PhD Diary – March 2022

The past couple of months have been particularly busy and with what I have coming up over the summer, this only seems to be a taster of what is to come. Because of this, I saw this as a great opportunity to trial a bi-monthly post as opposed to my monthly one. It is totally not due to me forgetting last months post and making an excuse after the fact. Of course not! That aside, I do have a lot to reflect on for the past few months.

A core reason I have been so busy in the past couple of months is that I have been working on the initial application of my first study for this project for ethical approval. Whilst a bit of a tedious process, I did find the demand for certain information helped provide some direction for what sort of literature to read and the decisions I had to make. In fact, I feel as if this process was particularly useful to confidently progress with the methodology of this study and how it supports not only my thesis, but also as a standalone contribution to my area of knowledge.

The ethics review process has helped me work on some of the more tough questions surrounding my project, including the epistemological stance the research is grounded within. During my master’s I always found the concept of ontology and epistemology a bit too philosophical and ‘floaty’. Acknowledging the reality of the world and where I as a researcher – and my work – stand on that seemed unnecessary.  But even considering whether to take a more interpretive or positivist view, to take some examples, it helped me begin to frame the resulting contributions of this work. Will my work create hard ‘rules’ of how people acted/thought? Or do I state them as guiding principles, and that the almost chaotic nature of people and the world around them needs to be considered and interpreted to get the most out of my work? These sorts of questions are not particularly easy ones, and, in all honesty, I do not have a strong answer to them right now. Having these discussions, however, have been beneficial and having an idea on where the research stands has helped provided more focus on where this will lead.

The other reason of my time being so precious nowadays is that I have been engaging more and more with non-PhD related activities/opportunities. These include being on a research network committee for graduate students, teaching, and acting as a student rep for my fellow postgraduate research students within my school, to name some of the more prominent ones. In my opinion, its activities like this that are the biggest contributor to one’s professional development which is a reason I have been so keen to engage with them. Its all well and good being a good researcher, reading literature, conducting studies, and creating new knowledge. But at the end of the process its generally expected that one goes into some form of employment, and a PhD on its own does not do a particularly good job of doing that outside of the occasional seminar/conference. Taking on some external work/opportunities, on the other hand, help develop skills including interpersonal relations, teamwork, conduct, etc. that can be immensely useful. My challenge, however, is to not take on too much that I do not have the time to do my PhD, because after all that is what I am currently doing full-time.

The summary of the past two months is that there has been significant progress in both my professional and academic development. Despite this, it is important to remember that a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint. It can be an extremely long process that can be mentally taxing on its own, let alone with external commitments. Because of this and the forthcoming easter period, I am going to be taking some time away from my work. Not completely, I do not want a repeat of the first couple months of 2022, but enough to recuperate before things get more intense. Having as fresh of a mind – and as much physical energy – as possible is an absolute must for this process, I have found. Much like a marathon, exhaustion starts not after mile one but instead mile six or seven. I am reaching the halfway mark, so there is a long way to go but there is no reason not to celebrate my recent progress. It’s nice to have an air of positivity.

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