NRN Blog: One Thesis, One Document?!

One of the most tricky aspects to getting a single draft of a thesis is the physical merging of all of your chapters into one whole. It’s intimidating, but we’ve got you covered: here’s our own Kate Holmes with her tips and tricks. 

Recently I put my thesis into one document for the last time. Like most people I’ve been working with files that contain chapter information rather than one large document because this reduces the risk of document corruption. (My previous career in proposal writing drilled this into me! It also means that I’m used to working with large and unwieldy Word documents.)

I’ve actually combined my thesis twice: the first time was around a year ago when I produced my first (shitty) draft and the second was as my draft was becoming more final. Thankfully, this meant I had already investigated how to combine documents. But, if you haven’t done this already it could make a stressful time even more infuriating if you’re not familiar with the annoyances of Word. This is the stage where all the hard work has been done, so hopefully this post might make choosing the right method to combine documents easier. (Apologies, this post will be quite long!)

It took me quite a while to discover the following three main methods:

  1. Master Documents
  2. Insert File
  3. RD Field: keeping separate documents and combining as pdf

I’ve generally outlined the methods that I think are most likely to work on both Windows and Apple machines. (I have used both.) I’ve not outlined every step in detail, but you should be able to find information on Google by searching terms like ‘Styles’ and ‘Master documents’.

Before you even think about merging the documents, you really should:

Manage Your Individual Documents to Make Merging Easy

There are a few things you can do to make your files easier to combine on a file level:

  • Set up your own templates with line spacing, headings etc set up in a format you like and that complies with your submission requirements from the start. You do this by setting up ‘Styles’.
    1. Think about whether you like a particular font eg I like Garamond because it uses less ink (my printer cartridges last longer!) and is a serif font which makes it easier to read on paper. (How I imagine my examiners are likely to read it!)
    2. Coming from a marketing background I’m obsessed about consistency in document layout so I like headings to have the same spacing underneath – setting this up as a Style in a template will make that consistent across every document. You can also create your own Styles eg so that all your long quotations have the same formatting.
    3. Although, I’ve not done it, it is possible to apply a template retrospectively to a document if you are a bit further along in the process.
  • Use the different Heading style levels (1-3) and use them – that way you can automatically generate your Contents page.
  • Insert a caption on all images and tables so that they automatically populate your Illustrations and separate Tables list.
  • Insert images into the folder using the Insert menu on the main toolbar to ensure you can compress files. If like me you work with a lot of images, then copying and pasting images will result in big individual file sizes that cannot be compressed on a Mac (I’m not sure about Windows here). If you then try and merge documents with large file sizes into a large document you are increasing the chances of all your hard work resulting in a slow, or even, unreadable corrupted document. 
  1. Master Documents

This is a method I first tried and found the least successful. Initially it created a beautiful document with a contents page, but then when I tried to reopen the document it only included links rather than the full text. It also can apparently lead to an increased likelihood of document corruption (see here) in individual documents that goes unseen. (I did notice that it added section breaks to all of the documents I tried to insert when I returned to them – something that is only possible to rectify on a Mac if you click the ‘Show all nonprinting characters’ button.)

The theory is that a master document allows you to work on the individual files and that this will automatically update the master document. Here’s some detailed instructions on Word 2010. The key to it seems to be to select ‘View’ > ‘Outline’ which will then enable you to select ‘View’ > ‘Master Document’.

You can then insert the contents page on the first page prior to the point your first document is inserted. You can also easily create a contents or illustrations table by selecting ‘Insert’ > ‘Index and Tables’ from the main toolbar. The master document will sort your page and figure numbers for you automatically.

I presume the safest thing to do with this method would be to pdf it at the end. I’m unsure how successful it would be to send this as a Word document to someone else eg your supervisor. Would you need to send all associated documents for them to be able to access the linked information?

  1. Insert File

This is pretty straightforward, but will result in one large document that may be more liable to corruption. (Although this may only be if you are working with as many images as I am!) It is the method I used to create my final document because it allowed me to use Reference Management Software to create my Works Cited list.

  • Save all of your documents separately in one folder.
  • Create a new file and populate it with all of the initial information required by your institution. Go to ‘Insert’ > ‘Break’ > ‘Section Break (Next Page)’ before inserting your first document.
  • ‘Insert’ > ‘File’ and select the first file, making sure to insert another page break.
  • Continue until you have all of your files in your document.
  • Then go through and check all of your page numbers. The page breaks may have restarted each chapter to begin at 1. ‘Insert’ > ‘Page Numbers’ will allow you to edit the numbering.
  • ‘Insert’ > ‘Index and Tables’ to create your contents, illustrations and tables lists.

Here’s a useful blog post on this method.

I would recommend doing this fairly late if, like me, you are using a number of images and Reference Management Software. I found that once everything was combined it slowed down my reference software significantly. I presume this is because every time you edit or insert a reference that it is reading the whole document to ensure the Works Cited list is up-to-date.

3. RD Field: Keeping Separate Documents and Combining as PDF

This is the method I used to create my first draft as it meant I could continue to work with separate documents.

  • First save your individual documents separately from the ones you have been working with previously. Save these all into the same final draft folder.
  • Update all the page numbers manually so that each chapter runs on from the last. (If you are using images, you will also need to alter the numbering on image captions to ensure they run on numerically.)
  • Create a document that holds all of your initial information such as the Title page, Acknowledgements, Contents, Illustrations or any other information required by your institution. Save this into the same final draft folder.
    • Turn on the ability to view all non-printing characters (button) so that you can see when you have linked this document to your individual files. This will allow you to see the fields you insert that allows automatic population of contents etc…
    • Prior to your contents & illustrations select ‘Insert’ > ‘Field’ from the drop down.
    • In the box this brings up select ‘RD’ and place in quotation marks the title of your first document. eg RD “Chapter 1”. (Do the same for all of your documents.) You will not see this on the final document, so there is no need to separate this with a carriage return, especially as each carriage return will drop the text that is printed lower on the page.
    • ‘Insert’ > ‘Index & Tables’ to place contents, tables and illustrations tables in this document.
  • You can now print all these individual documents in Word and they should print consistently with the correct page numbers, figure numbers and contents, tables and illustration lists. However, these are still separate documents.
  • Save all of your documents as pdfs. If you use a Mac, you can use Preview to combine pdf documents. If you use Office you may need to use Adobe (which I’m sure your institution will be able to help you with).
  • You now have a print document.

Printing the main document:

  • Look at how many pages your document is and decide if it will need to be printed in two separately bound documents. This is the frequently the case if your thesis is over 300 pages. (You will need a coversheet on the second print document.)

When using any one of these methods, you will need to also think about how you populate your Bibliography and how you ensure all of your references are correct once all your documents have been combined. The main reason I shifted from using the RD field to the insert file method was precisely because it allowed my reference management software to do a lot of the hard work for me.

What method worked best for you? Do you have any tips? Tell us about them in the comments!

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NRN Blog: Transitioning from MA to PhD

 

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For our next installment in the NRN Blog Series, we’re delighted to feature committee member Ella Hawkins! Ella is a first-year PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon. Her research focuses on the representation of Elizabethan England in 21st century stage design for Shakespeare, and is funded by the Midlands3Cities AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. 

 

‘How’s the PhD going?’

What counts as things ‘going well’ during the first months of a PhD? Getting out of bed before 10am each day? Finding some sort of routine that facilitates productivity? Reading three books per week? Writing something (anything!)?

I’ve now been a PhD student for exactly one term. I attended my first welcome event ten days after submitting my MA dissertation, and I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to figure out what it means to be a doctoral researcher. My usual response to the question above is ‘Okay! I think…?’. This blog post offers a more detailed insight into my experience of transitioning from MA- to PhD-level study.

Out with the old, in with the new

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Welcoming the new student cohort with tea and cake

Unlike many, I stayed on at the same institution for both my MA and PhD. This has brought some continuity to my transition, and meant that I had a head start in settling in to my work environment. I already knew the staff and (most of) my fellow PhD students, I was familiar with the library and the various resources available to Institute students, and I could head straight to my favourite coffee shop in Stratford-upon-Avon to get stuck into some reading. I even had some crossover in terms of supervision. My MA dissertation supervisor became my second PhD supervisor, so I didn’t have to worry so much about building new academic relationships as I moved on to a new course.

Despite all this, I didn’t realise how different my surroundings would feel at the turn of a new academic year. All my MA friends disappeared, and were replaced by a new cohort. My familiar routine went on without me being a part of it. Students trooped in to their seminars – modules I’d known and loved – while I was left to figure out how to work alone. The new students seemed like a great bunch, but I’d lost the support network that helped get me through my Masters. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the way that I had just a few weeks previously.

Imposter syndrome

Feeling insecure, unworthy, and out of place is an issue that can affect PhD students at any stage of their research. For me, continuing directly from MA to PhD led to some serious imposter syndrome – particularly during the first few weeks of my new course.

Having submitted my MA dissertation just days before beginning my PhD, I didn’t receive my final results until I was almost a month into my doctoral studies. What if my work wasn’t good enough for me to be moving on to doctoral research? Would my supervisor be disappointed by what I’d produced? I had used my MA dissertation as an opportunity to begin exploring some of the ideas that would be key to my PhD research; if it didn’t go down well (I told myself), there would likely be serious repercussions for the success of my current project. Although post-deadline despair has been a familiar feeling throughout my academic career, it seemed like the stakes had never been higher.

Finding my feet

Happily, things turned out well on the MA results front. As the initial wave of imposter syndrome retreated, I knuckled down and got to work on my first bit of proper PhD research. Figuring out exactly what’s expected of me as a doctoral student was the next twist on the transition rollercoaster.

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Mind-mapping one’s way to productivity…

I always knew where I was at during my MA. A module lasted 10 weeks, and was worth just over 10% of my overall degree. I had to turn up to seminars, do the prescribed reading, and complete the assignments. At the end of each term I could cross a couple of modules off my mental to-do list and know that I was one step closer to donning a graduation robe. Then dissertation season came along; I had a monthly meeting with my supervisor, and at the end of the summer I needed to hand in a 15,000-word document. It wasn’t an easy year by any means, but I always had a good indication of my progress and performance.

A PhD is more… freeform. I have monthly supervisions (as I did while completing my MA dissertation), and there are a couple of interim deadlines that I need to stick to, but other than that my schedule is largely up to me. What do I feel like researching this month? Where would be a logical place to start? PhDs are big. They’re huge. Finding a way to divide things into more manageable chunks is something I’m still learning about, as well as the volume of material I’m expected to produce between supervisions.

Looking forwards

Although I find it hard to answer the inevitable ‘How’s the PhD going?’ enquiries, I’m feeling excited about the prospect of working in this way for the next three (or, realistically, four) years. Thinking about my topic gives me warm fuzzy feelings. It’s my little slice of the theatre pie, and I crafted it myself to include all the things I love most about Shakespearean performance. I’m developing a way of working that works for me; it feels good to organise my own schedule and find ways to be productive each day. Getting to know a new cohort of students is fantastic, and it’s even better to be supported by such an esteemed supervisory team and funding body.

I know that I’ll likely fall in and out of love with my project as I hit obstacles and opportunities along the way. But I want to remember the positive feelings I’m feeling right now. I’m doing what I love, and exciting times are ahead.

 

Twitter: @EllaMcHawk

WordPress Blog: https://ellahawkins.wordpress.com/

Midlands3Cities Research Profile: http://bit.ly/2fLaODv

NRN Blog: Innovation in Research, Innovation in the STR

2014-09-13 12.36.04-1To tie in with the recent opening of registration for our symposium (what are you waiting for? Get going!), we asked our previous Chair, David Coates, to write about innovation in his research and in the STR at large — and we’re glad he did! David is a part-time doctoral candidate at the University of Warwick writing a thesis on Private and Amateur Theatricals in Britain, 1830-1914. He completed his MA by Research in 2010 with a thesis that interrogated the social, cultural, political and theatrical significance of the Chatsworth House Theatre and the Duchess of Devonshire’s Private Theatricals, 1880-1914.

David has been a member of STR since 2011 and sat on the Executive Committee after founding the NRN, from February 2012 until September 2015. He’s also a member of TaPRA, and was fortunate enough to sit on the Executive Committee as a Postgraduate Representative until Summer 2015. He continues to attend the Historiography working group at both TaPRA and at IFTR, and for the latter organisation acted as Administrator for the Warwick World Congress in 2014.

Innovation In My Research

The Call for Papers for the NRN’s annual symposium draws attention to the importance of innovation in academia and states that innovation is ‘at the core of our development as scholars’. Though undoubtedly true, our determination to find innovation in our work has occasioned a proliferation of micro histories that – as fascinating as they may be – ultimately fail to acknowledge the bigger picture. Equally, it has resulted in skewed theatre histories and has left some areas of our discipline heavily under-researched and underappreciated. Amateur theatre pre-1914 is but one of these areas.

Amateur theatricals in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been investigated by a handful of scholars, including Sybil Rosenfeld, Gillian Russell, Kate Newey and Mary Isbell. More often than not, these histories have categorised and compartmentalised amateur performance into distinct types, such as Private Theatricals, Shipboard Theatricals, Garrison Theatricals and University Theatricals. These microhistories have their place – they’ve been enlightening and have contributed hugely to my research – but I think they’ve missed something crucial. They’ve lacked the scope to allow for understanding the relation these forms have to one another.

Way back in 2010 I started my PhD with an emphasis on Private Theatricals in country houses, but that focus very quickly expanded. You could say that I got distracted. I was convinced that so little had survived to tell the story of amateur theatre in the period, that any material to have made it through the last two centuries relating to amateurs in any form would help to contextualise my rather niche field. The truth was that there was more evidence surviving than I could have imagined and seeing as much of it as possible hasn’t been light on my pockets or my time. I’ve taken over 24,000 images of materials relating to nineteenth century amateur theatricals in Britain, and have created a database of the thousands of performances that I now know to have taken place. This database continues to grow!

It’s safe to say that some colleagues were concerned by the increasing scope of my project and I was encouraged to narrow my focus. Others thought I was mad to have gathered so much material and yet not put pen to paper to start writing my thesis. I too was beginning to question it! But, luckily I knew that there was method to my madness. In doing all of this research, the innovation came from the good fortune of being able to take a holistic approach. By looking very broadly at the field, at the various forms of amateur theatre previously studied, and at many lesser know examples of amateur performance, I was able to fully explore their interconnections for the first time.

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Figure 1: Lady Monckton became famous as an ‘amateur’ society actress. She was the member of many of the leading amateur dramatic societies and was frequently invited to perform as part of amateur theatricals across the country. Lady Monckton is the perfect example of the ‘professional amateur’ I have uncovered during my research. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

The research has revealed a group of what I term ‘professional amateurs’, who were invited to country house parties, were performing in charity theatricals in the West End, and were connected to the Canterbury Old Stagers and Windsor Strollers – two of the country’s most elite amateur societies.[Figure 1] Many of the male ‘professional amateurs’ had performed at Eton, Harrow, Cambridge or Oxford together, had mingled together at the Garrick Club, and had been involved in theatricals onboard ships and at garrisons. The well-documented literary theatricals of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, which otherwise had been assigned to a literary culture, could very firmly be connected to this world of ‘professional amateurs’.[Figure 2] Thus, my research reveals a network of aristocratic and middle class men and women who formed what could be perceived as a national amateur theatre network, well before any formal organisations, such as the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (1899), had been founded in Britain.

This holistic view has done much more than revealing the interconnections between amateur theatrical forms in the period. It’s also exposed interconnections with amateur sports and amateur music making, consequently documenting the changing attitudes to labour and leisure time through the century. I’ve uncovered the macro – at least in Britain! – but this work could undoubtedly be extended to look at the profusion of materials across Europe, North America and the Empire.

Figure 2: The theatricals of Charles Dickens have thus been viewed in isolation as part of a literary culture. Instead, this research reveals the amateur theatricals of Dickens and his company to be part of the emergence of amateur dramatics more broadly. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

Figure 2: The theatricals of Charles Dickens have thus been viewed in isolation as part of a literary culture. Instead, this research reveals the amateur theatricals of Dickens and his company to be part of the emergence of amateur dramatics more broadly. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

Finally, by taking a step back I’ve also uncovered a distinct repertoire for amateur theatre in the period. This repertoire may be used to challenge our current understanding of the nineteenth century theatrical canon – a canon which presently upholds the notion that only professional theatre is worthy of study. Expelling the hierarches and binaries associated with ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ theatre when looking at the canon, and beyond, could provide fresh perspectives.

Through this research I’ve become acutely aware that our discipline is skewed to focus almost entirely on professional theatre. This skew may well have derived from our desire to unearth innovations in theatre history. We know far more about the innovative amateurs from the turn of the twentieth century – such as the Elizabethan Stage Society, the Independent Theatre Society and the latter’s continental forerunners – than we do of the everyday amateur.[Figure 3]  I feel proud to be part of a group of scholars, including Claire Cochrane, Helen Nicholson and her colleagues on the AHRC Funded Project Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Place, who are taking an innovative approach by setting out to redress that imbalance!

Innovation and the Society for Theatre Research

When the STR was founded in 1948 the individuals who formed its first committee were innovative in applying academic rigor to a new field – Theatre Studies. Many of the same individuals had started to produce the journal Theatre Notebook in 1945 and saw the value in bringing those interested in theatre research together in a society. It was only in the previous year that Glynne Wickham had established the first university department to focus on theatre research in Britain, at the University of Bristol. The STR was undoubtedly at the forefront of this new and emerging field.

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Figure 3: A programme for the Elizabethan Stage Society’s production of Doctor Faustus produced by William Poel. The event took place at St. George’s Hall, a venue which was available to hire for amateurs and became a hub of upper-middle class amateur activity. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

On the STR’s website we can read of some of the organisation’s success stories. The STR played a crucial role in the twelve-year campaign for a dedicated Theatre Museum, which opened in Covent Garden in 1987 but sadly closed in 2007, with materials being transferred to the V&A’s Theatre Collections. The STR were also involved in the debates over the abolishment of the censorship of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, and fought for a clause to be written into the act which stated that the British Library would continue to be the repository for the script of every play given for public performance in Britain. The STR were also the driving force behind the establishment of an umbrella organisation for our discipline in 1957– the International Federation for Theatre Research.  In fact Eileen Cottis, one of the current Honorary Members of the STR’s Executive Committee, was at that meeting where IFTR was founded.

Some scholars would argue that the STR’s days as innovative are long gone. But perhaps the Society just doesn’t shout loud enough about its success stories anymore? Arguably, the STR’s continued commitment to support innovative writing and research is one of its greatest assets!

The STR’s annual Theatre Book Prize celebrates scholarship in British Theatre. Previous winners have included Michael Billington’s State of the Nation (Faber & Faber), Jim Davis and Victor Emeljanow’s Reflecting the Audience: London Theatregoing, 1840-1880 (Iowa University Press/ University of Hertfordshire Press) and Patrick Lonergan’s Theatre and Globalisation: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era (Palgrave Macmillan). The Society is also a firm believer in funding new and original research. Thousands of pounds are given away each year to support scholars, with past awardees including the NRN’s Kate Holmes, the V&A’s Simon Sladen, the University of Glasgow’s Prof. Dee Heddon, the University of Bristol’s Dr. Catherine Hindson, and the University of Manchester’s Dr Kate Dorney.

If this isn’t its greatest asset, then it’s surely the STR’s pledge to support new talent for the professional stage through the annual Poel Event? In recent years, this event has gone from strength to strength, with workshops being led by Jeannette Nelson (Head of Voice, National Theatre), Cicely Berry (former Voice Director for the RSC), and Sir Ian McKellen.

Alternatively, it would be the STR’s investment in new and emerging scholars through the New Researchers’ Network. The NRN has built up a regular membership since it was formed in February 2012, with new and returning members coming together for study days, workshops and symposiums to share expertise, skills, approaches and knowledge. The Teaching Theatre Practice workshop was a particular success story, as it provided valuable training for researchers with very little experience of teaching practice, who may need to adapt their teaching style as our discipline becomes more and more practice-centric.

From its inception the STR has been committed to innovation in our field. While it may not have had influence over an act of parliament in recent years, today it shows that commitment through funding and supporting innovative new writing, practice and research. It therefore seems fitting that the New Researchers’ Network is asking its membership to consider their relationship with innovation – essentially that dreaded Viva question – ‘What is your contribution to the field?’. I look forward to hearing everyone’s answer to that question at the NRN’s Annual Symposium in Bristol!

How do YOU consider your relationship with innovation and your research? What new discoveries have you made in your work? Write about it for our blog: contact Emer and Kate at nrn@str.org.uk to talk about your ideas! And once more, here’s another reminder to register for: the symposium on 6 July AND for the study day at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection on 5 July. The symposium hashtag is officially #NRN16. 

NRN Blog: Surviving Your Viva

 

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Nora Williams

We’re particularly delighted to feature a blog post from our own Chair (or Fearless Leader, take your pick), Nora Williams. Nora recently completed her PhD at the University of Exeter on the intersections between print and performance of Middleton and Rowley’s The Changeling — you can find out more here — and now she extols her wisdom on making the most of your viva experience…

 

5:30am. My fratboy of an upstairs neighbour is blending something, or Hoovering. I can never quite tell. Normally I’m not awake at this time to hear his shenanigans, or I’m able to shut them out fairly quickly. Today, it’s T-4.5 hours until my viva, and I’m wide awake on the other side of two vivid dreams: one in which it went well, and one in which it was a disaster. Guess which one is on replay?

Spoiler alert: it did go well! It was a great conversation, and I learned a lot. I got some great compliments, and some difficult questions, and some tough but fair criticism. I passed with minor corrections, which means I now have three months in which to address my examiners’ comments. Phew!

In this blog post, I’m offering my five top tips to survive and thrive in viva week.

  1. Think Big Picture

In re-reading my thesis for the first time, I got stuck in all of the detail. I misspelled W.B. Worthen’s name! They’re going to murder me! (They didn’t.) That reference is to the wrong page number! What’ll I do? (Fix it in corrections.) In my mock viva, however, my supervisors focused much more on the “meta” questions, as one of them put it. What are your research questions? What is your contribution to knowledge? Who are the key theorists you’re in dialogue with? What’s the most important thing you’ve done here? It’s hard to convince yourself of this when all you can see is the typo in your table of contents (true story), but the examiners care much more about the big stuff than they do about the little mistakes.

That doesn’t mean they won’t ask you about the details or that you shouldn’t present your thesis in the best possible condition. Rather, it’s a reminder that what’s really important in the room, on the day, is the quality of your research and your arguments—not the typos.

  1. Nothing Means Anything

The best advice I got from my mock viva came from my second supervisor and became my mantra in the week leading up to the viva: “nothing means anything”. If they keep you waiting forty minutes between viva and corrections/result, it doesn’t mean anything. They could be writing up the report. Or talking about old times. Or having a toilet break. Equally, if they call you back in really quickly, it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe they have kids to pick up from school, or trains to catch. If they ask you the same question six times, they could be probing for more detail, or they could be unhappy with your answer, or they could be looking for the publishing pitch—you just don’t know. My examiners asked for my supervisor to be present in the second half, when they were going through the corrections, so I thought for sure I had failed. I hadn’t; there was no correlation at all between my supervisor’s presence and the outcome of the viva. They just wanted to make sure I got all the info I needed—and sure enough, her notes are much more detailed than mine!

The mantra doesn’t stop you reading into every single detail of the day, but for me it became a kind of security blanket to default to. Say it with me now: nothing. means. anything.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

I was really lucky in that my department offers a one-off seminar about viva prep for final-year PhD students (if your department has one, you should go!). One of the things that they really emphasised in that seminar was to look after yourself in the run up to the viva. So with 24 hours left to go, I gave myself strict instructions to work a full day and nothing more. I did roughly 9-5 prep, with a lunch break, and then cut myself off. I went home, cooked a comfort-food dinner, and FaceTimed with some of my best friends and my mom. I watched Gossip Girl on Netflix and tidied my bedroom. I made sure that all the clothes I wanted to wear and all the things I wanted to bring were ready to go. I tried to have a normal bedtime. I drank a lot of herbal tea with things like camomile and lavender and lime flower in it.

Preparing for a viva isn’t like cramming for an exam. You already know your material inside out and backwards. For this brief moment in time, you are the world-leading expert on your subject. Trust the work you’ve been doing for the past three or more years and let your brain have a break before the big day. Prep like you mean it, and then give yourself a rest.

  1. Lean on Your Support System

Ultimately, you’re the one who has to walk into that room and answer the questions, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need a little help getting to the door. If at all possible, I really recommend bringing along someone you trust to a) give you a hug before you walk into the room, b) look after anything you don’t want to bring with you, and c) be a friendly face in the space between the viva proper and the discussion about corrections that follows. I brought my flatmate, who was an absolute star and a support network unto herself. It was so reassuring to have someone to talk to during the waiting period, and to have someone to celebrate with immediately upon leaving the room with good news. Had things gone the other way, I would have really appreciated having her there as a shoulder to cry on, too.

Oh yeah, and have at least one someone ready to go the pub with you whatever the outcome!

  1. Try to Enjoy It!

This is one of those things that lots of people said to me ahead of my viva, and also one of those things I didn’t think was possible until I was doing it. The day will go by in a blur and you’ll have so many thoughts and feelings and ups and downs as events unfold. Try to take a step back every now and then and appreciate what a fantastic opportunity the viva is: people at the top of their game and at the top of your field have spent a great deal of time looking at and thinking about your work. And now they want to talk to you about it!

Bonus tip: big picture questions checklist

These come from notes taken during that viva prep seminar I mentioned earlier, and they were a really handy tool for me, particularly on the last prep day, when I needed an anchor to keep me focused:

  • What sparked my personal interest in this research topic?
  • What gap am I addressing in my research? What is my contribution to knowledge?
  • What is the value of my research to the field(s)?
  • What are my central research questions?
  • What is my methodology? How did it develop?
  • What is my central argument?
  • What have I deliberately left out?
  • What are my findings?
  • What are my most important literary sources?
  • What are key terms that I might need to clarify?
  • Which areas of my work are part of ongoing debates?
  • Why did I choose these case studies?
  • What are my conclusions?
  • How do I see this work developing? Where am I going next?

If you can answer these questions, then you’re going to be just fine! Good luck!

What advice would you give to PhD students on the process of completing your thesis? If you’d like to share your advice on the NRN blog, please email Emer and Kate at nrn@str.org.uk to discuss your ideas! 

 

NRN Blog: The Archivist and the Repertoire – acting as interpreter for NUI Galway Special Collections

 

Culture Night at NUI GalwayPhotograph by Aengus McMahon

Photograph by Aengus McMahon

For our next installment in the NRN blog series, we’re pleased to feature Barry Houlihan! Barry is an archivist at the James Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland, Galway. Current projects include the archive of Druid Theatre Company. Barry is a member of the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive Project Group and Executive Committee member of APAC (Association for Performing Arts Collections). Barry is also a PhD candidate in the School of English, NUI Galway, researching a sociological history of Irish theatre and everyday life, 1950s – 1970s. For more information see http://library.nuigalway.ie/archives/ and Twitter: @nuigarchives and @stagedreaction.

I work as an archivist at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway. Within the Archives and Special Collections we hold an ever-growing collection of unique and wonderful archives of Irish theatre and performance. These collections range from single items (a framed playbill from a production at Kirwan’s Lane Theatre, Galway, 1783, which featured among the cast the Irish revolutionary, Theobald Wolfe Tone) to the largest digital theatre archive in the world – The Abbey Theatre Digital Archive, at over 1 million multi-media items, spanning over 110 years of Irish cultural history, from 1904 to present day.

Other theatre collections at NUI Galway include the archives of Tony-award winning Druid Theatre Company, Macnas, the playwright Thomas Kilroy, actors Siobhan McKenna and Arthur Shields, archive of the national Irish language theatre, Taibhdhearc Na Gaillimhe and also the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, often described as an unofficial ‘national’ theatre for Northern Ireland. Taken individually, these collections are themselves incredible resources for researchers studying any aspect of Irish theatre history, performance or production. Taken as a collective and interlinked unit, the sum of all these parts is an unrivalled record and memory of the theatre of a nation that predates the establishment of the State itself.

The most time consuming but also most rewarding aspect of being a theatre archivist is reconstructing what was never meant to be saved in the first place. The passion and desire to see theatre is to witness something and be part of something that is unique to that one night and to that one performance. What is happening outside of the theatre – in society or politics, or within your own job or in the relationships you have with friends, family or partners, can all affect how you see but also how you remember a performance. The archive is as personal to the audience as it is to the actor or playwright.

Quite commonly an archive arrives for cataloguing in a mass state of disarray. Boxes upon boxes of records, with little organisation (or none at all) and can represent the life’s work of a playwright or the output of a theatre. The archivist must become the medium between this material and the researcher who will study it in detail. I would compare this task of rebuilding the archive to trying to complete the largest jigsaw you could imagine – tens of thousands of individual pieces, but without having the picture on the box to work from. You will never know how ‘the archive’ will look until it is completed and catalogued in full.

druid catalogue structure

Figure 1: Portion of structure of the Druid Theatre Archive, NUI Galway

I would always approach this task from the point of view as a researcher. Archivists often love ultra-complex hierarchies of structures that make perfect sense to other archivists – those whose job it is to build a skeleton for an archive onto which the material can sit. I would think primarily (of any collection) as if I was a researcher of e.g. Abbey Theatre tours of the 1930s, and how visible can I make that material be in the midst of thousands of items? No matter the person or level of experience, the first question I frequently meet is “What material do you have on XXXX?” How can I structure that archive to faithfully represent that theatre or director that created it and which is still navigable for a first-year undergraduate to an experienced Professor?

As well as being a facilitator of preservation and access, a key job of the archivist is to be an interpreter of the archive. I often see researchers disappointed when I say a video or photograph does not exist for a particular production. While that may be the case, it does not mean the information you would get from visual sources does not exist in other forms, you just have to look hard enough and ask the right questions of the archive.

Prompt-scripts, for example, are invaluable resources that contain so much evidence, of text, speech, direction, design and even sound. You can plot and place each character’s entrance and exit points, you can follow the timing of lighting and sound cues, you can track the director’s edits and decisions and even ‘listen’ to the speech patterns of an actor who may note specific phrases, accent or regional variances to their lines. Press coverage will often carry images or descriptions of the set design and character’s costumes and of individual performances. Posters and tickets will tell you how plays were marketed and priced and so who the audience typically were. The play programmes can even tell you what chocolates couples shared during the interval. If you interrogate the archive in different ways, it can reveal really interesting insights into how not just a performance looked but also how it felt it to be there and how it might have been received.

abbey philadelphia

Figure 2: audio material for Philadelphia, Here I Come! in the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive, NUI Galway

Through digitisation and digital access we can also make available formerly inaccessible material. Reels, beta tapes, DV tapes, floppy disks cassettes and mini-disks are all obsolete media but which retain their original evidence. For instance, if we listen to the sound score of Tomás MacAnna’s production of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! at the Abbey Theatre in 1972, we learn the play opens to the sound of a train whistle departing a platform, which then morphs into the sound of a jet engine. This signifies the play and the theme of Irish emigration has been updated from the train/boat imagery of traditional Irish emigration to the modern arrival of transatlantic flights.

Text searching across the script archive of the Abbey Theatre by means of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) means every script (typescript at least) is word searchable. This throws up a lot of interesting points about Ireland and various aspects of culture. For example, the depiction of drugs and drug-taking in Irish (Abbey) playscripts – In the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years, the word ‘heroin’ appears 58 times in the context of drug-taking. The earliest mention of cocaine, however, is actually seen as early as 1942, in An Apple a Day by Elizabeth Connor. This may have been a surprise to Abbey audiences in the midst of ‘Emergency’ Dublin, where even fresh fruit was a black-market commodity (the period of World War II in Ireland was called ‘the Emergency’). A search of words and phrases can show not just what plays but where exactly within each play audiences meet certain events, actions and people.

druid famine

Figure 3: Programme with map of West of Ireland tour of Famine by Druid Theatre Company, 1984

The digital theatre archive can be searched by a single click to reveal the place of female characters or male characters, Catholics or Protestants, bankers or politicians, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, emigrants, murderer or thief. By tracking the touring records of Druid Theatre company, we can see, for example, how and when they toured certain plays to certain locations in specific times, such as the reception of The Playboy of the Western World in Tokyo (2007), the Playboy of the Western World on Inis Mór island (1982) or a touring production of Famine by Tom Murphy, (1984) within the West of Ireland, the area worst affected by the Great Famine of the 1840s.

In piecing all of this back together, the memory of performance and all its elements becomes clearer. We learn more about how theatres and playwrights sought to depict everyday life in Ireland, how various European design styles may have influenced stage design, how women were not afforded a clear voice by a lack of access for female playwrights at the national theatre. History does become clearer but importantly the archive also keeps offering more questions. The answers are not always so easy to find but they are certainly worth opening the archive for and looking for the answers yourself.

How does your practice inform your research? What new discoveries have you made in the archives? Talk to Emer and Kate at nrn@str.org.uk and your work might be featured here at a later date!

 

NRN Blog: Making Friends with the Archive

madme

Elizabeth Howard

The NRN Blog returns, this time with an entry from Elizabeth Howard. After completing an MA in Performance Making at Goldsmiths College, London and a BA in Drama and Counselling from the University of Chester, Elizabeth was awarded a PhD scholarship from Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland. Entitled Performing the Region, her research project uses the Red Kettle archive as a primary source and examines regional theatre in relation to cultural policy through a performance studies methodology. Elizabeth is a theatre maker and teaches on the theatre studies programme at WIT. She has presented papers at seven conferences over the past two years, and her first publication will be with Palgrave Macmillan next year. 

It might be best to start this story off with the admission that it was only out of a mixture of desperation and naivety that I started studying for a PhD that used an archive as its main research source. After graduating from an MA in Performance Making I thought about going on to do a PhD, but dismissed the idea because I thought I could never have afforded it. Grants and bursaries always seemed to belong to someone else, and honestly, the thought of being a student for ANOTHER three/four/five (how many?) years was just not an attractive financial option.

However, after spending a soul-destroying year scratching around trying to make a living in the arts, I was so desperate for an opportunity to move my career forward in some way (any way), that a fully funded PhD scholarship felt like the golden ticket. I was employed to conduct research into the practices of a theatre company that I worked with in the past, and in my naivety I was thrilled to work with an archive that contained over two hundred dirty, dusty, uncatalogued box files that documented over thirty years of performance. My initial relationship with the archive was like one you might have with a wild animal that is much bigger and stronger than you. We entered into quite a few wrestling matches that ended with me being the sneezing and grimy-fingered loser. However, I battled on, and one day about six months ago the archive came up to me, shook me by the hand, and said ‘Hello friend. What can I do for ye?’

For the first time, I saw the beauty inside the beast, and realised that in order to manage the archive in the most effective way, I needed to understand its true nature. What I recognised at last was that the archive is more than a sum of its parts and has a dynamic, contextual and political dramaturgy of its own that requires interpretation. At that moment my whole thesis became clear to me, and the philosophies of performance that gripped me at undergraduate and master’s level finally synthesised with my PhD research. Remote days that I spent examining evidence that seemed to have no relevance suddenly became worthwhile and significant.

My identity as a researcher, and dare I say it, academic, poked its head out after this discovery, and as my confidence grows this identity becomes stronger. Sometimes I even feel that I know what I am talking about! If it wasn’t for that initial desperation and naivety that spurred me on to the beginning point, I would never have discovered what a gloriously rich and generous friend the archive can be. My bank balance has yet to benefit, but the adventures the archive has brought me on and the places we’ve visited together make me realise that I could never have afforded NOT to immerse myself in the, grimy, grungy, gripping world that is archival research.

How have the archives helped you in your research? How have you navigated them? Share your experience on the NRN blog: e-mail Emer and Kate at nrn@str.org.uk to talk about potential submissions. 

 

NRN Blog: Redefining Research

Amanda Pintore

Amanda Pintore

We’re kicking off our NRN Blog Series with a contribution from Amanda Pintore. Originally from Omaha, NE, Amanda Pintore has spent the last several years traveling around the country as a Teaching Artist and Director focusing on creative movement, arts integration and facilitating theatre making with young people. Her current projects in Arizona include devising an immersive performance about the rainforest with a group of Montessori students for Childsplay and developing a Theatre for the Very Young piece for Kerfuffle. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Theatre for Youth at Arizona State University.

When approaching research, I often try to not approach itI really think of myself as a practitioner in Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) and I worry that I have already spent too much time not developing research skills.

This is something that I wrote during my first week of graduate school in the MFA Theatre for Youth program at Arizona State University during the fall of 2014. I came into graduate school convinced that I was strictly a teaching artist and could not simultaneously exist as a researcher within my practice. I had a naive aversion to the idea of research and a stubbornness in how I defined myself within this new world.

I took a Research Methods course with Dr. Mary McAvoy during this semester. The first thing she taught me was that I needed to genuinely have a desire to learn about, question or deconstruct whatever I set out to research. I had just moved to Arizona after spending many years teaching in the midwest and was steadily realizing what a challenge it was to get hired in this new environment as a heavily tattooed educator. I began to wonder how my tattoos shaped the way I was perceived in the classroom. When I described this frustration to Dr. McAvoy she introduced me to autoethnography as a research methodology. I realized I already had the tools to conduct research from the inside of my own unique perspective.

I began traveling two different, but parallel paths. First, there was the path I created as a researcher in learning about and applying an autoethnographical approach to my research project that semester. With no prior knowledge of this subject, I first had to break through the stigma of what I thought research couldn’t be and uncover all the things it could be. This allowed me to understand my own lived experience as research. Second, I created a new path in defining and understanding my body as an educator and how that role can be shaped by body art. I can not claim to understand someone else’s tattooed body in action as an educator. The beauty of autoethnography is that it allows you to view other people’s shared experiences in correlation to your own, but it demands that you rely on your own lived experience to truly analyze what you are researching.

During this research project, I created several pieces of narrative about specific moments I had experienced when young people interacted with my tattoos. I also included moments where I engaged with caregivers and employers about my body art in ways that were often positive, but sometimes negative. I interlaced this narrative with portions of interviews I conducted with other heavily tattooed educators in different parts of the country. Ultimately, I created a personal account of the ways in which adults and children choose to engage with, confront and investigate tattoos on the body of an educator. With Dr. McAvoy’s guidance I was able to discover that my practice is research and that my body is a performative element of that research. She also introduced me to a platform that allowed me to provide insight into a specific culture of educators, while exploring my own anxiety and pride in being a part of that culture.

I believe that this project, this professor and this new understanding of research has enabled me to approach my work in a more reflective and investigative manner. I also believe it has made me me more aware of how I can use my lived experience to navigate a new environment or set of circumstances. In my artistry, practice and research are now fundamentally linked rather than working in opposition.

Has there been something that has made you reconsider how you approach your research? Or, is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your research? If the answer is yes, then your NRN wants you! Email Kate & Emer at nrn@str.org.uk to contribute to the STR NRN community by sharing a blog post.