It is natural to feel worried, anxious and scared because of the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, and to worry about the impact it has on both your personal life and your postgraduate research studies. To help support you during this challenging time, we have created this resource to provide support and advice that you may find useful. You can also stay up-to-date with the latest advice for postgraduate researchers by checking our COVID-19 Advice webpage.
Create a contingency plan
The move to restricted campus operations may have impacted on your research plans, and created stress, anxiety and uncertainty. Creating a new or modified plan that you can discuss with your supervisor can help. The ‘Postgraduate Researcher Contingency Planning’ (Word - 23KB) document provides a template for you that begins by thinking about what you can reasonably achieve whilst the university campus is under restricted campus operations, before breaking this down into smaller tasks and weekly plans. Key points to keep in mind include:
- Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) so that it is clear when you have achieved them.
- Plan in breaks and activities and make sure you stick to them.
- Keep in touch with your supervisor, making sure you update them on what you have been working on, any problems you have encountered, or advice that you need, etc..
- Scientist without a lab? (PDF - 763KB) explores some of the options for postgraduate researchers to help alleviate pressure, guide productivity and maintain mental wellness
Record any issues you face
It is important that you use the online GRS2 form to record any delays or problems that arise. If, at the end of your registration, you and your supervisory team feel that the COVID-19 period has significantly delayed your research progress you will be able to apply for retrospective Leave of Absence or Extension (with the most appropriate option dependent on the extent to which your research has been affected and the evidence contained in the GRS2 form).
Take part in virtual Shut Up and Work
Under any situation writing can be challenging and can make all of us feel that we are along and struggling. Mutual support and encouragement can be very helpful for your progress as a writer and a postgraduate researcher, and this support could be particularly important during the current COVID-19 outbreak. Virtual Shut Up and Work sessions are available through the Common Room Project and through the Westmere@UoB Facebook page.
The Common Room Project
The Common Room Project presents a way to connect with fellow postgraduate researchers from across the university. It is a recently launched Discord channel (an online chat and video conferencing app) where you can chat with any PGRs across the University or within your specific school! To join it and get involved (and have the opportunity to ask questions of each other, share things, and meet other PGRs across the School, College and University) simply visit the Common Room website. We’ll be using it to run online games and arrange other activities to help us all to stay in contact and maintain postgraduate research community at the University of Birmingham at a point when many of us are out of direct contact with each other for some time.
This list is not exhaustive but you may find the following websites useful.
The Thesis Whisperer
The Wellbeing Thesis
Mental Health at Work
Guardian article: Is there a right way to worry about coronavirus? And other mental health tips.
Enjoy some culture
With cultural events cancelled and museums, galleries and other attractions closed, you can still access these online. Experiencing something new, or watching a favourite production, can be a good way to switch off and occupy the mind:
- NextUp: this ‘Netflix of UK Stand-Up’ is a subscription video-on-demand platform specialising in stand-up comedy
- Marquee TV: streaming of opera, ballet and theatre; plus whilst their theatres are shut, the Royal Shakespeare Company have teamed up to stream their productions
- Digital Theatre: Streamed shows from The Old Vic, the Royal Opera House, Shakespeare's Globe, The Almeida and more
- iTunes have a range of musicals available to rent; just visit their website to see what is available
- Virtual museum and gallery tours, including The British Museum, the Musée D’Orsay and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.