Just Frances

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PhD Dreams: Frequently Asked Questions

When I tell people I’m doing a PhD, I get a lot of questions. So, here’s my attempt at answering questions asked—and anticipating those not-yet asked. If you are left with unanswered questions at the end of this page, please feel free to contact me!

Where are you doing your PhD?
I am studying in the Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation at Edinburgh Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Institute is housed within the university’s School of Computing.

When did the programme start?
I began in November 2013 after a long carry-on to obtain my student visa.

What kind of visa do you need to do a PhD as an international student?
The UK government requires international students to obtain a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK. You can find out more about Tier 4 visas here.

How will you pay for your PhD?
I have a studentship from Edinburgh Napier University that includes a partial tuition waiver and a small living stipend. The studentship is good for three years. I will need to come up with £6,200 ($9,500) each year for my share of the tuition.

How will you find the money?
I will apply for as many scholarships as I can, though they are hard to find as a PhD student. I am also trying to earn small bits of money by selling “swirl cards” and am always looking at ways to economise on my already meagre budget.

Will you be able to work?
A full-time PhD is a full-time job! To do it justice, I need to give it my full attention. However, I am allowed to work up-to 20 hours a week on my student visa, so will consider taking part-time job s here-and-there if needed to make ends meet. Having worked 30-60 hours a week during my undergraduate studies, I know how difficult it can be to balance work and study.

Where are you living?
I am living back in my beloved Edinburgh. A friend has offered me their spare room which helps tremendously with my budget—and therefore with my ability to afford a PhD in the first instance.

What is your PhD all about?
My research will look at how online information is used to create and to determine personal reputations. The research will extend beyond privacy issues, and will look at in-depth case analyses of how reputation management is implemented. I aim to answer questions about how people manage their online reputations by self censoring, privacy settings, and alias profiles. (Read more here.)

So, it’s about Facebook?
No, not really. It’s about the information we put on social media about ourselves—and the information others share about us—and it’s about how that information reflects on us. It’s Facebook, but it’s also your Amazon Wish List, information aggregate sites, and even online voter registrations.

Why is it important?
It is important because your online persona is part of the whole picture of you—and part of what others use to determine your worth for jobs, loans, and even dates. It is important because understanding the personal motivators for reputation management will help social media companies (i.e.: Facebook, Wordpress) create tools and platforms that allow users to share and access information in a manner that best suits their needs, and will also help legislators to understand the benefits and pitfalls people face when using digital tools.

What’s your academic background?
I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Central Washington University (2003) and my Master of Letters in Media and Culture (With Distinction) from the University of Stirling (2012). I was a “mature” student, starting my undergraduate studies at 25, and began my master’s at 37.

What kind of professional experience do you have?
I am a professional communicator with more than 15 years’ experience in traditional and new media technologies. I have successfully created and directed strategic, proactive communication strategies for a range of organisations from small, non-profit community groups and family businesses to an internationally recognised research university. For more details, please see my LinkedIn page.

Additionally, I got my first paper route at the age of 10 and began working in the customer service industry at 14. I have been supporting myself fully since graduating from high school at 18. Read more about my first job here.

What will you do once you get your PhD?
Ideally, I would like to continue as an academic researcher and lecturer. Or possibly work as an industry researcher. Or both! Ultimately, I hope that my PhD research—and subsequent research—will help guide policy, regardless of where I end up.