Three challenges dyslexic post-grad students may face – and how PGPR can help

Written by PGPR admin assistant Layla

Did you know that around five per cent of university students in the UK are dyslexic?

Dyslexic students can struggle with things other students may take for granted, such as understanding textbook materials, spelling and grammar, note-taking, and organising and expressing their ideas on paper.

Undertaking a PhD is a big commitment and a lot of work. If you’re a PhD student with dyslexia, this can make things all the more difficult.

However, with the right support in place, it can also be a rewarding experience that not only looks great on your CV but can enhance your future career prospects.

Here are three challenges that PhD students with dyslexia might face and ways that PGPR can help:

  • Spelling and grammar

The standard of writing expected from a PhD is high. If you are a dyslexic student, you might find negative comments or feedback in this area demotivating, especially when you have spent hours diligently checking your finished paper. Text-to-speech software and grammar checkers can be useful for common spelling and grammatical errors, but quite often they miss details that can only be spotted by an eagle-eyed professional proof-reader.

Our basic proof-reading service is designed to spot those typos and punctuation errors, checking each line, suggesting alternative word choices and highlighting areas of text that are difficult to understand. You get two copies of your work back – one clean edit and one tracked, so you can easily and quickly spot what changes have been made.

PGPR can help you put the right letters together

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  • Organising your ideas

Being able to manage your time effectively whilst working on a PhD is essential. Many dyslexic students can find it difficult to organise their thoughts on paper or find they need to spend longer re-reading academic texts to ensure they fully understand what is being discussed.

It is easy to become overwhelmed with the workload involved in a PhD even with additional support from your university. PGPR’s feedback service can help you to successfully organise your ideas so they are the best they can be.

One of the team will go through your work and provide expert advice and feedback to help improve your structure, methodology, findings and discussion sections. We also offer a service that combines basic proof-reading with feedback for students who feel their English or academic writing skills could use an extra boost.

Feeling overwhelmed? We can help

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  • Lack of visible support

Students with dyslexia often comment on how their experiences of studying at a post-grad level are vastly different from an undergraduate degree.

Universities often have a good support system in place for undergraduates, such as extra time for exams or a project deadline, trained on-site support staff and specialist equipment to help dyslexic students. Embarking on a PhD, however, means a lot of working on your own, and getting extra time to plan or write your thesis can be difficult.

If you feel that you need more support, consider discussing this with your supervisor. Many supervisors will be able to work with you on a plan to guide you through your PhD. Others may be dyslexic themselves or have previously worked with dyslexic students.

You may also benefit from PGPR’s popular one-to-one Skype sessions, which are designed to allow you to discuss your work with one of our experts. These one-off or regular sessions provide support, guidance and deeper insight into your work and can help assuage any worries or fears you may be experiencing.

Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time

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Get in touch with The Post-Graduate Proof-Reader

The team at PGPR offer a wide range of services designed to help you achieve your personal best. Whether you need your lecture notes transcribed into a clear and readable format in a dyslexia-friendly font, or a dry-run of your ground-breaking presentation via Skype to help you practise speaking in public, we are here to help.

There are also unlimited resources for students with dyslexia online. Some of our favourites include The British Dyslexia Association and The International Dyslexia Association.

Still not sure if we can help you? Get in touch and let us know the details, and we will do our best to support you in your studies.

How writing can help your qualitative analysis

By PGPR team member Elly Phillips

You’re committed to completing a rigorous, thorough and well-developed analysis. You’ve collected your data and spent hours immersing yourself in coding and organising your codes into themes. When are you ready to start writing up?


When is the best time to start writing?
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How final is the final report?

It’s useful to address the perception of qualitative research as a linear process with writing up as the conclusion. If you follow this model, you may be reluctant to move on until you’re sure your codes are ‘finished’. Perhaps that idea comes from quantitative research, where you analyse your data then write up your report to present to others. Based on this, your concerns might be mostly about judging when you’re ‘ready’ to move onto writing.

Writing as a process

Instead, consider writing as an integral part of continuing your analysis. The use of writing as an analysis tool crops up across social sciences and qualitative methods. You might have read about memo-writing in grounded theory, for instance. Hermeneutic psychology writers have suggested writing should be an integral part of developing an analysis.

In this vision, the writing is less about reporting your fully formed ideas and more about refining your thinking, ideas and arguments about your data. Codes only capture a small part of your thinking and don’t allow you to explain or explore. As you write, you can capture and develop initially nebulous ideas about your work.

How does writing help?

Initially, writing can be for yourself. You can test your arguments and reasoning. You might start setting down your analytic claims about your data. How did you make sense of the participants’ words? Which parts of the text do you think were particularly relevant? These don’t have to be final ideas, but they can help you decide what might be useful.

Writing can also help you get feedback from others. A narrative with quotes, analytic commentary and overarching comments communicates your ideas with more depth than code names or standalone quotes. A written account helps an outsider understand the reasoning that took you from data to themes and how you’re interpreting the data.


Sharing your ideas
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A short, written analysis example can reassure your supervisor that you’re engaging in a thorough analysis. They will then be able to see your work’s structure, content and analysis style, which can be vital to ensure you’re creating a well-developed piece of analysis.

What to write?

There are many options for when to write and how much. Personally, I like to write often, even if many of those narratives only collect virtual cobwebs on my laptop (I always believe I’ll use them one day). You can write a brief reflection on each interview and after transcription. You might want to write up some key themes from one transcript, explain what you think is important about a small group of quotes, or write a full analysis of each participant’s account.

Strange things happen when you write. Despite rigorous attention to coding, our analytic ideas can prove frustratingly slippery when we try to explain them. You might find that some themes develop beyond their original scope as you find more to say about them. Others may turn out to be uninteresting once you start writing. Either situation should nudge you to return to your data and see what was happening (moving back around the hermeneutic circle). Are there multiple ideas within one initial code that might benefit from more thought? Are there other parts of the data that might elaborate your ideas and develop those dull themes? If you encounter these questions early, it’s an exciting way to advance your analysis.

How can PGPR help


We can help you take the plunge
Image by Anja via Pixabay

If you’re unsure or reluctant to take the plunge, we can help. A Skype session might help make decisions about writing. If your supervisor can’t review all your developing ideas, you can ask for feedback from our team. We can review early drafts and help you refine and focus further analysis.

Starting to write and explain your ideas is an exciting time in your research. Take the plunge to see where it can take you.