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Blogging and the PhD

14 May 2019

Have you ever thought about setting up your own blog? It’s a great way to practise your communication and public engagement skills, as well as boosting your public profile. It can also be a fun and creative way to achieve a good work-life balance. Here, Charlotte Babb, School of Psychology, tells us how she manages to juggle not one but two blogs alongside her PhD.

I started my PhD in January 2018. My research area focuses on restrictive eating disorders in autistic women – how they manifest, how the development of the eating disorder in autistic women might look different to that of a typical eating disorder, and what the service implications of this are. I’ve been interested in this topic since about 2014, when I was an undergraduate psychology student at Cardiff University. I worked on an inpatient eating disorders unit as part of my placement year, and it was there that I became aware of the link between anorexia and autism. In my final year, my dissertation was titled “the relationship between autistic traits and anorexia nervosa symptomology in the general population”. Once I graduated, I became an autism support worker, which is when I saw a PhD advertised with a focus on anorexia nervosa in autistic women – it fitted with my research interests and work experience perfectly!

In some ways, the last 15 months have gone really quickly, but I also know I have done so much and had so many opportunities in such a short period of time. I’ve had posters accepted for multiple conferences and I have a talk lined up for a conference in June. I’ve presented at special interest groups and been involved in extracurricular activities at the Students’ Union, including volunteering and facilitating events for the student-led service Mind Your Head. I also took on a postgraduate tutor role in September within the School of Psychology. I’ve travelled all over the UK to conduct my research – from Cornwall to Yorkshire – and intend to do even more travelling this year!

A creative escape

Another interest of mine is blogging. I started my own personal blog, High Street Beauty Junkie, as a hobby in 2014. I still write for it now (albeit more occasionally!) but it’s something that has provided me with a creative escape, something different to the research side of my life. I try not to be strict with myself and only write when I feel I have something interesting to share, which works really well for me.

I also co-write another blog as part of my PhD, to engage an online audience. My research involves recruiting participants with a very specific inclusion criteria, so we have utilised social media and our blog to recruit, too. We tend to post on the blog when we have a study coming up or if we have attended an event that the community might be interested in. It will also be used in the future to disseminate our findings, written in a way that is accessible to everybody.

Maintaining a work-life balance

Time management is one of the most important skills I’ve learnt and built upon since beginning my PhD. I thought I was pretty good at managing my time before I started my PhD, but it’s learning to prioritise certain tasks, whilst also making time for yourself so you don’t burn out. It’s important to have hobbies to distract your mind from your research, which becomes such a huge part of your life. I’ve always enjoyed writing my blog, I go to the gym regularly, and I make sure I keep up to date with the latest Netflix series. My take-home message would be: it’s all about keeping that work-life balance.

Get in touch with Charlotte @CharliPsych