PhD / EdD Blogger

Writing your way to success

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(This is a picture Lee – looking sceptical – with Jacqui and a shy Kathryn)

November 18, 2016 Lee Fallin EdD, Space

reblogged with assumed permission from here:
Today I took part in my first writing retreat, organised by @azumahcarol as part of the University of Hull, Doctor of Education (EdD) programme. I have to admit that while I had read some literature on support of this process (Murray & Newton, 2009; Moore, 2003; Petia & Annika, 2012), I was sceptical about it in this context. Sitting down from 9am to 5pm and focusing on writing alone sounds like a great idea – but I had two main concerns:

  • The third year EdD students had not seen each other for weeks. In the case of our three Netherlands-based peers this was MONTHS. Surely after so much time apart we had too much catching-up to do to sit in silence?
  • We are all at the very start of our thesis stage and sitting and writing for a whole day seemed like a big commitment and something we may not be ready for. (Okay – I admit, moving house has seriously destroyed my reading time!)

Despite my concerns, I hit the ground running this morning. I was determined to make the most of this opportunity. It isn’t often that I get such a large block of time to work on EdD coupled with the guarantee of no distractions. I had to make the most of opportunity as it was costing a day of annual leave. If I was going to waste the time, I’m sure I could have found something more fun to do.
For the first session I was able to write over 1,200 words in the 90 minute block. In honesty, most of this was achieved in the first 60 minutes as my concertation seemed to stagger towards the end of the block. I had a similar record for my second session 90 minute session, taking my total to around 2600 words. I have to admit I was proud of myself. 2600 fairly decent words in 3 hours. Just some tidying and referencing to go.
We concluded the morning at 13:00 and set off for an hour break. I was certainly hungry by this point and needed the break. I have to admit I had some concerns about the afternoon as my head was rapidly running out of things to write about. My lack of reading was finally coming to bite me.
Strategically, I spend the third session in the afternoon looking at something different. I was recently rejected from a journal and had to respond to some comments. This wasn’t my best idea as after the first 40 minutes I was thoroughly depressed and it soured the rest of the session.
That brings me to the last hour. It gave me the opportunity to Mindmap some new ideas, add another 300 words to my total and then write this.
All in all, I’ve written 3460 words today (including this blog post) and I’m pretty happy with that 🙂

Yes – I’m completely sold on structured writing days and I look forward to the next similar opportunity. We also did pretty well at resisting the temptation to write so clearly we’re all very dedicated! The power of finding ‘space’ to work.



Moore, S. (2003) Writers’ retreats for academics: exploring and increasing the motivation to write. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27(3), 333-342.

Murray, R. & Newton, M. (2009) Writing retreat as structured intervention: margin or mainstream? Higher Education Research & Development, 28(5), 541-553.

Petia, P. & Annika, C. (2012) Using structured writing retreats to support novice researchers. International Journal for Researcher Development, 3(1), 79-88.



Positionality Pit Stop … aka ‘Keeping it Real’

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Bice Lazzari, Ritmo, 1956 olio su tela via @Chiaralorin0 #womensart




Blog Post by Raona Williams @REFITClass, an #EdDBlogger

The excerpt found in the picture above is taken from Stein’s (1998) interpretation of words from the late Professor Stuart Hall into the concept of a topic that is close to my heart. I could write an enlightening post on this but the best place for this is on my reflective blog

This blog post instead is marking the notable focus of ‘looking inward’ to relate positionality in my doctoral journey. After this weekend of being inspired by students and professionals sharing poignant information I now will begin working on identifying my own ‘academic positionality’ within my work.

I remember coming across the word ‘positionality’ amongst a range of other ‘new words’ when I first began my doctorate journey.

I dismissed the word as just being a long unnecessary group of letters to extend the word ‘position’ and continued my focus of loving to write about topical interests that enlightened me from academic reading.

Over the course of the last year or so, I have continued to read this ‘P’ word in journal articles. I have continued to hear the word being spoken out of mouths of academic mentors, lecturers, and a new collegiate I am loving gaining a closer allegiance with.

Up until today I still thought ‘POSITIONALITY’ was just a ‘pretty’ word to provide an explanation of why you think the way you think. Or why you do what you do’. I guess in a way it really is that. BUT… it is more.

Positionality in my eyes is linked to place – think of this – can you describe the position of something without relating to its location?

Positionality in research is linked to a mental location not just an explanatory or physical place.

It relates to WHERE and HOW the researcher feels they are placing or shaping their input into the research.

This is fundamental to the research question(s) they are seeking to answer.

Put it simply: If you are choosing a holiday destination – what shapes/makes/places you into the position to want to take the holiday in the first place?

This weekend concept of positionality has become a clear and important component to research and understanding yourself really and where you are in ‘society’.

I honestly thought I could actually complete my doctoral research staying quite neutral and as a ‘fly on the wall’ looking in. Now I cannot dream of doing this – I need to fly to my location, state my place and ‘keep it real’ 🙂

Since completing a small pilot study linked to my doctoral research (empirical research as it is also called) and after this weekend, I have recognized the importance of stating your influence as a doctoral researcher to show how it affects your work – it is also termed, your ‘researcher bias’. Floyd and Artur (2012) relates the concept of positionality to the resultant impact being an ‘inside or outside researcher.

Not stating the inside/outsider researcher aspect to your work affects the validity to your critical argument. I believe it leads the reader into a false truth.

Similarly, not revealing your positionality can be even worse – this is because if the reader does not know where you are coming from – how on earth can they work out what you are trying to say and where you are going with your argument and point?

So I have reached a significant pit stop in my doctorate journey. In fact, I will go further. I am driving to a showroom and changing my vehicle all together! I feel like I’ve been in my sports car for a while now – loving the cruise and flossing in my ride into the doctoral sunset..but now I’m going to drive with an upgraded and different model, altered spec, greater purpose and to some areas where the new terrain may get rough!

I’m now embarking on revealing with a self made route-planner which sections of my life experiences, knowledge base and exposure to society have led me to ‘the positionality bias of my epistemology’ -TRANSLATION?….

I will now work on making the path clear in showing how my ‘world’ has shaped what/how/why I want to answer my research questions(s)

I am now excited about DISCOVERING MY POSITIONALITY: fine-tuning my research, reviewing my reflective diaries, unpicking my research passions and interpreting/uncovering my life and world influences in purposeful relation to my doctoral research.


Mark Stein (1998): The black British Bildungsroman and the Transformation of Britain: connectedness across difference

Alan Floyd and Linet Arthur (2012) Researching from within: external and internal ethical engagement

The EdD Experience: love letter to a potato

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In this post Simon, The Headteacher writes a love letter to the EdD

Dear EdD

Never have I felt so confused, unsure and unstable in my working and professional life! I thought I had everything completely in hand and then I met you!!! Your flyer sat on my desk for weeks burying itself deeper into the recesses of my subconscious until I had to look at you. You are something I had never considered or thought I needed in my life…Now I cannot get you out of it!

I think about you and research 24/7. You have opened my eyes to the power of the written word.
I read.
I digest.
I define.
I define and redefine.
I modestly try to speak your language privately hoping that it makes sense and then, with confidence in public.

I have never read so much.
I have never read so much and felt so confused.
I have never read so much felt confused and wanted to understand anything more than you EdD.

You make me question every written, spoken and read word.
That is something to behold. You have taught me about conceptual frameworks, methodology and methods.
Positionality in Weekend 1 the mere word created panic.
Now it is a security blanket.
Paradigm = 2 months of utter dread.
Now I revel in the thought of developing my understanding of critical theory.

Seamus Heaney wrote

‘Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.’

EdD You are the potato patch and I have begun to dig.




Seamus Heaney, “Digging” from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

The EdD Experience: Dear EdD

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Dear EdD

Sometimes I really hate you. You get in the way of me having a normal life, of me helping my son do H&S homework, of me sitting in the sun and reading a good book, of me taking my dogs for a long walk on the weekend, of me sleeping.  You have made my brain feel like it’s melting and introduced me to loads of new words that I still don’t fully understand and some of which I can’t even say.  Sometimes, I wish I’d never met you.

Then sometimes I wake up in a morning with an idea or a new question and it makes me want to go and sit in my little room and read and explore and immerse myself and try to understand. You have taught me to read again, to always read with an open and questioning attitude. You’ve helped me to remember what I liked about studying when I was an undergraduate 26 plus years ago, and through you I am learning about really difficult things in a really positive, immersive and holistic way.  I am clearer too about why my work is important outside of my own understanding of it, and I want to be better at it.  I know my family is really proud of me and that they don’t mind me not being there all the time, and it helps a lot to know that they will be there when I walk across the stage at graduation.  Also I’ve met some truly lovely people who I hope will be friends for life.

So thanks EdD, for everything, and sorry for the times I hate you.





The EdD experience: minding my Qs & Ps

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Blogged by Raona Williams @REFITClass 

I am returning from a fabulous few days of being stimulated and stimulating a great network of doctoral researchers, supervisors and lecturers. Being firmly established now onto my Doctorate journey, I have prepared a manifesto of seven ‘magical number’ points around the topic ‘Why and how to persevere through the journey of being an Educational Doctorate (EdD) researcher?’ …who says manifesto’s should only be linked to Politicians?

Not P’s and Q’s ….Q’s and P’s

In being a doctoral EdD researcher, many researchers and different ideas/views will set your minds wandering…this is an important opening manifesto point.

NO, not being polite and minding your ‘Please and Thank-you’s’.

Q’s and P’s refer to QUESTIONS in your research that must be underpinned by 3 over arching POSITIONS: PERSONALITY, PROFESSIONALISM, PRACTICALITY.

As an EdD researcher, a vital component of what you choose to research is that ‘You must love what you do in life’. Concurrently, being professional within the critique of your personal passion is equally important. Reflecting the professional views of your personal positions should then enable you to discover practical and current relevance pertaining to your work.

So as a doctoral researcher gain an understanding of your personal focus, provide your theoretic underpinning/positionality and the practical value that you will be adding to the society around you.. as you develop your thoughts and ideas and mind your Q’s and P’s in every step – this should keep you grounded.

  • Enjoy Complex Simplicity
    Questioning and critiquing almost everything you do when you begin doctoral research is liberating and pretty simple really….enjoy it. Find the light hearted elements in the heavily worded documents….there are definitely ‘no sh*$ Sherlock’ moments through what you read and discover, celebrate them and find how to laugh through the complex simplicity.
  • Uncover your obvious
    You will most likely be facilitated on your doctoral programme through tasks and questions that are posed to you by different individuals. As you answer them, put yourself in the world of an alien from another dimension. What may seem obvious to you may be totally unknown to those around you. The aim of your doctoral research is to contribute NEW theoretical knowledge so unless they are telopathic they will never be able to read your mind of the new knowledge you plan to uncover. The more you reveal and unfold the easier you will gain clarity yourself through the questions that may be answered along the way.
  • Everything is research so…Contextually critique
    There is critique; then there is contextual critique. As a doctoral researcher you will evaluate at a higher level. You will find that you will be enlightened when reviewing books, journal articles, any selection of words, people, colours, history, shapes, places, smells, sounds, influencers, naysayers, technologies, economies, politics…pretty much ANY element related to your research. Depending on what your context is (the ‘circumstances and reasons’ behind your research) will determine your critical view and how you will review it. Consider the less obvious in your critical evaluation, this will add to you being able to contextually critique.

Find positivity amidst your muddy walk. Pace yourself with tenacity and collaboration
You will hit some severe ‘tough mudder’ days that would give any elite athlete or special forces soldier a mental challenge. Some days you will feel like it’s an impossible slug amidst a range of obstacles. As an EdD researcher you will have your mental potential tested. Keep your physical health up through exercise and keep your mental health in check by developing personal strategies for positivity and tenacity. Work with others going through similar paths – a colleague in your doctoral group, link with a group forum online, network through conferences.

I believe that the fusion of physical fitness goes hand in hand with mental fitness. I am proud of the comments that colleagues have given me regarding my own positive outlook and never seeming to give up. My immediate response is a smiling and assuring gesture of thanks. I do it as a strategy to convey ‘If I can do can you!’ Everyone welcomes a smiling face and negative thoughts are a state of mind! So I advocate: Dedicate acts that are positive to you as you structure your EdD time management timetable networking with others where possible ….and keep mentally and physically fit, you will definitely find it helps.

  • Act on the impulse-make a memory record of it

Don’t put off anything by saying or thinking: I will do it later. Start it there and then! Allow your research to become innate in your life and noting a working memory of it becoming automatic. Document on paper, by smartphone, by digital device, by computer, by dictaphone….by any means possible.. Even if it’s for a few seconds! You will find that in one way or another your ‘record’ will help in your doctoral research road. No matter how hard you try to fully complete your record you will never ‘finish’ – and that is OK because in reality there will always be amendments to make! You will constantly evolve through the process of your ‘acting on impulse’ and the fact of providing a memory of it will enable the next stage to be developed one step closer to your idea of perfection.

  • 7 R.E.S.T – Relax, Enjoy, Share/Shape (the)Topical

I started my manifesto with minding your Q’s and P’s. I moved onto transparency with critical, positive action and paced discoveries and I end this manifesto with REST. Your doctorate research road is your new life chapter. Relax and let it become your life not take over your life. Enjoy your discoveries like a tourist encountering new landscapes. Enjoy the development of skills for how they help you and others around you to grow and shape aspects of life. Share your doctoral research world with others through talking, illustrating, drawing, making, writing, tweeting, blogging, videos any verbal or non verbal communication media you feel comfortable with. Topical interests will emerge and keep you motivated to discover more ….So REST will invigorate you and keep you on the Educational Doctorate research cycle – which from what I hear…is just the beginning of a wider professional post doctoral expedition.

The EdD experience: liberating, rewarding and exhilarating

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It’s one of those points that I always come back to.

All research is autobiographical. By that what I mean is, not that the research is about the researcher in an egotistical self-centred way but rather that any written (other media apply) research report is a narrative of how and why you came to a series of conclusions about a the world. As such, when you present what you have learnt from your research, there are always three interwoven narratives:

  • the personal
  • the professional and
  • the epistemic
  • (the political is not a distinct strand; it is threaded through all three)

The professional and the epistemic are frequently told, the personal often ignored – laundered out of existence.

I found it so interesting listening to our year two EdD students presenting their EdD thesis proposals at the weekend. All presented three narrative strands.  They seem to have adopted a position that I am only just beginning to  articulate – a position expressed by Thomas (2010)

Thomson, P., & Walker, M. (Eds.). (2010). Ch 32 Last words: why doctoral study?  The Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion: Getting to grips with research in education and the social sciences. Routledge.

In this chapter Thomas outlines three myths of doctoral study. Myth One: Learning to do research is about the acquisition of a set of tools and techniques.  

We ended the day with colleagues drafting a single paragraph of what with more time might have become a Professional Doctoral Researcher’s Manifesto.

(inspired by Back, L., & Puwar, N. (2012). A manifesto for live methods: provocations and capacities. The Sociological Review, 60(S1), 6-17.)

There was a stunned silence when Mike Parker  (aka Mr Post-it Note) read his piece

The Doctoral Researchers’ Manifesto:

As a doctoral researcher it is important that the student prepares  for submersion in an unknown area – and allow the waves to wash over you. There will be times when you feel like you are drowning – and the surface seems distant – there are also times when you will feel like to have been marooned; but trust in the ship to take you to your destination. You will know when you have arrived as the natives will speak your language and share your currency – the meeting of minds will be liberating, rewarding and exhilarating. Remember no man is an island… Every journey has to start somewhere – enjoy the ride!



“I’d be expecting caviar in lectures”

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I’ve finally finished my second EdD assignment and whilst reading the 150 papers in my EndNote library (exported into Nvivo to help me search through them all and code passages of course) it occurred to me that the only two papers I could quickly find were the ones that had the memorable titles. The two that I could open in a flash were called “I’d be expecting caviar in lectures”: the impact of the new fee regime on undergraduate students’ expectations of Higher Education (Bates & Kaye, 2014) and Oven ready and self-basting: taking stock of employability skills (Atkins, 1999).

These were of course great to visualise and these are the what I saw in my minds eye:

To read the rest of @jaxbartram’s post, follow this link.