Hello! I’m Catrin, and I’ll be taking over as Methods blog Editor.
I’m a first year PhD student at Cardiff in the School of Social Sciences. I’m a museum and heritage geek with an academic background in Social Anthropology. My research looks at how heritage buildings can contribute to active citizenship in Wales.
As per the Welsh stereotype, I’m a choral singer in my spare time. I also enjoy writing poetry, and I’ve written poetry based on research data to communicate findings to participants. I have worked as a tour guide and art gallery workshop facilitator, so while I might love creative methods, I’m looking forward to learning more about your research, which may be very different from mine.
I have some interesting ideas that I’d love to try out for the blog, and please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or ideas of your own. Dwi hefyd yn siarad Gymraeg ( I also speak Welsh). Diolch!
“Late immersion education is a provision that allows latecomers to access Welsh medium education at stages later than the Foundation Phase. Such provision has existed in Wales for a number of decades, and in a number of different ways (through designated centres, language units, and within schools). The Welsh Government’s aim in its Cymraeg 2050 strategy is to reach a million speakers by the middle of the century. Late immersion provision is a key part of achieving this aim, as it increases the number of entry points to the Welsh-medium and bilingual sector throughout a learner’s education career.
The aim of this report was to form a picture of the late immersion education provision that exists in some local education authorities, and to understand some of the challenges and opportunities that arise as provision is planned and implemented.”
How to follow Katharine’s research:
If you would like to read more of Katharine’s work you can see her ESRC DTP Wales Profile by clicking here, and you can follow Katharine on Twitter using: @KatharineSYoung
Welcome to the first of three blog posts which are informally split into: “all the things I wish I knew before I applied for my PhD internship”. These short memo’s are intended for those of you who may have never heard about doing an internship during your PhD, to those who may have even started applying!
Structure of the series:
Tips to make your internship application a success!
How a PhD internship could benefit you!
Concluding thoughts: i.e. = “would I recommend doing an internship during your PhD?”
Hi, I’m Jodie; a third year PhD researcher (eeek!) in the School of Social Sciences (SOCSI) at Cardiff University. My thesis is investigating the impact and harm(s) of online anti-LGBTI+ hate speech.
My internship was a 3-month ESRC Wales DTP funded post at The Welsh Government (January – April 2021), and my project was titled: ‘Using the Understanding Society Study to explore societal changes during the COVID-19 pandemic’.
Now, you may have noticed that this project does not appear to be related to my PhD topic – and you would be exactly right – it didn’t. This may be more common than you think and sets up my first tip to think about how to ensure your application is a success…
Think about what YOUR motivations are for applying
Your motivations are going to be personal – I get that, but when you apply for an internship, you are going to have to convince others that these are relevant reasons to pause your PhD. The most important are likely be your supervisors, as they need to ‘sign-off’ your leave when your application is successful!
Therefore, I would highly recommend talking through the opportunity with them.
When I first heard about my project from a lecturer, I had recently transitioned into the second year of my PhD. At the time, I was finding it a challenge to study isolated in the midst of the pandemic and I found discussing the reasons why I wanted to pause my PhD project really beneficial. My supervisors really helped me to articulate my motivations (so important for my application form), as well as raising some really crucial things I had not even thought of!
For example, are you just about to start up your methods write up, after months of data collection – is this really the time you should be thinking about pausing your PhD? Is the internship related to your topic? What do you think you would gain from putting your PhD on hold?
What I’m trying to ultimately get at here is… what value do you expect the internship to add?
For me, the value was not related directly to my PhD topic… but more that I would gain valuable experience in social research in another sector; I was keen to learn how research was conducted in an industry setting rather than an academic one. I also wanted to develop my communication skills outside of academia; learning policy appropriate language and report writing skills. Lastly, given my love for data, I was eager to advance my analytical skills and acquire appropriate presentation skills for a business setting.
Point being – assess the benefits of pausing a significant amount of time out your PhD.
Allow sufficient time for the application process
It is not quick!
To give you an idea I have noted some key points in my application process:
Also – side note – in most cases, you cannot apply for an internship in the first 3-months of your programme or the last 3-months. If you are keen to do an internship, make sure you have thought about the right time to apply and checked any guidance you may have to adhere to!
Plan, draft and re-draft your application form!
These were my go-to steps during my application process:
Prepare for your interview
After the usual discussions of the placement, your skills/experience etc., there is a section for you to ask questions! This is your opportunity to ask as many relevant questions as you can, so that you can try and find out whether the prospective placement is the right choice for you.
My top questions were whether I would be able to connect with other staff outside of my ‘team’ in the Welsh Government; what the expected outcomes of my project were; what my working day would look like (flexi-time may be good if you often utilise the flexibility the PhD offers), and most importantly I asked how working online would work. As I was unable to enter the Welsh Government building due to the pandemic, I discussed with them how I would be supported, whether they would provide me with training/equipment.
Research the internship host!
Research never ends! I used the Welsh Government website, social media platforms and asked other students about their internship experiences (the good and bad), to gather information about what my internship may entail and the ethos of the workplace – LinkedIn was really helpful for me actually! Anything you can learn before you start will be beneficial!
I hope this post has started making you think whether a PhD internship is the best fit for you and how to ensure your application is a success!
For now, keep an eye out for the next post which will cover ‘Why a PhD internship will benefit you!’
If you would like to contact me to ask anything about my internship experience or even to chat about PhD life/research – you can find my contacts below.
Internships are advertised in the monthly DTP newsletter, so keep an eye on the section if you’re keen to apply for one. This is how I found out about my internship with the Wales Centre for Public Policy, so it’s definitely worth reading!;You can also speak to your supervisors regarding internships in your research area. My supervisors mentioned colleagues in other organisations running internships, though they always encouraged me to choose the right one for me, at a time which worked for me.
How I knew the internship was for me
First and foremost, I talked it through with my supervisors. We discussed how I would make the internship work best for me. I chose to conduct a project in a similar field to my PhD research topic; however, it may be possible to choose something in a different field that may still complement your PhD theories and/or methodologies.
I had to make sure the internship would not clash with my PhD fieldwork commitments, and felt that three months would be the best length. My internship fell right within the 2021 lockdown; however, this did not affect my experience and I was surrounded (virtually) by a team of supportive colleagues who were always on hand to answer questions and share their thoughts on my work. Having a short, interesting project to focus on throughout that time really helped my overall approach to my PhD; submitting a completed report allowed me to return to my PhD work confident that I could overcome the stops and starts of the last 18-months to complete my thesis too!
Compiling a successful application
I have now completed two internship applications, and in both setting aside ample time to complete the application process was crucial. Some, such as the UKRI Globalink Exchange Scheme (which I was unfortunately unable to complete given international travel restrictions), may require you to access application portals through a supervisor or institutional account (Je-S in this case). If this is the case, schedule in a meeting with your supervisor to ensure you can get the application uploaded on time!
I would recommend speaking to potential supervisors from the organisation offering the internship. Discussing project ideas with them allows you to understand what they expect of their interns, and whether your work will be a good fit with theirs. This also provides you with an opportunity to talk through their application process and the documents you will be required to submit. Getting to know a potential supervisor in an initial call can also help during the interview process and as you settle into your work with a new organisation, as you won’t be faced with a screen or office full of completely unfamiliar faces.
My experience at the Wales Centre for Public Policy
It was really interesting to learn more about the work of the Centre and how they support policy-making and public service delivery across Wales. Though it was strange not to set foot in their offices, I was made to feel welcome by the team and their support made the virtual experience well worthwhile. Working with the Research Team allowed me to develop my current competencies and consider how I can best apply them in a new team context.
During my time at the Centre I researched agricultural policy in Wales and explored how collaborative working can help farmers achieve their sustainability goals. This involved telephone interviews with farmers and partners of a Sustainable Management Scheme funded group in north Wales. Conducting this research, and producing several outputs, boosted my confidence in delivering on short-term projects. I’d recommend exploring the different dissemination options available for your work – before my internship I had never considered producing a podcast, but thanks to the team and my podcast participants I now have a podcast episode to complement my written outputs!
Your internship experience will vary depending on the organisation with which you are working. However, overall, you can expect to:
Develop your competencies, particularly in relation to working in a team.
Develop networks with policymakers, practitioners and other researchers.
Gain an understanding of how your research might be used in ‘real-world’ situations.
Finish your project with at least one output, such as a report, which may contribute to your PhD or be used and referenced by your internship host organisation in their work.
I would strongly encourage you to consider completing an internship as part of your PhD. If you have any questions about my own internship experience, you are welcome to get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org /@06aims on Twitter)
Aimee has also written a report detailing the specifics of her time with the Wales Centre for Public Policy, which you can read by clicking here.
Join us for talks from businesses that have worked closely with social science doctoral researchers to increase productivity, realize strategic goals, and build support the development of talent and skill in Wales. The ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership trains social scientists, as one of 14 prestigious research networks across the UK. Collaboration with partners in the private, public and third sectors is central to our mission. Non-academic organisations, no matter how big or small, can have a genuine stake in a social science research project and a role in producing the next generation of leading social scientists.
In this session you will hear from Dr Charlotte Beale, Head of Economics for Dŵr Cymru, Dr Michael Evans, Rail Projects Officer for Transport for Wales, and Professor David Egan, Welsh Government, on how their organisations have worked closely with social science researchers. You will hear how supporting a collaborative studentship or hosting a work placement can add value, whilst giving a PhD student the opportunity to gain critical knowledge and skills for work in industry. Professor John Harrington, Director of the ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, will advise on how to set up an arrangement which directly benefits your organisation. The session includes the opportunity for you to put forward any questions you might have on collaboration to a panel of supervisors, doctoral students and businesses.
The post PhD job market is challenging and completely demoralising. By the time I finished my PhD I had lost confidence in myself and my research. I had spent the past few months applying for a large number of postdoc jobs, sometimes getting to interview but never getting the job. As a result, I nearly didn’t apply for the ESRC postdoctoral fellowship. I knew I wanted to do more with my PhD and share my findings, but I felt that I had no chance of success. It was only thanks to encouraging feedback on my thesis from colleagues that I finally decided to apply. Continue reading →
From January to June 2021, Ellen and Amy worked as Welsh Government Education Policy Research Interns. In this blogpost, they share their experiences of undertaking internships as part of their doctoral training. Continue reading →
From January to April 2021, DTP student Aimee Morse (Environmental Planning, University of Gloucestershire) undertook an internship with the Wales Centre for Public Policy, working on a project entitled ‘Collaboration and policy implementation at the local level in Wales: a case-study evaluation of a farmer group in North Wales’. Here are Aimee’s reflections on the experience. Continue reading →
In 2020, DTP student Conor John (Psychology, Cardiff University) completed an internship with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (BBNPA). Conor worked with his hosts to find ways to undertake the internship whilst adhering to COVID restrictions. He found the internship experience beneficial. “I have no intention on staying in academia and this internship has shown me how much more impact can be had outside of academia, as well as the potential for better job security and financial stability”. Here are Conor’s reflections on the experience.
The Wales DTP is pleased to offer three internship opportunities with the Welsh Government, working on specific projects covering a range of topics including Education and Equality.
The internships are open to any ESRC Wales DTP funded student (except those within 3 months of the start or end of their studentship). It is anticipated that the internships will be conducted remotely, commencing in Autumn 2022, for a period of 3-6 months (full-time or the part-time equivalent). Successful applicants will get an extension to their PhD equivalent to the duration of the internship.
These internships will offer opportunities to create impact by contributing to the work of government, the chance to build relationships outside of academia, as well as the ability to develop research skills in a policy environment.
Full project descriptions are available in the attached documents: