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Article
Publication date: 3 February 2021

Sophie R. Homer, Linda Solbrig, Despina Djama, Anne Bentley, Sarah Kearns and Jon May

Rates of mental ill-health among postgraduate research students (PGRs) are alarmingly high. PGRs face unique challenges and stigma around accessing support. The purpose of…

Abstract

Purpose

Rates of mental ill-health among postgraduate research students (PGRs) are alarmingly high. PGRs face unique challenges and stigma around accessing support. The purpose of this paper is to introduce The Researcher Toolkit: a novel, open-source, preventative approach to PGR mental health. The Toolkit empowers PGRs and promotes positive research culture. This paper describes and evaluates the Toolkit to encourage adoption across the sector.

Design/methodology/approach

Four workshops were designed by integrating researcher development, critical pedagogy and psychological knowledge of well-being. A diverse group of PGRs co-designed workshops and delivered them to their peers. Workshops engaged 26% of the PGR population (total 116 attendees). PGR Workshop Leaders and attendees submitted anonymous, online feedback after workshops (74 total responses). A mixed-method approach combined quantitative analysis of ratings and qualitative analysis of open-ended comments.

Findings

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Workshops were universally appealing, enjoyable and beneficial and the peer-support approach was highly valued, strongly supporting adoption of the programme in other universities. Findings are discussed alongside wider systemic factors and recommendations for policy.

Practical implications

The Toolkit translates readily to other UK institutions and can be adapted for use elsewhere. Recommendations for practice are provided.

Originality/value

The Researcher Toolkit is a novel PGR well-being initiative. Its originality is threefold: its approach is prevention rather than intervention; its content is new and bespoke, created through interdisciplinary collaboration between psychologists, researcher development professionals and PGR stakeholders; and support is peer-led and decentralised from student support services. Its evaluation adds to the limited literature on PGR well-being and peer-support.

Details

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, vol. 12 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-4686

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