A facilitator’s story: Reflecting on the RGS-IBG’s Qualitative Methods Postgraduate Workshop. By Eveleigh Buck-Matthews

In July, the GFGRG co-sponsored the ‘Reflecting on Qualitative Research Methods’ workshop.  In this second post from the workshop, one of the workshop organisers reflects on her experience of the day.

This is the second year I’ve run a postgraduate workshop at the RGS-IBG. The RGS-IBG and the research groups are happy to let us postgrad reps run free and explore the building, supporting and creating a space for us, the geographical academics in training or otherwise known as PhD researchers.

It has been a bottom up process. Me and my fellow GFGRG postgrad rep, Heather Jeffrey saw a need. We didn’t feel our institutions offered us enough methods training during our PhD studies and because both of us weren’t in geography departments we had to go outside our universities to seek out workshops. I also had a social need, I was one of only three PhD’s to start in my new research centre. I was lacking in geographically likeminded people. I also had no opportunities to teach which I had always wanted to engage with, so the solution was to ask the RGS-IBG if we could run a workshop. Courage, enthusiasm and energy arrived in the guise of my fellow postgrad rep for GFGRG. We soon became thick as thieves!

We had about 15 PhD students for our first workshop, we had a fantastic key note; Dr Erin Sanders who walked us through her research, a sensory ethnography of Soho and her thoughts on her PhD and subsequent early career experience. It was a warm workshop and a pleasure to facilitate, a friendly environment. The feedback, it was needed. We had got what we needed – confirmation that it was wanted and had been helpful and supportive.

Therefore, 2017 rolled up. We had some tricky times, we had to push back the workshop later in the year as Viva preps and hand in dates meant we had to give ourselves more time. However, we took on a friendly face in the form of Dan Casey which gave us the breathing space and support we needed to pull a larger event together.

We were so lucky to have Prof Gillian Rose speak on her work on #smartcities and digital geography methodologies. It was methodologically fascinating as well as being visually beautiful. Following lunch I was up with a free writing workshop, it’s purpose was twofold. To get researchers to reflect on who their participants were and what their needs may be. Secondly, to put forward an alternative way to write and to think about writing. To break down the barriers we may put up against the process of writing and break into ways to encourage creative thinking. My last session looked at mapping, we are geographers after all. The glitter came out and people had the choice to body map or produce imagined maps based on their own research idea’s. A workshop designed to help researchers reflect on their work and research practice and to play with some creative methods of data collection.

(Photo courtesy of @TheaShahrokh)

After a tea break we were back with a session on reflexivity in research. Vignettes framed the ethical jungle that research fieldwork can be. We problematised and worked through how to deal with sometimes dangerous, awkward, confusing and tricky situations that come with primary research. There was strength in having talked through these situations and we practiced the ways in which we may write up reflexivity as well as deal with difficult situations at the time.

It was an exhausting yet fantastic day. The feedback we received was glowing and so pleasing to see. Feedback received such as “Very friendly, supportive, with lots of practical info and advice. Made PhD research seem fun again …!” makes the day worthwhile. People had taken so much from the day and also given us some constructive feedback which we can take forward with us if running similar events in the future. I would again like to thank everyone involved, especially the research groups that supported us:

Participatory Geographies Research Group (@pygyrg) Social Cultural Geographies Research Group (@SCGRG_RGS) Postgraduate Forum (@PGF_RGSIBG) Gender & Feminist Geographies Research Group (@GFG_RGSIBG) Geographies of Leisure and Tourism (@GLTRGuk)

I’d ask that if you are a PhD who has had a good experience, a light bulb moment, a space created you feel has helped please consider actively creating one yourself. It is a lonely experience doing a PhD and it doesn’t take a lot of energy to create a space with and for others, even if it’s just an email around seeing if people fancy the pub. Give back, however, whenever you can and if you’re looking for a way to do this consider becoming a postgraduate representative? running a session? running a workshop? Once you become confident, pass it on and show others it doesn’t have to be lonely, I made sure mine wasn’t.

To look at the day, check out our Twitter story: https://storify.com/eveleigh_bm/rqms


Twitter: @eveleigh_bm


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