Students, the University is aware that many of you have concerns about COVID-19, specifically its possible impact on your postgraduate research degree programme.
We have prepared a list of questions and answers that may arise during this unsettled period and they have been published here.
The hope is this will address concerns some of you may have regarding:
- Progress reviews
- Viva arrangements
- Training and research activities
- International student registers and more
Other information such as IT support and how to access your files remotely etc, can be found on the main student coronvirus pages here.
If you are worried, struggling financially or have concerns of a more personal nature, our student support team are still here to help you: please visit https://www.keele.ac.uk/students/studentservices/
Isolation measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 means that social researchers who conduct face-to-face fieldwork (interviews, focus groups, participant observation, ethnographies etc) are now faced with the challenge of either delaying or re-inventing their methods so that they can continue their research until these measures are relaxed.
- Photo/Video/Voice Elicitation
- Re-enactment Videos
- Using Wearable Cameras (and other first-person perspective tech)
- Epistolary Interviews
- Online Discussion Platforms
- Cultural/Mobile Probes
- The Story Completion Method
- App-based Methods
- Using Google/Microsoft Forms for Data Collection
- Netnography/Virtual Methods
- Digital Methods and Quali-Quant analysis
- Using YouTube (and Online Video) for (Teaching) Observational Studies
- Experimenting with Online Live Action Role Play (O-LARPs)
- Using YouTube for observational studies
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We know that for many, finding the right conditions to continue your research at home can be very different from on site. These handy hints and tips aim to support you and ensure you are in a good place both mentally and physically.
Establish a research space
If you do not already have an established research space, think about setting up a dedicated zone in your home that will help you to be productive that you can leave or walk away from at the end of the day.
This helps to create that boundary between research and relaxation and is good for your mental wellbeing. If you don't have a different space to use, make sure you set up a dedicated area in your room to work. This should be a desk or table which has good light and is free from clutter.
Make sure you set boundaries too. This is so any members of your family or household know that when you are there you are in research-mode. A good Wi-Fi connection will be important. There are tips here on making the most of your home internet connection. If your household does not have Wi-Fi, speak to IT services who may be able to help you out.
Everyone procrastinates when they have things to distract them, be it a gripping book to read, or your phone pinging from group chat messages.
The best thing to do is remove these distractions. Put the book in a different room and put your phone on Airplane Mode, then treat these distractions as a reward at the end of your research session.
Ensure a healthy work posture
Spending a prolonged time working at a PC or on a laptop/tablet with poor posture can be harmful for musculoskeletal health. You can find a checklist to help you to assess your workstation and to make necessary adjustments here.
Remember to move and stretch
It’s important to change your position frequently – you can use a wellbeing app or set an alarm to remind you.
Eat healthily and drink water.
Take time to prepare healthy food and to have lunch, moving away from your research area. Make sure you have a glass of water/bottle available in your research space.
Stick to a schedule, if you can
On site, your days will be more scheduled than when you are at home. It is recommended that you design a schedule to help you balance your research with your other life commitments. Make sure the schedule you set is realistic and manageable, so you don't give up if everything doesn't go to plan.
For hints and tips on research activities you could conduct from home, view the sections above entitled 'doing fieldwork in a pandemic and scientist without a lab'.
Also make sure to schedule in time for breaks. This could include a 10-minute coffee break, lunch, phoning a friend for 30 minutes, or going outside for a walk. Try not to do anything in your breaks that will distract you away from your main task for too long!
We are also asking that all virtual meetings i.e. research, supervisory take place during core hours of 9-5 in order that participants can manage their time effectively and with a view to supporting everyone’s wellbeing. For the same reasons, we would encourage PGR students not to send emails in the evening – we are keen to ensure everyone has time to attend to their caring responsibilities and to have some personal down time. There are tools that can help with this such as boomerang to schedule emails. Individuals with childcare/caring responsibilities may need to be more flexible - please discuss with your supervisor if necessary.
Meet your supervisors regularly
Your supervisors are still available to help you continue and where necessary adapt your postgraduate research. Regular online meetings will not only support your routine but can also be used to address any issues that arise through the COVID-19 pandemic and these should then be recorded in your PDLP.
You may want to discuss alternative plans for your research programme, a leave of absence, change of status or an extension perhaps, if you are unable to complete certain tasks or need to take on extra caring responsibilities. You should discuss any changes with your supervisors in the first instance.
In principle, leaving our place of research provides a natural close to the day. We would encourage students to draw a line under their day, and to take some time for rest and relaxation.
Make time each day for exercise e.g. walking/jogging at safe distance from others, yoga, meditation. Think about using the time saved from getting ready and commuting to do something towards your wellbeing.
Check in with colleagues and maintain social contacts
Social interaction is important for mental wellbeing. Technology can enable face to face interaction, (see IDS resources), alternatively a phone call or text message to check in on someone is a good idea. Keep in touch with family and friends on a similar basis to avoid a situation where anyone is feeling lonely during this time.
Stay updated, not overwhelmed
The news and guidelines around Coronavirus are changing daily and it can be tempting to scroll social media / keep refreshing news websites to find out more. While it’s good to stay updated with the latest information, constant exposure can be overwhelming! Please remember to check if information is coming from a trusted news source before sharing, and to switch off if it gets too much.
Ask for help!
If you need help with any aspect of conducting research from home, please contact your supervisors in the first instance. The University's support services are still available too. For information on how to receive support please see the FAQs here. If you want independent advice, you can contact your mentor, the KPA or KDA via email.