Even if you’re surrounded by a great cohort, colleagues, and friends, sometimes having an online space to vent about your problems or look for advice can do you a world of good. Here are a few PhD communities across social media designed to help get you through these trying (!) years, from hashtags that help you blow off some steam to online events that aim to help boost your productivity.
Virtual Writing Retreat
One of the most recent communities on the list, Virtual Writing Retreat was launched in September 2019 by Cat Aitken. The VWR offers a series of online, ‘remote’ writing retreats. Sign up on Eventbrite, and you’ll be part of a group of researchers and writers who need that extra boost of motivation to get writing. “I started VWR in response to returning to my PhD studies after a year of being a research assistant,” explains Cat. “I thought an online writing retreat community and platform would exist already, but I couldn’t find any. So, within 48 hours, VWR was up and running with a booking system and platform and people were joining. Moving from desperation to proactiveness!”
The free online writing retreats offered by VWR operate 3-4 days a week and aim to build a structure to your day and to combat isolation. “We often feel disconnected during our PhD – At VWR you can network with others on a national level, those who are on the same journey, who understand your needs and are working alongside you for support throughout the day.”
“Being online seems to make it easier to ask for help. But in doing so we learn that we have shared difficulties and that struggle is a part of the PhD process for everyone – no one is immune. This is powerful because it normalises the difficulties of the process, rather than having a negative impact on our wellbeing.”
PhD Women Scotland
This is an online community for PhD researchers in Scotland who identify as women. The community offers a safe space to discuss PhD life, navigating academia as a woman and highlights any relevant opportunities. It started in 2017 as a Facebook group before growing to Twitter and a blog in 2018. “This is a group where all PhD women can come and belong, regardless of the university they are at, the topic they are studying, or their personal circumstances,” said Emma McGeough (founder) and Elizabeth Collins. “It’s enabled so much networking between women who might never otherwise cross paths, and it’s become a space where everyone can see that they are not alone, even when they might feel that way in their office space in their department. The blog especially opens windows into the lives of other students and is a great way to see that there really is no one ‘right’ PhD experience.”
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If you’re active on Twitter you’ve likely seen the #AcademicChatter tag going around, but it’s not just a hashtag – it’s a whole community of academics at all career stages around the world and a pool of resources that was established in 2017. The team that host the Twitter page also hosts an ‘anonymous’ question feature, where they’ll put your problem in front of their vast amount of Twitter followers for advice (here’s an example). They also post reviews of academic books on Twitter @ACReviewofBooks.
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