Doctoral School

What do you do?

There are many staff in professional services across campus working to support doctoral researchers. In this item we highlight a staff member and service supporting the doctoral community & tell you a bit more about their role, and how they can help you.

Catherine Pope profile imageName: Dr Catherine Pope
Role: Researcher Development Officer
Department/Division: Doctoral School, Research and Enterprise

What do you do?

I work in the Researcher Development team within the Doctoral School, covering the post of Researcher Development Officer whilst Helen Hampson is on maternity leave. We provide training opportunities for doctoral researchers and staff through workshops, webinars, and online modules, and also organise big social events such as the Doctoral School BBQ. Another part of our role is to distribute funding through the Researcher-Led Initiative Fund and the Doctoral Overseas Conference Grant.

I run quite a few of the workshops myself, which gives me a great opportunity to meet lots of researchers and learn more about their needs. As a recent Sussex PhD graduate, I really know what they’re going through!

What support do you offer to doctoral researchers?

The Researcher Development Programme offers a wide range of workshops, with something for all stages and disciplines. It includes sessions on software, such as NVivo, through to preparing for your viva. We also work closely with other departments to provide joint events on careers and library skills. For those who aren’t based on campus, our programme features a number of webinars and online modules. This is an area we’re planning to expand in Autumn 2016.

In December 2015 we ran our first Thesis Boot Camp. This three-day event is designed to provide a supportive and structured environment in which researchers can make significant progress with their writing. One attendee reached the goal of 20,000 words over the weekend, with many others not far behind. It’s running again in June 2016.

The Researcher-Led Initiative Fund is for activities that expand, complement or build on our existing provision, with up to £1,000 available for successful applications. There’s also the Doctoral Overseas Conference Grant to assist current doctoral researchers with the costs of speaking at international events.

How can doctoral researchers get in touch?

Researchers can contact us through or find out more through the website.

What's the most common question you are asked by doctoral researchers?

Researchers often ask me how on earth they’re going to finish their thesis – it often seems a very unlikely prospect. My answer is to work out what you need to do, plan your time realistically, then just keep going. If you can squeeze out 500 words each day, that adds up to 10,000 words in a month. Make it a priority and keep visualising what it’ll be like when you finish. They never believe me when I say that they’ll actually miss their thesis once it’s submitted.

Workshops such as ‘Editing Your Thesis’ and ‘Preparing for Your Viva’ provide support and guidance during the final stages, and also an opportunity to meet with other researchers in a similar position.

Are there any useful online resources doctoral researchers need to know about?

We offer lots of online modules on a range of subjects. The Starting Your Doctorate module is particularly useful for new researchers, as it includes detailed guidance on what you need to think about in the early stages.

As I have a background in IT, I think it’s really important for researchers to develop their digital skills. A good place to start is the Technology for Researchers Flipboard magazine, curated by Dr Anne Hole in the Technology Enhanced Learning Team.

Doctoral School