Yesterday was our one year anniversary: Happy birthday Thesis Whisperer!
While I am in the nostalgic mood that anniversaries can provoke, I have to tell you that the blog has certainly exceeded my expectations. I thought the idea up in the shower (as you do), inspired by a phone call from a student who asked “Are you the RMIT thesis whisperer?”. I thought this was a great name for a blog and as close to a job description as I was likely to get, but I also liked the idea of this kind of teaching: as Alison King quipped: “a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage”.
From the first post on June the 7th, 2010 there have been a total of 90 published posts – around 2 a week and a total of nearly 90,000 words. Over this year there have been 84,904 hits and 828 comments – which I’m sure is minuscule compared to some of the big fish in the blog pond, but personally satisfying because The Thesis Whisperer is proudly a niche blog and I think there is a real sense of community around here.
Since the vast majority of you are researchers, I thought you might be interested in some of the stats which normally only I see as the blog controller. I think these are fascinating because they are a little window into what PhD students are thinking and feeling.
For instance, I recently did an analysis of the top search terms which bring people to the blog. Other than variations on ‘The Thesis Whisperer’, the top ten thesis related search strings which people typed into a search engine to find the site were:
- What do you learn by doing a PhD?
- Phone apps for researchers
- Zotero / Endnote / Mendeley
- “I hate my PhD supervisor”
- Academic Coach
- Write a better PhD
- 3 minute thesis
- Presentation mistakes
- PhD work is lonely
- How to write a lit review
- Best books on doing a PhD
Where people go after they have visited our site is also interesting. The top ten most clicked links are:
- Is my thesis hot or not?
- Download of the Scrivener Writing app
- It’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize paper
- Alternative PhD blog
- 75 super co0l blogs written by PhD students
- Post Graduate Toolbox
- To do dissertation
- Working it out
- I love diagrams
- How to write a thesis
From this brief analysis, I think people visit the Thesis Whisperer for:
- Understanding of some of the things that ‘no one thinks to tell you’ about doing a PhD
- Emotional support and understanding of the emotions which the PhD can provoke in us
- Advice on ‘soft skills’ (mostly related to communication and technology)
- Advice on productivity (and procrastination)
- To see what other PhD students are doing
Of course, not all the searches were PhD related. As more sites link to us, the ranking of the thesis whisperer is pushed up in search results. This means that some generic search terms start to direct traffic and more people find us unexpectedly. As a consequence, the term ‘Yoda’ brings up the post “Developing your inner yoda – er scholar” which has resulted in an extra 2800 hits in the last couple of weeks! This has pushed this post to number two on the top ten posts, the other nine most popular posts were:
- How to write 1000 words a day and not go bat shit crazy
- Zotero vs Endnote: the battle is on!
- 5 ways to fail your PhD
- Is your computer domesticating you?
- 5 books to help you with your PhD
- The top five #phdemotions
- The stegosaurus strategy
- PhD Detachment
- 5 classic research presentation mistakes
Some of these posts are favourites of mine, but this list doesn’t contain all of the ‘pillar posts’ of this blog. Problogger describes a pillar post as: “a tutorial style article aimed to teach your audience something”. I think what I have to teach is an approach to doing the thesis, which is based on understanding it as a genre and a performance of scholarly skills. If this is the case, some of my pillar posts would have to be:
- Learning from Avatar
- Don’t type format c:
- What is your dark side?
- The It’s Time talk and
- The dead hand of the thesis genre?
I would recommend a blog to any practising academic as a way to grow their own network. In the year I have been running the blog I have been privileged to meet and talk to many people with similar interests worldwide and develop a much stronger professional network. All these people are very clever and interested in sharing knowledge, not hoarding it. The ability to talk about ideas or ask questions, not to mention the various links which are sent to me daily through social media channels, have made my work easier. I am being invited all around Australia and internationally to talk about the Whisperer, which is very exciting.
All this is because my work is now on such public display and open for use by others. Anyone can download a post or presentation and use it (as long as they acknowledge the author). This is not how we academics are taught to handle knowledge, but I think is more fitting with the role of university academics as public servants.
The success of this blog is certainly dependent on you, the readership, who always engage so thoughtfully with the content. Beyond the 250 subscribers I know there are many regular readers amongst my 1460 odd Twitter followersand the 309 people who have signed up to the Facebook page. But the success is also due to the growing number of people who have generously donated their time to write posts including: Heather Davis, Dr Karen McAulay, Dr. Sarah Quinnell, Dr Geof Hill, Jess Drake, Mary Helen Ward, Dr Julie Rudner, Gabriel Oguada, Magdeline Lum, Eva Lantsoght, Linda Kirkman, Anitra Nottingham, Elizabeth Humphrys, Andy Coverdale, Angela DiPasquale and the three authors who have chosen to remain anonymous: @themarquise, @cuteangel and Squishy Scientist. Thanks guys!
I hope, over time, the blog will become even more of a collaborative enterprise and that people will continue to be interested in reading it, therefore I’m interested in what you think of this analysis. Why do you read the Whisperer?