About the Thesis Whisperer

The Thesis Whisperer is a  blog newspaper dedicated to the topic of doing a thesis and is edited by Dr Inger Mewburn, Director of research training at the Australian National University.

Read about how to support our work

Would you like to write for the Whisperer? Here’s what we aim to do:

  • We want to be concise. PhD students have to do a lot of reading so no posts will be longer than 1000 words
  • We want to learn from people’s stories about doing a research degree – but we don’t need to hear about your topic. There’s enough journals out there for that.
  • We are not a ‘how to’ guide to doing a thesis, but we are happy to dish out practical tips and techniques that work for us.
  • We don’t want to just talk about writing – successfully finishing a thesis or dissertation is about more than that. But we don’t want to be sued, so we are going to always keep it nice.
  • We want to stimulate conversations, so our posts will always be opinionated (hopefully without being obnoxious).
  • We want to hear your voice. Doing a thesis can take the fun out of anyone’s writing. This is a place you can relax because there is no examiner watching.

We can’t pay you. But we promise to never rip off your work and present it as our own. If you want to write for us it is because you have an urge to share your experience and help others so it may travel further than you think (note the licensing arrangements below).

Interested? Email inger.mewburn@anu.edu.au, preferably with a sample piece of less than 1000 words. Please note: I only accept posts from people who have had the experience of doing a PhD, or working in a professional capacity with research students. We do not accept posts from professional marketing bloggers. If you want to suggest a post or ask a question – visit our feedback page.

Want to use our material?

You are free to reproduce any posts from the Whisperer through the Creative Commons “Attribution-non commercial-sharealike” license. Most of the photos on this site are copyright free and sourced from Morguefile.

Who is the Thesis Whisperer?

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 5.31.58 pmMy name is Dr Inger Mewburn. I am a researcher, specialising in research education since 2oo6. I am currently the Director of Research Training at The Australian National University where I am responsible for co-ordinating, communicating and measuring all the centrally run research training activities and doing research on student experience to inform practice.

Aside from editing and contributing to the Thesis Whisperer, I write scholarly papers, books and book chapters about research student experiences, with a special interest in the digital practices of academics. I am a regular guest speaker at other universities and do occassional media interviews. Some details of these other activites are below.

For further information, you can download my academic CV, view my Linkedin profile, About Me page or contact me by email on inger.mewburn@anu.edu.au. For more details on my scholarly work please visit my Google Scholar page or my OrcidID. I often visit other universities and do workshops on publishing, writing, social media and presentation skills: if you are interested, please send me an email.

Keynote lectures:

  • “How to run a successful academic blog”. Academic blogging symposium, Warwick University, March 2015.
  • “Academic superheroes – what more do universities want?”. MPA Excellence series, Monash University, February, 2014.
  • Inaugural Law, Education, Business and Arts (LEBA) HDR student conference keynote, Charles Darwin University, September 2013.
  • “Analysing PhD employability”. Australian Post Graduate Careers developers symposium, University of Sydney, March 2014.
  • “Can you be replaced by a machine?”. Association for Academic Language and Learning, ‘Building higher degree research student writing capacity: whose job is it? University of Sydney, March 2014.
  • “Let the plates fall on the floor? Invisible work in university libraries”. Caval Reference Group forum, Melbourne University, Melbourne University, November 2013.
  • “What do academic employers want?”. Post graduate student conference in Law, QUT, June 2013.
  • “Will I get a job after my PhD?”. Nursing research week, University of Sydney, June 2013.
  • “Is a PhD career suicide?”, MPA Excellence series, Monash University, 2013.
  • “What academic employers want”, Cardiff University research education conference, Cardiff University, March 2013.
  • “What I learned from Gabriel Tarde about research metrics”. Caval Reference Group forum on Open publishing models, Melbourne University, September 2012.
  • “Personal learning net(works): an actor network approach to PhD candidature”. Personal Learning Environment conference, Deakin University, May 2012.
  • “How to manage your PhD (and yourself)”, Manchester University GRAD school forum, Manchester University 2012.
  • “The spaces of PhD candidature” Special conference on Social Issues in Research Spaces, Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh, April 2012.
  • “Personal learning networks in your PhD”, IGNITE 12. Creative Industries research student conference, QUT, October 2012.
  • Inaugural new student keynote, Nursing research week, University of Sydney, June 2011.
  • “What I learned about doing a PhD from romance novels”. Education research week, Charles Sturt University, May 2011.

Journal articles:

(forthcoming) Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Lindy Osborne, Anitra Nottingham & Inger Mewburn (2015) “Connecting the Space between Design and Research: Explorations in participatory research supervision, Education Philosophy and Theory, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131857.2015.1111129.

Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Lindy Osborne, Inger Mewburn & Philip Crowther (2015) Guerrillas in the [Urban] Midst: Developing and Using Creative Research Methods Guerrilla Research Tactics, Journal of Urban Technology, 22:3, 21-36, DOI:10.1080/10630732.2015.1040288

Mewburn, I. & Thompson, P. 2013, ‘Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 38, no. 8, pp. 1105-1119. (impact factor 1.038)

Mewburn, I., Tokareva, E., Cuthbert, D. et al 2014, ”These are issues that should not be raised in black and white’: the culture of progress reporting and the doctorate’, Higher Education Research and Development, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 510-522. (impact factor of 0.991.)

Mewburn, I., Cuthbert, D. & Tokareva, E. 2014, ‘Experiencing the progress report: an analysis of gender and administration in doctoral candidature’, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 155-171. (impact factor 0.862)

Mewburn, I. 2011, ‘Troubling talk: assembling the PhD candidate’, Studies In Continuing Education, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 321-332. (impact factor 0.701)

Mewburn, I. 2011, ‘Lost in translation: Reconsidering reflective practice and design studio pedagogy’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 363-379.

Barnacle, R. and Mewburn, I. 2010, ‘Learning networks and the journey of ‘becoming doctor”, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 433-444.

Book chapters

Corbett, J., Macintyre, A. & Mewburn, I. 2014, ‘Functional Dystopia: Diversity, Contestability and New Media in the Academy’, in Margaret Thornton (ed.), Through a Glass Darkly: The Social Sciences Look at the Neoliberal University, ANU Press, Canberra, pp. 195-208.

Mewburn, I. 2012, ‘Creative doctoral work’, in Carey Denholm and Terry Evans (ed.), Doctorates downunder: keys to successful doctoral study in Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand (2nd ed), Australian Council for Educational Research Press, Melbourne Australia, pp. 126-135.

Mewburn, I. 2011, ‘Lost in translation: Reconsidering reflective practice and design studio pedagogy’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 363-379.

Mewburn, I., Osborne, L. & Caldwell, G. 2014, ‘Shut up & Write! Some surprising uses of cafes and crowds in doctoral writing’, in Claire Aitchison and Cally Guerin (ed.), Writing Groups for Doctoral Education and Beyond: Innovations in practice and theory, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon and New York, pp. 218-232.

Mewburn, I. 2012, ‘Creative doctoral work’, in Carey Denholm and Terry Evans (ed.), Doctorates downunder: keys to successful doctoral study in Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand (2nd ed), Australian Council for Educational Research Press, Melbourne Australia, pp. 126-135. Download it here: Creative Doctoral Work

Mewburn, I. and Barnacle, R. (2010) ‘Razzle Dazzle: making a thesis text in creative practice based research’, in Joy Higgs et al (eds) Researching Practice: a discourse on methodologies. Rotterdam, Holland: Sense Publishers.

Mewburn, I. 2008, ‘Through the looking glass and into the design studio’ in Pia Ednie-Brown (ed.) Plastic Green: designing for environmental transformation, RMIT Press, Melbourne Australia.

Ednie-Brown, P. and Mewburn, I. 2006 ‘Vibrating with Difference: Laughter and the intimate distance between us’, in Jillian Hamilton (Ed.), Intimate Transactions: Art, Exhibition and Interaction Within Distributed Network Environments, ISBN 0-9775978-0-6, ACID Press, Brisbane.

Peer reviewed conference papers

Mewburn, I, Freund, K & Rutherford, E 2014, ‘Badge trouble: piloting open badges at the Australian National University’, Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology, ed. B Hegarty, J McDonald, SK Loke, ASCILITE: Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, Dunedin New Zealand, pp. 643-648.

Andrew Maher and Inger Mewburn (April 2008) ‘An economy of Knowledge: research, architectural practice and knowledge (in) translation’, Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, October 2007, Vol. 2007, No.1, pp. 258-269.

Selected expert commentary

Mewburn, I (27/09/2012) ‘Academics behaving badly: Universities and online reputations’, The Conversation,
Mewburn, I (14/06/2015) ‘What’s up with Universities? Wackademia or just grumpy old academics’, The Conversation, 14/06/2012.
Mewburn, I (11/06/2012). ‘On the right side of the digital divide’, New Scientist. Retrieved 17/07/2015


“Academics behaving badly: Universities and online reputations”, The Conversation, 27/09/2012

“What’s up with Universities? Wackademia or just grumpy old academics”, The Conversation, 14/06/2012

“On the right side of the digital divide”, New Scientist Big Wide World Blog, 11/06/2012

“Build it and they wont come: what is wrong with architect’s websites?”, Architectural Review Asia Pacific #126: Architecture and Infrastructure.

“Why do academics complain all the time?”, RMIT Blog Central, 18/03/2011

(Interview including details on the Thesis Whisperer Blog) “Lonely PhD student? Just log in”, The Age, 9/08/2011

Radio / Podcasts

Interview about the thesis whisperer on PodSocs 30/08/2013
Talking about the Literature Review with Ben from Lit Review HQ blogGuest ABC 720 Perth – regular segment: You Study What? Drive – 14/09/2012
Guest ABC Radio National Drive “Twitterati” segment, 08/06/2012
Guest RRR “The Architects”: Gesture in the Design Studio. 12/070/2010
Guest RRR “The Architects”: The architecture of the rococo, 08/08/2006


Constructing bodies: gesture, speech and representation at work in architectural design studios. Winner of the John Grice award for best PhD thesis, Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne 2009.

Previous studies of the design studio have tended to treat learning to design as a matter of
learning to think in the right way, despite the recognition that material artifacts and the ability to make and manipulate them in architectural ways is important to the design process. Through the use of empirical data gathered from watching design teachers and students in action, this thesis works to discover how material things and bodies are important to the fabrication of architectural meaning and architectural subjectivity within design studios. In particular the role of gesture is highlighted as doing important work in design studio knowledge practices.

The approach taken in this thesis is to treat design activity in design studios in a ‘post-human’
way. An analytical eye is turned to how things and people perform together and are organised in various ways, using Actor network theory (ANT) as a way to orientate the investigation. The assumption drawn from ANT is that that architectural meaning, knowledge and identity can positioned as network effects, enacted into being as the design studio is ‘done’ by the various actors — including material things, such as architectural representations, and human behaviours, such as gesture.

Digital Architecture and the presence of the Virtual, Thesis (M. Arch.) — RMIT University, Victoria, 2005.



89 thoughts on “About the Thesis Whisperer

    • We should talk! Sounds like your research would be very interesting.
      I am lucky enough to be an academic in a primarily administrative unit (School of Graduate Research). My teaching load is light so I can concentrate on doing research aimed at improving the experience of PhD and masters students. So far I have not met anyone else, other than my colleague Dr Barnacle, who has a full time role like this.

  1. That’s a great job to have! I hope my research topic will be useful, and will help to shape policy and practice in the UK doctoral education (let’s be ambitious:). I have found several PhDs doing research on researchers. Maybe we should organise a doctoral sonsortium on this:)

      • There are some interesting clnoisg dates on this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There may be some validity however I’ll take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

  2. Hi!
    I’ve just found your blog, love it & wish I’d known about it earlier. I’m working on a PhD about my favourite topic: Pain! I also blog regularly at http://healthskills.wordpress.com – on the topic: Pain! Actually, self management of chronic pain, and I write for health professionals working with people who have chronic pain. My research uses grounded theory to explain how people with chronic pain who live well in the community manage to do so without needing to see people like me.

  3. So good to make contact with you Inger, and to discover the rich resource that is The Thesis Whisperer. I look forward to many future interactions.
    Liz Tynan, JCU Graduate Research School, Townsville

  4. I’m so glad to have found you near the start of my PhD! Even though we seem to be in vastly different fields (I’m researching the social behaviour and personality of captive cheetahs), I have found your posts both useful and interesting and I’m sure they will come in very handy when I’m writing my thesis and other papers. I also have a blog at http://virtual-doc.salford.ac.uk/cheetahphd.

    Looking forward to future posts!

  5. Grouse blog… I’m about to link to the blog to all our Fac Ed PhD students via my fortnightly Graduate Studies Bulletin – so expect more traffic. Great to meet you last week – look forward to more of your awesomeness.

  6. Dear Inger,

    hello! I just found your site through Twitter, and it’s really great.

    I am a former tenured prof and department head, based in the U.S., and I have launched a new site and blog, “The Professor Is In.,” to provide what I call “BS-free advising for grad school, the job market, and tenure.”

    It’s at: http://www.theprofessorisin.com.

    I am wondering if you’d be kind enough to visit my site and consider listing it among the illustrious company of excellent blogs on your blogroll? I’d like to be in touch about contributing as well! Thanks for your excellent work!

    Karen Kelsky, Ph.D.

  7. Pingback: ACU Research Net » Blog Archive » Help with doing a PhD

  8. Hi Inger,
    I found your blog yesterday during my web ramblings. What a wonderful site. As someone said in a comment earlier, I wish I had found this blog a few months ago when I was stuck with my thesis. But even having now completed it, it is rewarding reading this blog. I already mentioned it in a post on my blog, but I will also personally recommend it to friends. I could probably give a modest contribution too at some point. Carry on this awesome work. All the best, Hilra

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  13. This is a great idea. I am a ‘mature’ PhD candidate (over 50) who has a great deal of expertise in my field. I have only started the literature review and it is already making me crazy…. I only know some theory but know it extremely well. I am finding errors or misunderstandings in papers, excessive jargon and cliches in many papers, and a big gap between what I read and current practice. Am I alone in finding this?
    As such, I look forward to reading this blog in the future.

  14. I am a docoral student working on my dissertation and often blog about my topics (disordered eating, risky sexual activity and substance use, and adoelscent developmnet) on my site! I am adding this helpful site to my blogroll, and hope you might consider posting mine!

  15. I have only just discovered this recently on Google Search. This has been an interesting read, that I come back to from time to time. I’m at the end of my 2nd year of my PhD, and do write from time to time at: http://www.jasminezheng.com . Would be good to be added to the community of PhD students from everywhere.

  16. HI I’m just beginning my Doctorate of Education. Im planning on working on it part time over 6 years -which makes things a bit tricky! I’d love to join and interact with the community here as I’m finding it hard to know where to start! Any advice or posts that might be useful to me would be gratefully accepted !

    PS I’m a Melbournite too :0)

  17. A quick comment to say thanks for being a great read in 2011! I sometimes write about the PhD life on my blog and so it’s always useful to find similarily-themed blogs for inspiration and interesting thoughts. I’ve just updated my links page as a “thank you” to all the blogs that have inspired me this year – one of the best things about blogging i find lots of other fun blogs – and I included your site. Looking forwards to more interesting posts in 2012. Happy New Year!

  18. hello dr. mewburn,

    Thank you so much for your website. I met it through your twitter. I am from Turkey and doing Phd in the UK. After I met your website, I looked for blogs and websites on PhD, just like yours, in Turkish, for those who are not good at reading and understanding in English very well. I found yours very helpful, but I couldn’t find any website like yours in Turkish. So, I decided to write a blog on which I share my experiences and ideas on Phd. Well, I haven’t finished my PhD yet, so I can only talk about the PhD process and some helpful tips. Thank you for the inspiration! My blog is http://tezenzi.wordpress.com/

  19. Hello, my blog is http://www.adunokupe.blogspot.com
    I’ll love to write too, you can have a view of my blog to see my style – although I write on a wide variety of topics.

    My phd is on Leadership within the Tourism Industry.

    Came across your blog via twitter’s #phd chat field and it’s very useful!
    Thank you for being encouraging.

  20. Hi Inger,
    I attended your seminar at ANU this morning and was reassured and inspired. Thanks! I’m in my first year of PhD across visual arts and Indonesian studies, whilst also looking after my 3 kids under 6. Preschool hours and after bedtime are my workings hours and, in between paraysing bouts of self doubt, I’ve been telling myself this would be enough so long as I am efficient. Now I am armed with your practical tool box, your own example, and encouraging stats about productivity of PhD students, I feel bolstered again. I can do this!
    Oh, and I also have a blog (this was a strategy do keep writing!) http://www.ellydotkent.blogspot.com
    Thank you!

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  22. I am glad to have found this blog. I am currently entering the fifth year of a History PhD at a Canadian university. Your blog is very informative and encouraging– I will definitely continue to check it out as I work towards that final dissertation ‘push.’

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  27. Hello Inger!
    I’d like to add my vote of thanks to those expressed above, and wonder if you could add my blog (which is still in its infancy so treat it gently, please!) to the list. My thesis has morphed into an attempt to show how respect and self-respect, two sides of the same coin, are human survival tools: we need to develop them! My blog’s at http://www.gamanrad.wordpress.com – thanks again. Best, Lucy

  28. This is me reminding you (kindly!) to add my blog to your list. Thanks for this amazing site and for your work!

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  31. A truly inspirational presentation and masterclass at our Research Week at Sydney Nursing School of The University of Sydney. Thank you!

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  35. Dear Ingrid et al,
    Wondering if anyone has any suggestions, or if other students have been in similar straits in AU, and how they proceeded….and what leverage (if any) a PhD student has in situations like this?
    I am hoping that people have some suggestions for me. I am one year into my PhD (part time enrolled) and have made excellent progress on my project (yes I have that in writing from sups….) and preparing for an early confirmation. Just when I tried to access funding, I was informed that my school had “no money”. When I say no money, I mean zilch nada and I am expected to fund my project expenses! My project involves travel and data collection abroad and although I don’t have a budget yet….I imagine it would be in the realm of 10-15 K…..
    I am in the process of taking this up the chain but I am quite upset. I am at an Australian university as a domestic student. I prepared a short project proposal 6 mos into my candidature which was approved by my sups…and now my school is claiming they have no money. It seems like the admin is trying to lay the blame on my sups (who are excellent)…I don’t know what went wrong with funding….my sups say they didn’t know they were supposed to pay for my project, the admin say that they were, etc, it is clearly indicated on the university website that direct research costs (including travel!) are paid by the school….my guess is that this is not my sups fault although they seem to be getting blamed for taking me on….Anyway, as I await for a verdict with the office of research on what can be done….I am obviously concerned. I am not sure what bargaining chips I have. This university is highly ranked for research, one of the top in the world…..and they clearly (in writing) inform students that the enrolling school pays for the direct research costs. (except apparently for me)…..Anyone know what kind of bargaining chips I have? Oh, there was a suggestion for “changing my project” to something more local but I have been working on this now for over 1 year….and I chose this project …t..to start all over on something that may cost less and delay my phD for another year does not seem fair….Suggestions Please!!!!!!!!!!!!! My project is in the Social Sciences.
    I should also say that I believe there has been some loses of funding etc in the past year from one of their streams but I was never informed this would affect my project funding. My project is something that I designed so there is no grants or anything else associated with it, nor any other students or researchers working on it other than me….

    Thank you!

    • While I agree with M-H, it’s unusual for a university to promise to cover all costs unless a project is externally funded. Usually the uni defines ‘costs’ as office space, computer, Internet access, library and supervision. Read the fine print of the uni policy carefully and, if they do make more promises than this, by all means hold their feet to the fire. Your student organisation will have professional advocates who can help you with this. Good luck!

      • Thanks Inger. Well this is what it says on their website
        Research Costs

        The School/Institute you enrol through at XUni is responsible for meeting all ‘direct research costs’ that are necessary to undertake your RHD project. This includes:

        access to resources or facilities at XUni or other organisations in Australia or overseas;
        travel to complete fieldwork, collect data, or to visit libraries or other repositories;
        training in techniques; and
        necessary coursework undertaken outside the School/Institute.

        Funding may be available for supplementary research that is not essential to your project but will enhance your research experience at XUni

        ….and the graduate school has confirmed this to me verbally that the enrolling school is responsible for covering my direct research costs and that “if they didn’t have the money for funding they shouldn’t have taken you on as a student”. That leaves me in a PhD no mans land as I wait for them to figure out what to do next…..

        Do you think this is enough to hold their feet to the fire?

        Also, if I fail my confirmation due to lack of funding (or asked to leave for the same reason), won’t that affect my ability to seek a phD elsewhere in terms of tuition costs as a domestic student? Arrrrgh!

  36. I love the idea of this blogsite; I think it is brilliant! If only blogs had been around when I was thinking of doing a thesis many many years ago! I am mainly a creative writer, though I do write book and play reviews. I would love to contribute something, but am not sure my stuff would be acceptable. Power to your collective pens! Alienora

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  38. Dear Thesis Whisperer,

    Thanks so much for writing this blog! I’m an Australian living in Switzerland with my partner and young daughter and I’ve just started a Creative writing Phd at Deakin University (by way of an historical novel and exegesis). I’m going to be an extremely off-campus student.

    Living in a non-English speaking country as I do, it’s very difficult to find a network for both the creative writing, the research and the whole thesis writing thing. With this in mind I’m searching for online lifelines, and I think your site fits the bill very nicely.

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  42. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day.

    It will always be helpful to read articles from other
    authors and use a little something from other websites.

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  45. Hello,

    I have just recently come across this website. Its amazing! I am a current PhD student researching into financial regulation and stability. I have started a blog – afollypeprempe.wordpress.com

    • Smart PhD students know not to use these unethical services – if you are caught you will lose your PhD or be kicked out of your uni. Next time I’ll just delete your spam Homework writers, but I’m leaving it here this time so I can make a point.

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  49. Hi Dr Inger.
    I’m glad that I found your blog. I’m a second-year PhD student from Malaysia, doing research on authentic learning strategies and writing. I’ve added a link to your blog on mine. I like all your postings. Thanks.


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  51. This is also possible if they offer SEO as part of their service.
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