20 Tips for Top Academic Presentations

Really helpful advice here.


I’m giving my first ever seminar in a little over a week. I’ve given many presentations before but not of this length, something which has caused me to become much more attentive to how, rather that what, I present: 45 minutes is a long time to hold an audience’s attention for. So I’ve been scouring books, the internet and other trusted sources for some advice about how to deliver a great presentation.

Below are the twenty tips that seemed most useful to me and include advice on approaching, preparing and delivering a presentation. I can’t claimed to have tried or tested any of them (yet), or that they are the most fundamental strategies to a good presentation. They are simply tips that spoke to me, and as such, I hope will be similarly valuable to other PhD students, academics or anyone giving a presentation. So, please do browse the tips here, download…

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Mothering from a distance

road signMy elder son is now at a stage where he needs and wants to do things on his own. Most of these things I have no problem with (I am happy for him to use the kitchen, if a little worried that he could set fire to himself or others), others are a bit more problematic. He wants to walk around our neighbourhood on his own and call on friends without relying on me to organize and take him.  He is a very sensible child (usually) but I must admit that this is hard for me. The area where we live and the area (five minutes away) where most of his friends live are separated by a busy road and, although there are zebra crossings, anyone who has been to Italy will know that this only makes a minimal difference to road safety as drivers do not regard stopping at them as obligatory.

I was thinking of this the other day when I was working on the interviews I undertook with some of the many women who have moved to Italy to work as carers for the elderly. Many of them left behind (typically in Ukraine, Romania and other Eastern-European countries) young children, entrusting them to other family members and following their lives from a distance with only minimal contact (typically going back for a month or so in each year). With the advent of Skype and other technological developments, staying in contact has definitely become easier – just a few years ago, most immigrants (myself included) relied on public phone booths and pre-paid calling cards. Now, we can keep in contact from the comfort of our own homes and also see our loved-ones on the screen.

But keeping in contact is very different to actively bringing up your child, to listening to the minutiae of everyday life; who is arguing with whom in the classroom, who cheated on the test, who gave the supply teacher a hard time. Gleaning any information at all from my taciturn son is hard enough face-to-face, if that time were reduced to a weekly phone call I think we would very quickly grow apart.

And, of course, it’s not just about the small details – what about the bigger picture? Part of the joy of having children is having your input in their lives, seeing how they grow and mature with your help. Watch them do (and refuse to do) things that you and your parents did as children. What must it be to lose that opportunity?

All of the women I spoke to were keenly aware of what they had given up by choosing to come to Italy to work but they also believed that in the long run, their children would be better off for having the opportunity to study (something which was too expensive without their mother’s financial contribution). I don’t know what I would do in the same situation and I hope never to have to make that decision but it puts my own worries about letting my son do things on his own into perspective.

How to write 10,000 words a day

As I am far from even writing 1,000 words a day, 10,000 words seems like an impossible goal! Interesting reading though. Has anyone else managed it?

The Thesis Whisperer

One of the most popular posts on the Thesis Whisperer is How to write 1000 words a day and not go bat shit crazy. Last year a Twitter follower brought to my attention a post called How I went from writing 2000 words to 10,000 words a day by the fiction writer Rachel Aaron.

I did a double take.

Can you really write 10,000 words a day? Well, Rachel says she can, with three conditions:

1) Know what you are going to write before you write it
2) Set aside a protected time to write, and
3) Feel enthusiastic about what you are writing

I read the post with interest. Much of what Rachel did conformed with what I suggest in my earlier post, but I couldn’t bring myself to really believe Rachel’s productivity claims. To regularly write 10,000 words: It’s the dream, right? Imagine if you could reliably…

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How to do Interdisciplinary Research

PhD Life


PhD students are increasingly expected to be interdisciplinary, but how does this work in practice? This guide offers tips for beginning to collaborate with others.

Most PhD projects are, at some level, interdisciplinary. Although every thesis deals with a specialist topic, there will inevitably be areas which impact on scholars in other fields. These other fields can in turn inform your own work. Identifying these points of intersection, however, can require some creative thinking.

Collaboration should not be an end in itself. Rather, it should enhance your own research and place it in a wider context. It does not mean dumbing down your work for the sake of collaboration, but rather drawing on new intellectual frameworks for mutual benefit. There are different types of interdisciplinary collaboration, and several ways to identify interdisciplinary areas in your research. For example:


Some research topics simply lend themselves well to…

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Welcome to Raccontando!

This is the blog which will hopefully recount how I manage to successfully complete my PhD over the next year. Yes, I should have started it a long time ago!

My research is based on the stories I have been told by foreign care workers living in the city of Bologna, Italy. I am interested particularly in notions of belonging, home and motherhood.

I first started my research in 2008 but took some time off for maternity leave – my research life is slightly hampered by looking after the needs of three small-ish children, although my “real” life is considerably enriched by their arrival! Writing about other mothers who have combined work and motherhood has helped me reflect on my own experiences.

Finally, I am a “distance learner” and have had limited opportunity to discuss my research with others so I hope to have some virtual discussions!