Job listings

Listed here are some useful sites for you to use when doing a job search. Keep a document that has all your online profiles as a series of links (LinkedIn,, ResearchGate etc.), then each time you need to update your CV you can click through to them quickly.

The academic job search is often a long drawn out process, the non academic job search can move along much more quickly. Get familiar with how different countries and professions move the job application process through to completion. For example, in the US academic job market there is a clear annual cycle with most jobs advertised September-December for July and August start dates the next year. US academic interviews can be spread out over months. By contrast in the UK jobs come up all through the year and you might get offered a job within hours of the interview.

Set up your LinkedIn profile. This is used extensively by recruitment agencies searching for potential people on behalf of companies and institutions of all types, including universities. Add your CV and other info. Keep your profile up to date. Every time you update, for example by adding to or updating your CV, your LinkedIn contacts are informed.

Sign up to Google+ and get your profile there set up.

Non academic
Check the links in the Non-Academic Career Resources section of the  Academic Jobs Wiki.

Set up your, ResearchGate and HigherEd pages. Add papers and keep your profile up to date by replacing your CV with a new one every time you have a paper of conference presentation entry added to your CV.

Chronicle of Higher Education. US based, also lists Canadian and some European jobs. You can set up a search and get automatic notifications. for the biggest selection of UK based academic jobs

Computeroxy.  International. Academic audience of more than 320,000 professors, lecturers, researchers and academic managers who are presently employed in the highest-ranking schools of computer, electrical and mathematical sciences and engineering worldwide. Sign up for free listings.

The Job Scholar

Academic Jobs Wiki.
Keep track of those academic jobs you’ve applied for by using, and contributing to, the  Academic Jobs Wiki. So, if you’ve applied for a job and you know the interviews are at telephone stage edit the wiki entry for that particular job, for example.

For a longer view that looks back over the past few years of US academic jobs  in anthropology, communications and media studies, ecology, economics, English literature, history, mathematics, musicology, philosophy, psychology, and religious studies, take a look at Vitae’s JobTracker. No STEM jobs tracked yet…

Art Opportunities listings
They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Keep sending your projects in to get your works shown as widely as possible. Here are some of the ones I use regularly:

Check these
Academic Jobs Wiki.

By looking at this page you can see forthcoming deadlines (bottom of page) and track back to find those posted Post Doc fellowships.

Happy hunting!


Set the tone: the first 30 pages

Image credit. This file was created by and is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license

How do you convince the examiners that all is well, that this IS a PhD? First, it is crucial that you write a good Abstract to set the tone for success. Then make sure the Introduction reinforces your professionalism and does not send up red flags. Remember, we examiners are only human. We are reading the thesis on top of a full academic workload. Don’t make it harder on the reader than it needs to be. We are all prepared to be intellectually stretched (it is a PhD) but don’t be obscure, especially when you write the introduction.

As Prof. of Systems and Computer Engineering, John Chinneck  Writes, “Usually [the examiner is] pretty knowledgeable about the general problem”. However, explain difficult new concepts clearly. In my experience this is especially important if you are doing interdisciplinary research as your examiners are likely to be drawn from a range of specialist areas and will probably not be expert across all areas that you cover in your thesis.

Chinneck also says, “Don’t make the readers work too hard! This is fundamentally important. Choose section titles and wordings to clearly give them information. The harder they have to work to ferret out your problem, your defence of the problem, your answer to the problem, your conclusions and contributions, the worse mood they will be in, and the more likely that your thesis will need major revisions.” This is also why the Abstract should be carefully drafted as it will address each of these points briefly.

The first 30 pages set the tone
Like most examiners, I schedule time to read the PhD thesis to make sure that I won’t be distracted. I don’t start reading at the end of a work day. Even so, it can be a daunting task, especially if the thesis is very long. I start at the beginning. But not all examiners do. However, even if they start at the references and conclusion, which some examiners do, they are likely to read the first section in one sitting. So make sure that the first 30 pages or so set the right tone.

Steve Wilbur,Emeritus Professor of Distributed Systems at University College London, writing in 1997 made this comment, “I often find that the first 20-30 pages are a strong indicator of the strength of the candidate.  If they understand the context and they analyse the SoA well, the following work will usually be strongly focussed and well executed.

Some Examiners do not start at the beginning…
When examining, I block chunks of time in my schedule to read a PhD thesis. I use the pomodoro technique for reading in 25 minute session with short breaks to keep fresh. I make notes and highlight typos as I go. The Abstract and Introduction are very important indicators of what is coming next and I read them a couple of times before progressing. Some examiners will then jump to the Conclusion. This is often the last thing you write as a PhD researcher and it’s easy to rush that writing as you strive to finish and get on with your life. Slow down, make sure that the Conclusion works hard for you. More posts to follow soon on that.

Opportunities and resources

These lists are useful for the PhD researchers I work with most frequently. Sign up for those you find interesting and please email me with others I might add.

Opportunities listings
is an electronic information service distributing selected e-mail announcements related to contemporary visual arts. e-artnow is an artists’ initiative Users create their own announcement online: e-artnow sends it out.
Subscribe here

axisweb is a UK-based resource but features international opportunities. Has many resources and showcases artists work via pages that are easy to set up. Useful if you don’t have a website. It requires a paid subscription for opportunities

Artists Newsletter a-n is anotherUK-based resource but features international opportunities. Stimulates and supports contemporary visual arts practice and affirms artists’ value in society. With over 19,000 members, we focus on conversations around the critical and professional environment for the visual arts, bringing together artists, art students, producers, arts professionals, researchers, arts organisations and universities. Jobs and opportunities are found here.

The Leonardo Network Newsletter is sent out via email twice a month and includes news, information about upcoming events, calls for papers, announcements about projects, opportunity listings and more. Sign up to receive the Leonardo Network Newsletter.

How to develop your art career
Artquest shares the resources, networks and opportunities you need to develop your visual arts practice. See the opportunities listings here which is updated every day. See also the ‘how to’ guides for every part of an artist’s career. From exhibiting, to earning money and more. Everything you need to know about sustaining a career as a practitioner is here.

Academic career in the arts
The biggest organisation in US is the College Arts Association. Its annual conference is useful for US networking and getting a paper there is a good move if you plan a US job search (but no published conference proceedings)

Business cards business cards with one text on the back and up to 50 different designs on the front. Great for artists who want to make cards with different images of their work

How long is a piece of string? Or, how long should my thesis be?

Image “How long is a piece of string?” by Flickr user izzie_whizzie. Used under Creative Commons License.

The first 20-30 pages are a strong indicator of the strength of the candidate.  The abstract and introduction are very important indicators of what is coming next and I read them a couple of times before progressing. usually this is followed in the thesis by a literature review or ‘state of the art chapter’. Get this right and then write a good method chapter and most examiners are confident and relax into the examination of the thesis.

How many chapters?
Elsewhere I’ve talked about applying one of the principles of flower arranging (using odd numbers of blooms) to the number of studies to include in PhD research. The computer science supervisor, Christopher Clack thinks this applies to the number of chapters in a thesis and recommends, “An odd number of chapters, between 5 and 9.”

How many pages? 100-300 pages of double space single-sided text
First, check your university guidelines. If they do not specify a length then assume 100-300 pages and check with your supervisor(s)/committee. In my experience the 100-300 pages holds true but it is also backed up by anecdotal evidence from other examiners and supervisors. There’s also some more data-driven evidence for the 100-300 pages. That is double spaced and single sided pages with a one inch margin all around and 12 point Times font.

All of us who examine PhDs have probably hefted the weight of an especially heavy thesis and groaned. It’s not about the ‘thud’ factor.

Pascal: “I would have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time”
Clack, writing about non-compilation theses in computer science says, “Average, good, size for a thesis is 150 pages all in. Perhaps up to 50 extra pages for a big appendix and bibliography. Beware of the trend to write long and boring doctorates […], improve your communications skills.” In response Steve Wilbur comments, “Over about 100 pages of the body of the thesis I seem to note the strength of the work is inversely proportional to the length. […]. I find 120 pages at usual university layout standards about the limit for good to best theses.”

I sometimes read theses of 350 pages but that is really only acceptable when a LOT of images and diagrams are incorporated. An over long thesis often indicates an lack of focus which in turn makes the contribution to knowledge harder to identify. Good writing is about precision.

How to handwrite your papers and get type in response

I write using Word, Google docs and Scrivener. But when I want to get away from the screen and keyboard I use my Livescribe pen. I have had a series of them and used them extensively for many years. I write in a Livescribe notebook then my handwriting is transcribed to text and I can copy it straight into my documents.

As a visual thinker it’s great because I can sketch and make diagrams that immediately become PDFs that are to share or refer to later, whether or not I have my actual physical notebook with me. It’s also useful for field notes and research journals. You have the physical journal afterwards as PhD evidence. I’ve noticed that people are less intimidated by me writing in a notebook than audio or video recording them, so it’s good in ‘first meeting’ situations. I also feel that I am more engaged with people I’m interviewing when I jot down notes.

An unexpected side effect is that my handwriting has got neater! If I write too messily I get back Dada poetry from the transcription tool, so I’m encouraged to write more clearly (at least at the level of forming my letters  – it can’t help me with grammar etc.)

The pens record audio and I sometimes use that at conferences. I’ve also used it to make animations but that’s another story. I’ve had 3 pens over the years.

Things I love:

  • Getting away from the screen
  • Choice between lined and plain paper note books

Things I loath:

  • The LED displays always stop working, now I can only tell if it’s on or off by a quick record and stop tap, that lets me know with the ‘beep’ that the power is on. But that only takes a second or two and for me is much better than the ridiculously expensive LED display repair.
  • I bought a wifi version and it didn’t translate to type, probably does now but I’m sticking with my “Echo” model until it dies.

Click to see what the handwriting looks like auto transcribed with no corrections by me


I have no connection to the Livescribe company

Capti: how to do the laundry and read papers at the same time

I’m always on the lookout for ways to bring some variety to my reading and writing. For example, I’m committed to the pomodoro technique and break every 20-25 minutes when I’m reading, writing and lecturing. Even though I take a break to look out of the window and rest my eyes by focussing long distance, I still get fed up and headachey when I’m reading and writing on screen for many hours a day.

So, recently I’ve been using the free app, Capti Narrator. It reads any document or ebook to me. I get a break from the screen and can do laundry while hearing a text read to me. I’ve found it useful for first ‘reads’ and  I like the way I can switch from iPad to iPhone and it knows where I left off.

I have no connection to the Capti Narrator company

How to keep the thesis writing on track with thanks to @GradHacker

Based on another useful post from GradHacker. My comments in italic

A list of due dates help you to keep on track. Break the reading and writing down, set dates and note how you keep to them. I suggest that you agree dates to send new texts to your supervisor. Be proactive about this – do not wait for your supervisor to set dates.

@GradHacker notes that you might not keep all the deadlines. Good point, however, PhD researcher, Know Thyself! If you have to keep adjusting them back, then take note of that and make a more realistic schedule. Or add more writing and reading times into your week in order to meet the deadlines.

Set early deadlines, this allows you to move things around without throwing off your schedule. Or to take some time out. No supervisor is ever upset about getting some text early! Just don’t expect the return of that ext to be sooner than previously agreed.

@GradHacker reminds you to Communicate with your committee/supervisor about your writing, the smoother your editing stages will go. The sooner the better. I expect researchers to this from the start of their PhD and make it a habit.

Do rough chapter outlines. Sit with your advisor with just a rough outline of the chapter and find out if it works. I ask you to develop an outline of your thesis early in year one. I suggest you develop chapter structures using bullet points based on this. It is a ‘living’ document that changes over time and is useful to take to supervisory meetings from time to time and revisit.

@GradHacker advises Get others to read your writing. Send drafts to anyone willing to read them. It will also help prevent situations where you have to rewrite entire chapters. I recommend that you find a writing buddy this year and stick with them. Read one another’s writing. Join AcWriMo and take part very year. Don’t wait to send the ‘perfect’ version to your supervisor. 

@GradHacker Love feedback, loath feedback: know yourself and get the timing right. There may be times when you don’t need actual criticism, and instead just need to write. If you struggle after receiving negative feedback on a chapter and it hurts your productivity decide how often to ask for feedback. BUT keep writing and don’t always avid feedback because it’s essential if you are to improve your reasoning and writing. If you need someone to say “yay, good job!” find someone to say that to you. I would add, “Tell your supervisor you’d like to focus on something other than critical feedback for the specified meeting and offer an agenda.” Talk about method, reading, whatever, but give them a heads up in advance via email.

@GradHacker What kind of writing does your supervisor expect? One reason you need feedback, and should start with rough chapter structures, is to ask your supervisor what expectations they have for your chapters, and your project: what kinds of sources, how footnotes get used, the structure of chapters, how they feel about headings, and more.  I would add: don’t just go empty-handed and ask loads of broad questions, take a chapter plan and start the conversation that way.

@GradHacker Learn when to stand your ground and when to take advice. At the end of the day, this is your work. Stand up for what you think is important, for what you want to say. It might be impossible to please everyone on your qualifying panel/committee.

I also note that it might demotivate you to drop something you feel passionately about. Think through the ‘deal breakers’ for you and your PhD research (and note that these often change over time!) In cases of conflict make some notes about why a disputed area is important, or why you think is is not important. Argue your case through in writing, to yourself, and see how you feel afterwards. Then decide whether or not to stand your ground or let it go. 

@GradHacker wisely reminds you to Take time off when you need it. As Katy Meyers mentioned in her post, taking time off is important to personal happiness, and you should do so as guilt free as possible. Dissertations take time, and you will need to take breaks and recharge at some point.

There will be times where you have to focus your energies elsewhere: teaching, the job market, writing publishable articles, sitting on committees, taking care of your family, watching cartoons. It is important to understand that short breaks in writing will happen, and you can take those breaks without feeling guilty.

Why write papers during the PhD?

You are testing your research prior to submitting your thesis.
Computer science supervisor from UCL, Clack says: ” 2-3 conference, or 1-2 journal papers in respectable (ACM, IEEE, IOP like) places are good enough for chapters 4,5,6 and therefore the core of a PhD – testing by publication is a VERY good defense (or defence).”

Your publishing record improves your chances of winning fee waivers and scholarships if you are in a university that offers them.

You are networking by submitting papers.
By publishing papers about your research in peer-reviewed and internationally-recognised journals you obtain external review and validation of your research. Reviewers start to recognise your name.

All sorts of people read the papers once published, not just academic researchers.
Publishing during the PhD results in established scholars or industry professionals seeing your work before you go onto the job market.

Thesis structures

Image based on Paltridge’s “Four Thesis Types”, cited by  Niall McMahon.

In this series of posts I outline a variety of different ways to structure your PhD thesis. Decide on a structure for your thesis early on because it helps you to plan your reading, technical and practical research and your writing.  Scroll down for more blog posts in this series that go into more detail about how to develop good writing habits and how to work with your supervisor.

The thesis IS the PhD – it is all the examiners have to go on. They do not know you. They don’t know, or care, how passionate you are or how hard you have worked. Every PhD thesis emerges through hard work and passion. In summary, to the outsider – your examiners –  all that really matters is the thesis.

To create the diagram shown above, McMahon analysed eight dissertations, taking into account Paltridge’s analysis of “fifteen doctoral theses from a range of disciplines and the advice given in eight recent publications from around the English-speaking world”. The link has many useful references. I have never supervised or examined a thesis that uses the Compilation Based structure in the arts and humanities. However, it as it is fairly common in the sciences, including computer science.

Regardless of the particular thesis structure that you choose, it is good practice for PhD researchers to produce a draft structure in the first few weeks as it helps to focus your thinking and can be used to prioritise your reading and writing.  It’s not a contract, but a ‘live’ document that alters over time. Having a structure mapped out helps both supervisor and researcher make sure the research is on track. Take a one page bullet point draft of your proposed thesis to your supervisor to discuss your plan of action. If you plan to add or drop a key theory or topic you can go back to your structure and see how that might impact your argument. You can also use this one page document and/or mind map of your thesis to find out of there is something missing that your supervisor is expecting. Use it to get feedback from your supervisor about whether or not a particular avenue is worth your precious time. But remember, it’s your PhD. You don’t have to agree with them!

Homework: If you have not done so already then prepare a structure using bullet point lists or a mind map. Schedule a meeting to discuss it with your supervisor, and send them the one page plan a week in advance of that meeting. 

See also “Hints and Tips on (Science and Engineering) Bachelor’s and Master’s Thesis Writing” by Peter McMahon, May 2009. I came across this while searching for Niall McMahon (note they are two different scholars who share the same family name). Peter McMahon’s full text here. Although Peter McMahon is writing about Master’s thesis writing his tips are very useful to PhD researchers.


Thesis structure: traditional complex

This is the structure most often used by those who have built their research around case studies or iterative cycles of Action Research. How do you decide how many case studies to conduct? I think it’s a little like flower arranging, odd numbers seem to work best. The total number will depend on how complex and time-consuming each study is and the methods that you use. To get into enough detail and data analysis of a complex field it can hard to complete five studies, but on the other hand, doing only two prevents you from triangulating and from developing and showing your use of reflexive research methods fully. Three seems like a minimum. Some researchers do seven studies and those of you working in Human Computer Interface may complete many for cycles of testing that are sometimes grouped within a larger study.

In this structure, research methods are introduced and detailed via a standalone chapter, The General Methods chapter, and then discussed within each of the three studies. The General Methods chapter, before the chapters on the studies, is especially important if you are using a mixed method. You must refer to the method again in each study chapter, ‘bringing it to life’ by showing it in action in your research.  Use examples, with the appropriate language and terms from the method(s), to show the examiner, in detail, how you have deployed the method in each study and what, if anything, changed between studies and your application of the method.