All 9 entries tagged Izzy

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November 26, 2011

Losing your PhD – by Izzy

It occurred to me late yesterday evening that I have not thought about my PhD for a few weeks. In fact when I tried to remember the last time I read or wrote or even thought something constructive about my PhD I realised that I have not been engaging with it for almost the whole term. 

For a while now whenever I get asked all the usual questions of ‘how much have you written?’ or ‘do you feel you are almost ready to start data collection?’ I just mumble something about having been really busy recently. This is almost always met with a chorus of ‘ oh don’t worry about it, you have so much time!’

In a way they are right, I do have a lot of time – 3 years 9 months in fact. And it isn’t running out of time that worries me. 

It is this, for almost 2 years I have been thinking of my project non stop, from going to my supervisor with initial ideas, formulating them into a proposal, starting the PhD, developing my ideas, writing the upgrade document, working the reading I had done into literature chapters…

And now I feel lost. Like something that had been with me all the time, niggling away in the back of my head, is gone. I liked that niggling, I liked thinking about my project all the time, developing my ideas so when I sat down they sort of spilled out. So I suppose that it why I am worried, for a whole month it has been gone and I didn’t realise for a while.

My logical side tells me that the more time you spend away from your PhD the harder it is to get back into it and this is just a phase, that this is normal and at some point (fingers crossed soon) my enthusiasm will come back… I really hope so.

PhD comics

October 05, 2011

Too many jobs, no time for research… – by Izzy

I had six jobs, note the tense, I HAD six jobs. For exactly four days. For the last four days I have been running (literally, which is pretty funny because I run like Phoebe from Friends) from job 2 to job 6, from a meeting about job 3 to training for job 4 and you know what? I have been stressed to my eyeballs.

Stressed from trying to remember what to take to each job, what was said in meetings, remembering to chase things up, having the right uniform for the right job. Today I came to the conclusion there is a limit to the number of hats someone can wear and six (plus the PhD and extracurricular activities) is my limit.

job stress

I think having a part time job (or jobs) whilst researching is a really valuable experience and not just for the money. It gives you some space away from your research, allows you to meet new people, or it can work in tandem with your research (like teaching).

It isn’t even the actual time spent on each job that is problematic in so much as having the space in your head to move between them whilst keeping your research in. Quite frankly I have not done anything for 2 weeks on my research, which isn’t a problem because I am part time and it is flexible. It is more that in keeping up with the jobs I forgot why I was here, and that is because I love research, I love my PhD (I retain the right to retract this statement in a year or so) and that is the reason I have the part time jobs to support that aim.

So a few hours ago I decided to quit my sixth job and I suddenly feel a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Now don’t get me wrong I love each one of my jobs for different reasons but six is too many. As a major plus at least I can count them on one hand now.

The reason I am writing a blog post on this is two fold, firstly it has reiterated a lesson I had forgotten, we have all have limits, and admitting this to ourselves is the first step! Secondly it’s to say thank you to the research exchange ambassadors (you know who you are) who, through much angst helped me make my decision. So thanks guys!

September 19, 2011

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by (Douglas Adams) – by Izzy

So roughly four months ago I was sitting in the ReX trying to write my summer timetable, at the last minute before my supervision because I had been putting it off.

I remember the four entire months I had from the upgrade until October. The days stretched out and I felt there was so much I could write in that time. Haphazardly I designated weeks for reading postfeminism, writing about celebrity culture and exploring discourse analysis further. Well October is just 11 days away and according to my timetable I am just beginning July.

In those four months, I confidently thought I would be able to write three chapters. That is two literature chapters of which I mostly had not done the reading… And my dreaded methods chapter in which I would magically know more about discourse and semiotic analysis and writing about them would just happen… I guess I overestimated how much I would fit into the summer.

Needless to say with 11 days to go I am so unlikely to complete my timetable, barring a miracle in which they appear on my laptop completed.

In fact being behind of the timetable that I created just made me feel pretty bad so last week I made a list of everything I have achieved this summer. Although I might not have made progress at the same pace as my timetable I could name quite a bit which I didn't have in June and that I do have now. So it is out with the old and in with the new, I have a shiny new realistic timetable. This has really has made a difference to my attitude towards writing, when I felt I was behind I felt fairly depressed looking at work. With the new and improved timetable this last week I have not missed a deadline, so now I am right on track! This may seem ridiculous, after all I imposed the timetable on my self in the beginning but having an achievable timetable has made me feel much more positive towards writing. Ultimately feeling positive towards writing really helps getting it done! Anyone else felt like they got behind over the summer?

August 15, 2011

The wonderful world of finding a job

I know that as a first year of a part time PhD the end is nowhere in sight, however I came across this article about jobs beyond academia and I thought it might be useful for everyone to have a read. 'Careers for PhD's: beyond academia'

As someone who has not 100% decided academia is the right career for me I found it quite uplifting that the skills you have gained from doing a PhD are quite transferable to other careers.

PhD comics

However the article highlights the problem of too many graduates for decreasing numbers of academic jobs. This reminded me of a (rather depressing) seminar I sat in with a visting academic from America. She raised the idea of whether it is right that universities continue to recruit PhD students, knowing there is a decreasing chance of them being able to secure a academic job.

Anyway, what do you guys think about doing PhD during a recession?

July 21, 2011

Those who can teach – by Izzy

I have to be honest I really didn’t like teaching at the beginning of last year. But after Christmas and certainly half way through the second term I was beginning to really enjoy Friday mornings 9 – 11. Now I am quietly looking forward to teaching next year. Partly I think I drew the short straw teaching research methods on a Friday morning. On a good week I had about half the class turn up. Those who did show up were usually hungover, non-communicative and had not thought about doing the reading or going to the lecture. At the beginning I found this really hard to deal with. However I decided to try finding other ways to engage them, I found videos really worked with my group (thanks to youtube and sociological cinema who were my lifelines) and after a 15 min video they were so much more engaged and willing to discuss the issues. Also dividing the reading list up so everyone had responsibility for just one reading and reporting back to the rest of the group worked well too.

I think my breakthrough came when I realised that it was not my responsibility to ensure they had done enough work, went to the lectures or cared about ethnography. My job was to facilitate their learning, something which I feel much more comfortable doing now. It was through discussions with other seminar tutors that I realised this.

The reason for this post in the middle of the summer is that yesterday afternoon I attended a workshop run by Student Learning Centre. It was well worthwhile, and not only for the food. They run a ‘Introduction to Academic and Professional Practice course’ which is a 12 month programme offering support for teaching. There are several mandatory workshops and then you can pick aspects you wish to focus on such as, ‘teaching for creativity’ and ‘teaching inclusively’. I have already signed up to do the course next year and for anyone who is going to be teaching I would suggest that you explore the course too!


July 08, 2011

We're all going on a summer holiday! – by Izzy

It is the summer (not that you would know it with the rain) and everyone other than PhD students seem to be jetting off here, there and everywhere! Well that isn’t actually true, I am off to Spain in 16 and a half days for seven lovely days sunbathing, swimming and hopefully relaxing! But this is something I have found harder and harder to do...

Summer holiday

I am not taking my laptop but currently my new book, ‘The Celebrity Culture Reader’ will be my hand luggage. It 900 pages long and is the same size as the bag you are allowed to take on the plane. Now I am not thinking too optimistically, I think 900 pages is pretty ambitious but I feel at least if it is with me then I am not taking the whole time off completely. As we all know PhD students don’t get holidays.

This need to work, or at least have the books near me is not something I ever felt as an undergraduate, a masters student or when I was in a full time job last year. After all it is common sense everyone needs a break and some time away from their work and why should PhD students be any different?!


So do you know when to take holidays? Or anyone else out there not know how to stop?

June 29, 2011

Homeward bound – by Izzy

Last weekend I went ‘home’ for a reunion with my four best friends from school. We graduated high school six years ago and while they seem to have got closer than ever I feel very different. I think a lot this is down to doing the PhD , which is a very different experience than the 9 – 5 jobs they each have now.

They were all massively jealous of all the nights out I could go on, the hours of Hollyoaks I could watch in my pjs and the long summer holidays. No matter how much I tried to tell them that PhD students have no holidays and the closest I have been to the students union is the bus stop they refused to believe me. (To be fair I do occasionally watch Hollyoaks) On the whole it was a fairly frustrating experience for all involved…

They had so many experiences that overlapped from an incompetent boss to always getting the tea and coffee. I am my own incompetent boss at times and I always get the tea and coffee for myself, but it isn't really the same. Hardest to join in with was how negative they are about what they do; I feel it is almost impossible to be negative in the same way about doing the PhD. Of course everyone had bad (understatement) days, days when perhaps they wish they were not doing a PhD, but I am not sure I have ever felt hate day in day out that they felt about their jobs. In fact I must have been fairly annoying to sit with because I was excited about pretty much everything, from writing an article to going to talks and organising conferences.

One of them even asked, ‘what’s the point?’ Although I am under no illusions and fully aware that my PhD is not going to change the world, sociology or my subject area, I was still surprised that the very value of doing a PhD was not acknowledged. After all these were three girls who had been to university and in very different ways had benefited from that experience.

Does anyone else feel the same distance with people they grew up with? Perhaps it is an issue with doing a PhD looking at girl culture, tween celebrity and fandom…

June 15, 2011

Supervisor Dread – by Izzy

Supervisor dread!

I don't know how often is average for actually meeting with your supervisor but currently I am averaging 5 meetings in 9 months… This appears to be going fine, particularly in the January to May supervisor drought because I felt no pressure what so ever and just kept plodding along… However now and again I get that email - subject: supervision. My heat stops and I start breathing really fast and I have to really force myself to open that email. What if she says:

‘Dear Izzy

I saw you and your friends sunbathing for four hours on Thursday are you doing any work? Perhaps we should have a meeting to discuss this.’


‘Dear Izzy

You seem to have forgotten that reading academic books is something you have to do to complete your PhD. Heat and Closer do not count.’

My supervisor has never said any of these things and in fact she would probably think reading Heat and Closer enriches my knowledge of popular culture. Nothing, NOTHING is worse than waiting outside her door. Recently three of us (who all have the same supervisor) needed to speak to her and we stood outside her door for ages, none of us wanted to be the one to knock on her door.

I feel I have to stress my supervisor is LOVELY and I have never had anything but a positive supervision with her, which has much more to do with her completely positive outlook on life than any reflection on my abilities… But to be honest this makes the nervousness and dread even more difficult to understand! Anyone else suffer from supervisor dread?!!

Supervisor dread?!!

Strangely this picture comes up when you google image search supervisor dread!!

June 06, 2011

My non existent journal article – by Izzy

I am attempting (and failing spectacularly) to write a journal article at the moment. I have heard from several friends that writing a blog can help unlock writers block, now I am dubious but the journal article couldn’t be going any slower so here goes… My name is Izzy and I am a first year PhD student in sociology.

A few months ago in March I spoke at a conference in Leicester. It was an interdisciplinary conference on youth culture so I thought my MA dissertation on girls’ consumption of celebrity culture was a good fit. However I was the only interdisciplinary part of the conference and everyone else was from English (and had read the books they were analysing) nevertheless it was a fun day and I really enjoyed speaking. So when they emailed me to say they were putting together a special edition of the journal Peer English and they would like everyone who spoke to write an article I jumped at the chance. How hard could it be?! I had written 11, 000 words for my dissertation all I needed to do was get rid of 6000 useless words et voila. That is not how it works.

You see my dissertation informed my ideas for my PhD but after spending 7 months working on my PhD upgrade my ideas have changed.Reading back over my dissertation is horrible; I have phrased sentences badly, ignored massive sections of literature and parts of my analysis don’t really make sense. The quick copy and paste idea I had is gone and 5000 words seem like an awful lot. Now the July deadline, which felt so far away, is creeping closer…

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