PhD/PGR Online Writing Retreats

It might surprise you at first that writing retreats have moved online. After all, some of the key benefits of in-person retreats (the provision of a quiet space & various delivery vehicles for caffeine) are no longer relevant when you’re sitting in your own room.

But there are good reasons to give online retreats a try. There’s the camaraderie, of course, but also externally imposed structure. You might be less likely to wander off to check the news if you know that other people will see you.

If you’re interested in attending, consider signing up for a session. There are two retreats held by the Institute for Academic Development on Nov 16th and 27th. There are also regular sessions every Monday and Friday held by Dr Mirjam Eiswirth, who worked for the PPLS Skills/Writing Centre for four years before moving to the University of Duisburg-Essen. She has held over 150 hours so far this year!

Both of these sessions are aimed at PGR and PhD students. Postdocs and other staff are welcome, too.

Something to do while we’re waiting

Eager for the semester to start? There are plenty of ways to build up your skills and knowledge in preparation for the upcoming year.  You could watch a recorded workshop on how to write an essay in philosophy, read about the different ways of conducting psychology experiments online, or learn how to use your computer to keep track of your notes and references. 

All of this and more is available to UoE students at the PPLS Learning Resources site.

Learn a new skill: Referencing software

Every year the number of publications you have to track will grow. This will become unmanageable around the same time that you will no longer have time to learn new software: when writing your dissertation. That’s why it’s a good idea to start using a reference manager as soon as possible. You’ll find that writing becomes much easier when your brain isn’t occupied with worries about tracking citations and updating your bibliography.

When I last surveyed staff members, Mendeley and EndNote were two of the most popular choices. Mendeley has ample documentation at their site, and there’s a LinkedIn Learning course called EndNote Essential Training.

For more on essential academic skills, visit “Developing your skills” at PPLS Learning Resources.

Dissertation Guides

Karen Fleet, our librarian in PPLS, has sent through a list of books on how to write dissertations that are available (at least temporarily) through DiscoverEd. To access this list, go to our Learning Resources site, select “DiscoverEd lists” from the menu at the top, and click on “Dissertation guides”. For a more general guide to academic writing, check out Booth et al.’s The Craft of Research (see “The fundamentals” for a description and a link).

PPLS Writing Centre Quantitative Workshops

The PPLS Writing Centre is holding its annual workshop series for MSc dissertation writers. These workshops are aimed at students who are doing quantitative research and are not sure how to write it up or visualise it effectively.

These workshops have both been held in two prior years, but have been newly adapted to online delivery by their creators, Fang Jackson-Yang and Andres Karjus. Because the “live” sections of these workshops are preceded by asynchronous online activities, you must sign up well in advance, so please pay careful attention to the dates. In past years, these workshops have filled up quickly, so sign up now if you’re interested by clicking on the date/time you want to book. Even if a workshop is full, sign up anyways: doing so will put you on a waiting list and will also let us gauge interest in a third round of workshops.

Writing in Quantitative Research (Fang Jackson-Yang)

This series of workshops is designed to show you how to write longer psychology essays with introduction, methods, results and discussion sections.  This workshop was developed with the guidance of psychology teaching staff and tutors, and will include activities throughout. Each round is preceded by videos and a forum activity.

Make sure to sign up for all THREE sessions in the round you choose unless you specifically want to attend fewer.

Round 1 (sign-up deadline: June 30)

Survey link to be sent on Jul 1 for completion by Jul 3. Videos to be sent on Jul 6.

Live workshop (Intro/Methods)
Jul 8 11:00-13:00
Live workshop (Results/Discussion)
Jul 9 11:00-13:00
Live Q&A session
Jul 10 11:00-13:00

Round 2 (sign-up deadline: July 14 July 19)

Survey link to be sent on Jul 15 for completion by Jul 17. Videos to be sent on Jul 20.

Live workshop (Intro/Methods)
Jul 22 11:00-13:00
Live workshop (Results/Discussion)
Jul 23 11:00-13:00
Live Q&A session
Jul 24 11:00-13:00

Explore and visualise your data in R (Andres Karjus)

In this workshop, you will learn how to use R to produce informative, beautiful, and reproducible graphs from your data. No prior knowledge is assumed, all the software is free, and installation instructions will be provided. The introduction, online video, and exercises will start two days before each Q&A session.

Live Q&A session (sign-up deadlines: Jul 5 and Jul 26)
Jul 8th 14:00-15:00
Jul 29th 14:00-15:00

Resources for MSc dissertation writers

This post is to make sure you’re aware of the resources for MSc students writing dissertations.   Of course, writing a dissertation is never a stress-free experience, but we would like to make sure that you’re adequately supported.  Accordingly, we’ve extended our offerings and will be organising a series of events to help you finish up.

1) One-on-one appointments

First, I’d like to remind you that PPLS Writing Centre one-on-one appointments are available in the summer months as well.  You’ve each been given three hours per month to talk with PhD tutors about your work.  You’d be welcome to bring in sections of your dissertation.   Make sure not to let your June hours expire.  Don’t forget to reserve your July/August spots as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

As always, the booking form is available in the “Appointments” tab (  Note that these sessions are not for proofreading – the reason we’re here is to make sure that you communicate your ideas in a way that matches expectations in your subject area.

2) Help with statistics

Students tackling quantitative work for the first time can run into all sorts of problems when analysing and interpreting data.  While you should always consult your supervisor first about questions of *what* to do (analysis planning), we can help you figure out *how* to do what you want to do (implementation).

If you need that sort of help, click on the “Request help (stats, etc.)” tab (, choose “PGT DISSERTATIONS” under “Statistics help for student researchers, and tell us about your project.  Once you’ve submitted your answers, they will be passed along to our PhD tutors and, in some cases, the Teaching Fellows for statistics.

Please be aware that it will take some time for your query to reach the right person.  The turnaround time could be as high as 2 weeks in some cases.  Make sure to request help well in advance of when you need it.

3) Writing and statistics workshops

In late June and early July, we will be running a series of workshops on writing quantitative reports and visualising data.  These workshops were developed by senior tutors working for the centre, and will, of course, be held online.  Exact dates will be announced within a week.

4) Programming

If you’re using jsPsych to collect data online, you can ask a PhD tutor for help with your code. These appointments are booked using the same interface as the writing appointments ( Make sure to select “Programming – jsPsych” as the appointment type.

5) Learning resources

Don’t forget about our new Learning Resources site (  We’ve gathered links to online resources that include past dissertations, skills training, and help with online data collection.  We’ll be adding new resources later this month – expect an announcement in a week or two.

As always, write me if you have any questions.