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Experimental writing workshops

This series considers different aspects and forms of experimental writing. It is recommended for students in their second year onwards who wish to develop more creative approaches to writing.

Creative tools for writing the PhD

This series of short workshops aims to support students in their PhD writing. It will provide a free and safe space within which to begin or continue writing, it will encourage creativity and intends to remove barriers, such as insecurity, formal conventions and presumptions about what writing is. Students will leave empowered and with sections of writing they can build upon in their own time to use as part of their submissions.

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Session 1 – Start writing: Begin in the middle

Dr Nicola McCartney
17 May 2022, 15:00-17:00, Teams online

Students are encouraged to bring in or along an object or image to analyse. Using free-writing techniques, we will produce a short body of analysis that, in reading back, will illuminate what theoretical frameworks could shape the wider debates provoked by this piece of visual or material culture. Working outward from a case study helps the writer identify what other arguments might need to be considered, what other examples are relevant and helps identify or strengthen an ‘argument’ or research question that frames it. Students also leave with a piece of writing they can tweak later and a technique that allows them to write with no-judgement. Writing informs research, much like research informs writing. Starting in the middle removes the constraints of a linear process, which few of us think in, and stops one from thinking they need to ‘read everything first’!

Session 2 – Breaking down the Literature Review

Dr Nicola McCartney
24 May 2022, 15:00-17:00, Teams online

Students consider and share multiple research questions and possible PhD titles with each other, anonymously and with images. Troubleshooting these, we compose limited character soundbites of the PhD. We consider, what would people look-up to find your thesis in a search? Working backwards from this, what should you be ‘searching for’ as part of your theoretical or methodological framework? This exercise helps situate your project in a field and trajectory of contextualised studies that ought to be considered for the Literature Review and consolidates the project’s main tenants, but also other areas or sectors of research that could be relevant which haven’t yet been identified.   **To begin the Literature Review, students are asked to bring an article they have read, which they want to include. As an exercise, we will write a short, word-capped annotated bibliography on this text. This is an accessible methodology that can be extended for more literature, and acts as a skeleton that can be fleshed out in the students’ own time. Students leave having written a short, draft section of their Literature Review, with a formula they can deploy, if they wish, and the confidence to add to this as and when they like.

Session 3 – End with the beginning

Dr Nicola McCartney
31 May 2022, 15:00-17:00, Teams online

Students are asked to reflect on the last two sessions and consider a narrative analogy for their PhD. Could this act as a preface for the project, setting up the ‘problem’ they are trying to relay, resolve or observe? Could a fictional story provide a structure for the writing: is there a main character they ought to introduce early on? Is there a plot twist or ending they need to explain more clearly? These ideas will be written in a time-based exercise and shared for peer-feedback to help students reconsider what their PhD is really about, what should be clearer and potentially foregrounded in their preface or introduction.