English – PhD Student Profile Dearbhla McCarthy

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In 2003, Dearbhla McCarthy took a foundation certificate course at Mary Immaculate College. Since then, she has completed her doctorate. Since 2015, she has worked as a lecturer at Mary Immaculate College. Here she tells us about her PhD studies.

Name: Dearbhla McCarthy

Course: PhD in English Language & Literature

College: Mary Immaculate College

Returning to education

I first came to Mary Immaculate College in 2003 to take part in the foundation certificate course. This not only allowed me to enroll in the BA program, but helped me to return to education after a gap of quite a few years. After completing my BA in English and Philosophy, I began a research MA in English Language & Literature in September 2008. I upgraded to the PhD course in May 2009.

The main reason for this was that the dimensions of my ideas and research were constantly expanding, and within the first six months I was fast approaching the limit for a research MA in my discipline (approximately 40, 000 words).

The importance of goal-setting

I had regular meetings with my supervisor to review my progress. However, my daily work schedule was up to me. I tried to be disciplined and write for a couple of hours every day. Because there were several demands on my time, I wrote first thing in the morning. It was then much easier to return to this later in the day if I got a chance. Alternatively I could allocate time to reading and gathering more research material. I set myself very specific, short-term goals. For example, rewriting a particular paragraph on a particular page, rather than finishing an entire chapter. That worked very well indeed.

Peer support

One of my colleagues and I began a Thesis Writing Support Program (TWSP). This proved to be very popular, and of great help to all who attended. The group met for an hour once a fortnight. It was open to everyone engaged in written research.

Another of my colleagues began a series of Lunchtime Presentations. These were open to all postgraduate students, both taught and research. They provided an opportunity to present your research in front of an audience. This was very useful for those who have not presented before, or who may be preparing for conferences or larger group presentations.

Both the Lunchtime Presentations and the TWSP created a forum for interdisciplinary discussion and debate. That was both useful and interesting for all participants.

Postgraduate life in MIC is busy and there are regular social events. As anyone who is engaged in academic work will know, it is very important to break out of the solitude that researching generally imposes, and to be reminded that you are not entirely alone.


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