How does it work?
At the University of Plymouth, we embedded the Researcher Toolkit into our Researcher Development Programme, meaning students could choose to attend any workshops, in any order. In this way, we reached more than 25% of our PGR population.
Although The Researcher Toolkit aims to improve PGR mental health and wellbeing, we do not advertise the sessions in these terms. Instead, we refer to them as Researcher Development sessions for two reasons: 1) this avoids any stigma around accessing mental health support 2) this best describes the sessions – each workshop really is about research skills and making progress in your PhD, it’s just that these messages are framed in ways that promote wellbeing, work-life balance, good working practice, and self-care.
Following our pilot year, feedback from PGRs was so positive that we now run What next? Starting a project and maintaining momentum for all new PGRs on their induction day.
We recommend that institutions recruit at least two PGRs, in at least their second year of study, to become Workshop Leaders and deliver Toolkit workshops to their peers in groups of 5-10. Workshop Leaders should have an interest in helping others and should feel confident and happy about the responsibility and time commitment. At the University of Plymouth, our Workshop Leaders are paid £15-17p/h.
Workshop Leaders can be trained for their roles using the training materials provided. Training can be conducted by professional services staff at your institution using our materials. Alternatively, if you would like to explore outsourcing Workshop Leader recruitment and training, please contact Dr Sophie Homer.
The Researcher Toolkit is self-sustaining: each set of Workshop Leaders can train their successors. This means that once your first Workshop Leaders are trained, your PGR students can benefit from The Researcher Toolkit for years to come.