Name: Dearbhla McCarthy (Postgraduate Officer, Mary Immaculate Students' Union) Course: PhD in English Language & Literature College: Mary Immaculate College
I first came to Mary Immaculate College in 2003 to take part in the foundation certificate course. This not only allowed me to enroll on the BA program, but helped me to return to education after a gap of quite a few years. After completing my BA in English and Philosophy, I began a research MA in English Language & Literature in September 2008, then upgraded to the PhD course in May 2009. The main reason for this was that the dimensions of my ideas and research were constantly expanding, and within the first six months I was fast approaching the limit for a research MA in my discipline (approximately 40,000 words). Also, my research is based on the writing of a contemporary Irish author who is currently working on a new project, so it will be interesting to see which of us finishes first! I have regular meetings with my supervisor to review my progress, but my daily work schedule is up to me. I try to be disciplined and write for a couple of hours every day. Because there are several demands on my time, I write first thing in the morning. It is then much easier to return to this later in the day if I get a chance, or allocate time to reading and gathering more research material. I set myself very specific, short-term goals – for example, rewriting a particular paragraph on a particular page, rather than finishing an entire chapter – and so far this has worked very well indeed.
One of my colleagues and I began a Thesis Writing Support Program (TWSP) last year, which has proven to be very popular, and is of great help to all who attend. The group meets for an hour once a fortnight. It is open to everyone who is engaged in written research, and the focus is on establishing and maintaining good writing habits, with the end goal of the thesis/dissertation in sight. Participants set their own goals, and review their progress so as to discover what impedes and improves their overall progress.
Another of my colleagues began a series of Lunchtime Presentations last year. These are open to all postgraduate students, both taught and research, and provide an opportunity to present your research in front of an audience. This is very useful for those who have not presented before, or who may be preparing for conferences or larger group presentations. Both the Lunchtime Presentations and the TWSP have created a forum for interdisciplinary discussion and debate, which is both useful and interesting for all participants.
Postgraduate life in MIC is busy. We have a coffee morning in the Students’ Lounge once every fortnight, and there are regular social events. As anyone who is engaged in academic work will know, it is very important to break out of the solitude that researching generally imposes, and to be reminded that you are not entirely alone.
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