As we continue to navigate this global pandemic, this month’s committee post is all about the resources we have found helpful as PhD students during COVID!
I have been lucky enough during the pandemic: my project did not require any fieldwork or archives access last spring. All I needed was my PC, the ancient Greek inscriptions I am studying and some motivation. Aside from the motivation quest – which was fairly challenging – I have been able to keep working on my thesis by playing in advance. When other countries were locking down, I collected all the material I thought I would need from the libraries. This allowed me to benefit of a good amount of resources for a few weeks.
But, as we know, doing research means that you find more and more things to look for on the way. That note needed further explanation that other Greek word hinted to hundreds of different interpretations – and suddenly I needed the Library or a trip to Oxford. I fell back on sites such as JStor (https://www.jstor.org/) or Persée (https://www.persee.fr/) for articles, editions of inscriptions and reviews. Internet Archive (https://archive.org/) allowed me to read some of those “out-dated” books or collections that I usually got access to on campus. The Packard Humanities Institute (https://inscriptions.packhum.org/) and Attalus (http://attalus.org/) provided me of a first read of the ancient Greek sources and of some translations for the Hellenistic age.
The researchers’ community and networking also helped: I have been added to a Whatsapp group chat, an informal way to get in touch with other PhD students studying similar topics and to share useful material and information. Nevertheless, at the end of the lockdown I realized that the best solution had been to be flexible: I had to accept that I could not do everything I wanted to and that my plans had to adapt to the situation, even if that meant to procrastinate some further research.
As someone whose primary research materials are in archives in the United States, COVID has certainly hampered my PhD. However, I’m fortunate that a wealth of materials are digitised and accessible anywhere in the world. Unable to make it “over the pond”, I have relied on a variety of online sources to continue researching my PhD. The American Presidency Project contains the public pronouncements made by American presidents. Being able to access the speeches of Richard Nixon, John Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower has enabled me to keep writing thesis chapters.
I have also utilised ProQuest to access historic newspapers from the 1960s. Furthermore, I have used more specialised online resources – such as Arizona State University’s Digital Repository – to view speeches made by Sen. Barry Goldwater, an important figure in my project. Without these online records, my PhD would have almost certainly have ground to a complete halt. I am indebted to institutions and individuals who are committed to making historic resources more openly accessible.
COVID-19 happened at a really inconvenient stage of my PhD! I was literally a week away from recruitment for in-person interviews when lockdown went into effect. So like many of us, I have made the choice to switch to remote data collection, using Zoom and telephone calls. These methods are totally new to me so I have been so lucky to find some amazing resources to help!
One such resource that served as a vital jumping off point, was the “Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic” Google Doc started by Dr Deborah Lupton and added to by experienced academics around the world. This expansive document covers a wide variety of methods that can be done without face-to-face interaction, guiding those of unfamiliar with online methods with basic principles and lots of further reading.
I’ve also found Twitter a valuable source of tips and tricks to working from home, new papers that have been published, and others who are interested in my research area. From Twitter, I joined a Reproductive Justice reading group started in response to the pandemic, in which I have had the opportunity to meet other researchers and read suggested literature that I may have missed had I not joined. It has also just been a great chance to socialise with others from my home office. So I recommend trawling through Twitter and seeing if there is something similar in your research area, and if not, why not create one?