming academic conferences and workshops, and join in conversations with research communities globally.
But where to start?
Developing an online presence can be done quickly once you know where to start. We have put together a summary of three popular online platforms academics and postgraduates are currently using in Australia. The power of social media and developing online networks can be useful for developing your own personal brand, and also for recruitment and job seeking. It enables you to develop global connections through ongoing 24/7 networking, and increases your ability to be known and be found by similar-minded research students and academics. Social media works best when different channels promote each other.
Many academics and academic institutions use Twitter to engage with broad audiences. The University of Sydney, and specific Faculties are on Twitter. By following them, you can read all about upcoming events happening in your Faculty:
The Conversation is a website that was built to connect academic researchers with the general public. It is an independent source of commentary that can provide you (or you and your supervisor) with the opportunity to write an interest piece or topical discussion that can have a much further reach that an academic blog.
Once registered on the website you will be able to pitch ideas to the editorial committee. If your idea is accepted you can submit a draft and receive feedback. This process is similar to submitting an article to an academic journal, but the piece itself is a lot shorter, enabling you to get valuable writing experience without a large time commitment. Most articles are between 600-800 words but have a readership of over 35 million, according to The Conversation’s website. For this reason, it is important that you write for a general audience and avoid jargon.
A social networking site commonly used by academics and research students. The site works like an online CV where you have the opportunity to put in detailed information about your research outputs, teaching and professional experience.
LinkedIn is a great portal for you to attract the attention of future employers, research or business partners. Your LinkedIn profile has unique features, including your being able to upload a photo, and to create a “headline” that reflects your skills/research interest and work experience. Be sure to use keywords and phrases in your headline that a search engine will recognise.
Through LinkedIn, you can list publications you have completed, conferences you have attended or any current research projects you are working on. If you have co-published a paper with another researcher/academic who is registered on the site you can add them as a co-author. You can also list any funding or grants you have been awarded.
A key feature of LinkedIn that is commonly utilised by researchers is the Jobs section. Jobs relating to research (either qualitative or quantitative) are common on the site, as well as many full and part time positions in the business/research sector.
If you are feeling isolated; or you are concerned about your studies and don’t know who to talk to, contact SUPRA to talk with a Student Advice and Advocacy Officer (SAAO). SUPRA is independent of the University and provides a professional and confidential service. SUPRA can provide advice in person, over the phone, or via email so we can assist you wherever you are – if you are enrolled as a student in a postgraduate research degree, SUPRA can help.
The University Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help if you are feeling isolated or finding it hard to connect with others in the academic community and want to talk to someone CAPS provide workshops and resources for postgraduate research students.
The Learning Centre provides workshops on getting the most out of your supervisory relationship: