The CCW Graduate School Research Student Programme is open to all research students within CCW Graduate School. The programme is operated in addition to the RNUAL programme of lectures and seminars run centrally across the University. It provides a context for discussing all aspects of the MPhil/PhD, with an emphasis on the integration of practice within that process. Students are divided into groups of first year research students (led by Dr Mo Throp), confirmation students (led by David Cross) and the finishers group (led by Professor Stephen Scrivener).
PhD student, Deniz Acka, of the finishers group, reported on their meeting in January 2014. ‘The session covered the important points that we should consider before viva, such as arranging a mock viva and getting someone from outside to read the text. We also focused on what we have to tell to the examiner both in our thesis and during viva.
‘Stephen Scrivener reminded us of some important questions that we must answer in the introduction of the thesis: What is it that I want people to take away from what I do? What is the most important thing I want to say? What is it that I am claiming?
‘We also talked about how we use the literature review and how to demonstrate that our thesis has original knowledge! I had a couple of questions about examiners and the final form of submission in practice-led research. We talked about various ways of submitting and choosing external and internal examiners.’
The road to completion that each research student takes is an individual reflection of the research into their practice or theory. Scrivener described his account of leading seminars for the finishers. ‘Søren Kierkegaard claimed that we live our lives forward and understand backwards. In my view, unpalatable as it may be to many who would like to think that research is a matter of formulating hypotheses of fact in advance of the fact, this idea expresses exactly the experience of “writing up” research for submission. To research is to be in a mess and if we were not required to sort it out we might never attempt to do so, being quite content in the knowledge that it will keep us occupied for as long as we keep going.
‘However, if you want a PhD, you have to present something for examination, so you must, in my opinion, consider not what you set out to achieve or the real, messy world that that ambition led you into, but what you have actually achieved, the that that in all of the mess stands out as new. The rest of “writing up”, as I see it, is a matter of connecting this something back to prior knowledge, perhaps changing it in the process, such that the new registers as new understanding that holds up to critical inspection.
‘However, everyone’s mess is different, so everyone’s route to submission is unique and not reducible to a simple formula. With the above in mind, my approach to the finisher’s sessions is principally one of allowing each participant to speak about how the “writing up” process is going for them and offering reassurance that the post hoc nature of the order that emerges in each case is typical of all cases, at least in my experience.’