PhD Unlimited: Advocating for Podcasts as a Form of Research

By Jess Taylor

DAVIS – On Tuesday, UC Davis graduate students and podcasters Beshara Kehdi and Ashley Taggart discussed their push on advocating for podcasts as a valid medium of publishing and communicating research. PhD Unlimited, the online forum hosted by Kehdi and Taggart, touched on how podcasting works as a way to publicize research in a personable way, and how to start podcasting.

The two speakers for the event were part of the council for the humanities workshop last summer. Together, Kehdi and Taggart are insightful in the podcasting realm and are passionate to see it normalized and accepted in the research community.

Kicking off the Zoom event, Kehdi showed a tweet on the screen that read: “It’s 2019, you have two options. Therapy or start your own podcast.” Participants in the event showed their muted laughs and smiles.

Taggart then jumped in and told her watchers how a year ago in quarantine, they decided to begin their podcasts. They had no idea how their podcasting work would have a lasting impact. She then explained that graduate students and faculty are used to posting in legitimized ways of communicating research.

“There has been a move to advocate for podcasts to be a valid way of putting forward our research,” Taggart said. People have been shifting their thinking towards using podcasts as a way to publish their dissertation projects.

One way that podcasting can promote research is the flexibility of how the host presents their work. Currently, there is a sort of tension that exists between podcasts and the academic world, but Taggart asserted, “It’s an opportunity for us to put our work forward in new and evolving ways.”

Though podcasts have an array of genres and styles, the afternoon’s hosts saw podcasts through a humanities lens. Some questions they asked are what is the story and history around it, how can testimonies be utilized, and how can artifacts like musical, sound, visual, conversations and interviews provide research.

To be interactive with the audience, Kehdi took over for Taggart and asked everyone attending to answer why they want to podcast and where they are at with it. Another question for the attendees was what sort of podcast they think would be fun and what kind of content they would include. While waiting for responses, Kehdi played soothing jazz that he thought would set the mood for the audience. 

Taggart then took over once more to talk about the nuts and bolts of podcasting. Starting off, she said, “Now that we have talked about ideas and what appeals to you, there are technical requirements.” To start a podcast, a host needs equipment.

The first is obvious-–a microphone or recorder. The podcaster needs to make sure they have ways to enhance or eliminate background noises. A laptop, smartphone or handheld recorder are great ways to begin. Less high-tech equipment may have more ambient sounds, but it can actually enhance an episode based on the personality of the podcast.

Next, a pop filter is important to eliminate harsh sounds from letters or laughs; they eliminate sharp moments from the podcast. Taggart and Kehdi talked between themselves and said they actually made one with a wire hanger and mesh lace. Sometimes, podcasting requires getting creative. Just as important is to have headphones, so the host can hear themselves as they create an episode.

After obtaining the necessary equipment, editing and creating audio is the next critical step. Taggart and Kehdi then listed many different programs where podcasters can edit, create sound or find sound to incorporate into their episodes. The most popular is Audacity, which is free, and Adobe Audition. Kehdi said it best, “The world is your oyster. The best way to find a program is to pick one and see how it works for you.” 

An important detail Kehdi made sure to cover is being aware of copyright issues, trademarks, royalty music and other necessities podcasters will have to pay for if they want to make money off their podcasts. Using public domain bypasses these options, but if a song says free, it does not mean royalties do not have to be paid. A helpful tip they gave the audience is that the UC Davis library has people who can talk to podcasters about copyright and legal issues surrounding audio.

For the final touch, a hosting platform must be chosen to publish a podcast. “Those will host your file,” said Kehdi. “It’s like the warehouse where your podcast is stationed at.” On the screen, he put up a list of hosting platforms, like Buzzsprout, Podbean, Spreaker, Podiant and Anchor. These platforms post episodes onto iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

As for promoting the podcast, it is not as difficult as potential podcast hosts may think. Local radio stations love to promote local work, so they tend to do so for free. Some simple options are utilizing social media, like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to publicize the podcast. 

Moving away from creating a podcast, Taggart discussed what digital humanities are. “It describes the efforts to study digital technologies and culture, exploit computational practices in research and teaching and reflect upon the impact of the digital,” she explains. “It’s not about technology; it’s about human connection.”

Digital humanities make scholarship more accessible to a wider audience. Most importantly, using digital humanities has to come from a drive that does not fit in with traditional forms of learning with one’s ethics or values. Podcasting is there to support flexible work and should be justified to advisors because it is meaningful.

Ending the event on a funny note, Kehdi put up the famous meme of Willy Wonka smiling and resting his head on his fist with a caption reading “Tell me more about how you have a great face for podcasting?” 

Jess Taylor is in her senior year at UC Davis from a small town called Wheatland. She is finishing her studies in English and Human Rights.

Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link:

About The Author

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for