Candid Conversations About...

Research in the social sciences is hard. It is even harder when you feel like you don’t have a safe space to share your challenges, anxieties, and concerns. This series aims to create such a space through honest, off-the-record conversations about some of the common challenges and questions DPhil and ECRs face in their research and careers. In these conversations, there are no “right” answers – what they offer is a space for peer support and reflection.  

“Candid Conversations About…” is a weekly, online meet-up where students and research staff can discuss common personal and professional challenges they have faced during their research. All conversations will be conducted under Chatham House rules to protect the privacy of discussants and to promote honest conversations. 



Book here!

Weekly Topics

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Money. Money. Money. We may not talk about it often, but access to funding and supplementary income shapes both the research we can carry out and our lives overall. In this week’s conversation, we’ll share experiences applying for funding and seeking external work alongside our research. Possible discussion topics include negotiating contracts, figuring out what rates to charge, and finding and applying to different types of grants.



Should I be working weekends? Can I give myself a holiday off? We all need to take breaks sometimes. But how do we know when they are productive or just procrastination? In this week’s conversation, we’ll talk about managing our schedules and checking in with ourselves to give ourselves permission to the breaks to maintain productivity over the long-run.



How do you navigate relationships in the field when the field becomes your home? When does a participant become a friend, and what does that mean for your research? What if your research paints them in a negative light? What do you owe your participants? In this week’s session, we’ll discuss the complex relationships we form during fieldwork and how to navigate them both in the field and as we write up our findings.


We are experts in our research topic by definition—but that does not necessarily confer confidence to speak as an “expert.” How and when do we feel comfortable in our identity as experts in our field? In this week’s conversation, we’ll talk how the DPhil builds expertise, when that matters, and how we define expertise to begin with. 



Fieldwork has a history of being extractive in nature: researchers arrive, collect data, and may or may not return to the participants they depended on for their work. Incorporating principles of reciprocity—giving back to our participants— in our research designs aims to change that legacy. But what does reciprocity look like in practice? How do we make sure that our plans for reciprocity actually serve our participants? In this week’s session, we’ll discuss the ethics and practicality of reciprocity in research. 

Conversations around research, ethics, and difficult emotions often seem to center around experiences involving fieldwork. Researchers using other methods, however, are not immune to emotional and ethical dilemmas created by their work. In this week’s conversation, we’ll talk about our experiences in the fields around field research. What does it mean to deal with difficult documents? How do we take care of ourselves while working with documentary or quantitative data? Why do we sometimes feel excluded from conversations about ethics, emotions, and research? 

How do I stay on track without the structure of the term?
Can we take a break?
What do I do when my supervisor goes on holiday?

The long holiday between Trinity and Michaelmas is often a welcome reprieve from the fast pace of Oxford's terms. But as researchers, our work doesn't stop when the term ends, and the long holiday can sometimes feel like a strange, unstructured and even isolating period.
This week, we'll talk about any and all worries we have as we head into summer break.