Podcast your PhD

This guest blog comes from Ruth Salter (@RuthSalter), who is beginning the second year of her PhD at the University of Edinburgh researching the cultural-political position of the mid-twentieth century Scottish Folk Revival.

The blog reflects on the highly acclaimed ‘Podcast Your PhD’, a SGSAH CDF sponsored masterclass which Ruth, Janine Mitchell (University of Stirling, @JanineLMitchell) and Graham Stephen (University of Aberdeen, @grstephen) organised in Stirling earlier this month.

The first day of Freshers’ Week was an accidentally-appropriate setting for our recent Podcast Your PhD Masterclass, with the beginning of the academic year providing background encouragement for starting-something-new.  Autumn mist welcomed PhD researchers from all over Scotland to the event at the University of Stirling, host to a full-day workshop on designing, creating and publishing podcasts about academic research.

A misty Wallace Monument greeted attendees at the event venue

The day was designed to be a fast-paced introduction to podcasting, enabling attendees to feel confident in taking concrete steps towards producing their own podcasts. David Silkenat, Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Edinburgh and co-host of the American history and current affairs podcast The Whiskey Rebellion, led the morning session. David provided an introduction to making podcasts in academia while answering questions from participants, covering the pros and cons of podcasting, different styles of podcasts, potential audiences, and practical arrangements. Halina Rifai, Music-Industry Podcaster and founder of the music blog and podcast Podcart, led the afternoon session. After a brief introduction to equipment and technical requirements, Halina provided a hands-on workshop in which we learned the technical skills needed to make podcasts by working with partners to record and edit interviews about our podcast ideas.

The notes I took at the event would require a separate blog-post in themselves, but I’ll highlight a few insights from each speaker which might be particularly useful for anyone thinking of starting a podcast. We also used the Podcast Your PhD Twitter account throughout the day to share tips and updates.

From David’s session:

  • Podcasting lets you become familiar with media appearances and speaking spontaneously about your research
  • Having multiple hosts or guests enables you to bounce ideas around, maintain interest, and relieves individual pressure on you
  • Academic podcasts don’t need to focus exclusively on your specific research: you can use them to explore adjacent topics
  • Podcasting is still a developing medium and there’s no set way to cite your sources – but show-notes are a good location for footnotes
  • Be patient – building an audience takes time and consistency
  • If you’re not enjoying your podcast, you can stop!

From Halina’s session:

  • You need a marketable title: on average, podcasts have 16 characters in their title
  • Try to start the podcast, and break up sections, with royalty-free music
  • Bitesize is best – even for complicated topics
  • Recording interviews in stereo rather than mono will enable you to edit the volume of individual speakers
  • Don’t ignore Instagram in your advertising: GIFs and short audio clips can really draw an audience to a podcast
  • Pitching your podcast to companies who might find it relevant is always worth a try if you’re looking for funding
Halina demonstrated audio-editing software before attendees began their own recording

We’ve had positive feedback on the event, with high praise for both speakers and the overall experience. All attendees who completed our evaluation survey were very satisfied (67%) or satisfied (33%) with the masterclass. As organisers, Janine, Graham and I are glad to know that people who attended Podcast Your PhD got what they wanted from the day and found it worthwhile – a lot of attendees are already planning on using the training to start their own podcasts.  We’ll be back on the SGSAH blog in the spring to bring you an update on any podcasts that have been started by attendees since the masterclass, and our Twitter account will also be promoting links to these as they become available.

We can’t wait to listen!

We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Jimmy via email at james.johnson@stir.ac.uk or connect with the blog on Twitter

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