Managing your Summer Experience whilst Completing Post-Graduate Study at the School of Law
Good advice for the summer months
Post-graduate study can be a very different experience to undergraduate study. Not only are assignments, dissertations, and PhD theses considerably longer but you also continue to work during the summer months. There’s no 8-week summer break in June to be found here! However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a fantastic summer.
For many PGT students, you’ll be beginning to think about your dissertations which are usually due at the end of September. Whilst intense, this should be an enjoyable process. Think about the area you have enjoyed studying the most and consider who may be best placed to supervise your research. Remember, your master’s dissertation does not have to reinvent the wheel.
Your next step is to plan accordingly. Think about how many chapters you need to write and how long you need complete these, allowing time for a supervisor to review a draft chapter. Remember to factor in that supervisors may have annual leave during this period and the university closes for the 12th July bank holiday. Do you need to apply for ethical approval? Do you need any specialist software such as Nvivo or SPSS installed on your device, and can this be provided by your school? What are the submission requirements? Do you need to provide a bound, hard copy? If so, you’ll need to allow time for this to be completed. It can also be very helpful to use referencing software to manage your bibliography so that you don’t have to worry about this at the end. Zotero is a free plug in for browsers such as Google Chrome where you can add articles to your bibliography with one click. You’ll thank yourself for doing this at the end, believe me!
For PhD students, you many have just completed your differentiation or APR in June. The summer can be a time to plan for the next steps of your research, finish up that all important chapter you’ve been working on for months or, like me in Summer 2022, completing your fieldwork. You will be asked by the School of Law to return summer progress forms to our Research Administrator at the end of July and August, so you’re your progress may be monitored. If, like me, you plan to complete fieldwork over the summer, remember to contact your participants in advance and allow some leeway for times and dates to complete interviews. Some prospective participants may be willing to take part but may be away on holiday over the summer. I also recommend trying not to cram all your fieldwork into a couple of months, particularly if you are researching an emotionally heavy topic. It’s important to protect your own wellbeing and prevent researcher burnout. That said, enjoy the interview process! It was my favourite part of the entire PhD programme.
Now for the fun stuff. Allow yourself a break! It can be harder as a PG student when you don’t have “annual leave” but that doesn’t mean you need to be working 24\7.(PGR Students have 23 days of annual leave) Enjoy the one week of good weather Northern Ireland usually gets! Get yourself out, go for walks, go on an adventure, the North Coast is an amazing place to explore in the summer, with trains running regularly. You could attend one of the many festivals, gigs and concerts that take place across the city during the summer months. This is the joy of being a PG student, you can be flexible. You have the freedom of not needing to work 9-5pm.
Have a look at the weather and if you see a few good days coming up, make the most of them. You can always come back to the work when it’s grey and rainy. You may find it helps your productivity, mental health, and wellbeing. Don’t allow yourself to miss out. During my fieldwork last summer, I spent so many of the bright evenings at the beach. One of my favourite memories from last summer was watching the sunset at Helens Bay with friends after completing an interview that morning. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Many days I would have gone to read in the park with a coffee after finishing work. If you do feel that you need to work, try to streamline your productivity into a couple of hours, using techniques like Pomodoro, rather than spending hours in the library with not an awful lot to show for it.
Remember, many of the facilities on campus, such as the School of Law, the McClay Library, and importantly for some, Junction café, remain fully open and operational all summer. Be sure to make the most of those facilities and being part of the vibrant QUB community.