We have put together a sway to provide some advice when rethinking your research plans. You can view the sway here.
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.
Following the student Q&A session yesterday, we have provided a summary of the questions and answers here Student Q&A notes.
Funding extension support:
Phase 1 funding for UKRI-funded students has now closed. Applications for Phase 1 funding are still open to all Keele funded and non-UKRI funded students finishing their funded periods between September 2020 and March 2021. However, applications will close on Wednesday 31st March 2021. Information on how to apply can be found here.
All students (funded or self-funded) who have experienced disruption and have been unable to mitigate their projects, for example disabled students, those with long-term illness, are neurodivergent, or who have caring or parental responsibilities, are able to apply.
Applications will be considered based on the point at which the student is applying in their research degree and their individual circumstances. Priority will be given to those in their final funding year or those approaching their expected submission end date.
Students wishing to apply for Phase 2 funding support can do so at one of two points in 2021, in unison with the Interim Progress Reviews in April and October.
- April applications will open Thursday 1st and close Friday 30th April.
- October applications will open Friday 1st and close Friday 29th October.
We have designed a new application form and a guidance document for students and supervisors. We have also updated the flow chart describing the various options you have based on where you are in your programme and your funding status. The documents can be viewed here.
Continuation fee waivers and reimbursements:
PGR students who started their research degree prior to March 2020 and have been affected by Covid-19 can apply for a continuation fee waiver during Progress Review 3 or by a Change of Status request, whichever is most appropriate given where you are in your programme.
PGR students who moved to continuation between October 2020 and April 2021 and have been affected by Covid-19 can request a continuation fee reimbursement via the KDA.
Information on how to apply for either option can be found in the guidance document for students and staff here.
Leave of absence and time extensions:
Applications for retrospective or current Leave of Absence (LOA) and academic (time) extensions are still welcomed. International students should discuss LOA or extension requests with Keele’neurodivergent Immigration Compliance team prior to submitting a request, as this may affect your visa status.
More information can be found amongst our FAQs online.
Thesis submission support:
We have designed an optional form for students to use when submitting their thesis for examination and updated the University’neurodivergent Covid-19 guidance for examiners.
Covid impact statement
This allows you to detail any necessary adjustments to your research plans and activities under Covid-19. It is submitted separately to your thesis but will be forwarded to the Examiners with your thesis.
Covid-19 guidance for examiners
This will be included in the general guidance sent with your thesis and outlines how examiners can ensure that the doctoral or masters outcomes have been achieved under Covid-19. In particular, it emphasises that proxies for the outcomes (e.g. publications, quantity of work) should not be used, and asks examiners to recognise and reward alternative approaches used to create, interpret and apply knowledge, and to adopt a broader definition of originality including advanced scholarship. You can view the guidance here.
Additional funding support:
PGR students can apply for the KPA Bursary which has recently expanded its remit for funding, University Hardship funds and Covid Support Fund. The Income office also remain happy to discuss flexible payment plans and further information is available via the PGR FAQ webpage.
For IT support including how to store and access your Keele files safely from home, please click here:
PGR under COVID-19
Professor Alex Lamont provides an overview of changes to PGR, as a result of COVID-19. The presentation was included as part of the PGR Induction event in October 2020 and can be viewed below.