July 28, 2013

Intermittent access – Helen Palmer

Well I've finished my first academic year at Warwick though I'll start the second year still as a first year! So I guess it's naturally a time for reflection but also looking forward to what the next year will bring.

Thinking about my first day at Warwick, it was nearly as nerve-racking as my first day as an undergraduate student 25 years ago - not knowing anyone, the campus or what the study would entail; only this time I also had to work out how I was going to achieve any kind of balance between full-time work and part-time study.

Reality bites

I can't say that I've managed to get the balance right between work and study and with the nature of my work, I can't see that changing any time soon. So instead of being able to have a regular consistent focus on study, it's more an intermittent approach with concentrated bursts of activity. I know that will need to change as the years roll on. I had started off with a day/week during the working week devoted to study but that was quickly eroded as my companies took on more work as an economic necessity. I'm already a Co-Director of a consultancy business and I took on another Director role with a new consultantcy business last year - not the best timing in relation to study, but definitely good timing in relation to my professional work.

I'm lucky that I chose a subject that I already know well and am genuinely passionate about, I suspect that I may have given up by now had I been tackling a completely new subject area. It's a natural progression from my Masters dissertation and that has been brilliant grounding for my PhD work.

Support structures

I am relieved to discover that I'm not that far behind the full-time PhD students in my year. I've done a tranche of writing for which my tutor has given me positive feedback and I've now got the chapter structure in place too. I feel very well supported within the department, not just by my tutor but all the tutors and administration staff, right the way through to the Head of Department. They have been incredibly accommodating in relation to my rather haphazard availability and always make me feel welcome and are genuinely pleased that I have been able to attend additional sessions. I also have a great family and set of friends who rally round and keep up my enthusiasm for my PhD, and my brother/business partner has never faltered in his ongoing support.

Travel ahead

Though I've had to delay going on my study trip to the US due to an ever-increasing workload, I am looking forward to spending next term preparing and researching the virtual archives before my trip to the physical archives in January 2014.

I was hoping to spend some of the summer months working on my PhD. That now looks unlikely with an impending festival in the autumn for which I work on the marketing and communications, lots of projects building to their conclusions in September, and a work trip to Australia to give a keynote address at a cultural conference in Queensland on the subject of cultural tourism, plus the opportunity to meet with the Commonwealth Games 2018 cultural programme team (I worked on the North West Cultural Programme for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002). All good experience if I ever get the chance to speak at film related conferences although it's a very different style of presentation. If I'm not too tired I'll try to dedicate some of my flying time to PhD reading rather than just catching up on my paid for work.

I realise that I may start next term feeling a bit rusty and will need to immerse myself in the world of study and film terminology and language again after an enforced break. I'm already earmarking Christmas and New Year as PhD time...


July 01, 2013

Methodology chapter excitement – Bernie Divall

this way to methodological happinessAlthough it's been a very difficult year, at the end of which I still appear to have some words to write, there is definitely something to be said for having had a little space away from the thesis. Coming back to it over the past couple of months, I can see the overall structure far more clearly than I could a year ago. Having said that, it's taken me a while to become properly re-acquainted with the work I've done over the past couple of years, and as for the literature review that I did three years ago - well, suffice to say, I'm marvelling at the fact that I even wrote those complex sentences!

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been constructing a final version of my methodology chapter. I say 'final version', because I've previously written two or three very different incarnations of things approximating a methodology chapter. These included copious notes on the methods (observation and interviews), a VERY dry chapter on the research design (Zzzzzzzz), and my personal favourite, a reflective version of the methodology - a sort of 'journey so far' approach. That last one was lovely to write, but my business school supervisor REALLY DIDN'T LIKE IT and gave me a very stern talking to when I sent it to him - experimental, reflective writing is not his thing!

So how's it going this time around? Well, firstly, I was pleasantly surprised, not to say hugely relieved, to discover that I had the chapter already constructed in some way, when I put together all those versions I just mentioned. What I didn't appear to have, however, was a proper framework to glue it all together. You know, the bit where I explain how being a social constructionist led me to a qualitative methodology, and how this links with the theoretical framework, the research questions and the data collection methods.

I got myself a lovely new notebook a while ago, and now it's full of random writings and intricate drawings, all of which are my way of unscrambling the mess in my head - and guess what! It turns out that the whole thing makes sense! You see, I've realised that the chapter I was dreading the most is turning out to be the one that makes me feel the thesis is nearly done. Because if I can tie together all these epistemological and methodological issues, then I must really know what I'm talking about!

What is it that I love about the methodology chapter? It's the combination of big, philosophical thinking (social constuctionism, narrative research, the voice in ethnography...) alongside the tiny, nitty gritty issues (why that leadership develpment programme? How many hours spent observing? How many interviews?..) It ties together what came before (literature review, theoretical framework) and what will come next (data chapters, discussion). And for me, with my messy head, that's a massive lead towards completion.

So onwards today and tomorrow in the chaos of writing, then two days in a research sandpit, and then a supervision meeting on Friday. Keep your fingers crossed that my business school supervisor likes the particular writing style I'll be employing this time around...


June 22, 2013

Lessons from the "Field"

I have missed the PhD Life Blog and my Warwick PG Life. It mostly comprised sitting long hours in the library's Research Exchange, visiting the sports centre for a few bouts of volleyball, coffee with my home-girl at Costa (till they chase us out at close of work) and loads more activities that add value to my life.

As I write this post, I am in far away Nigeria, to conduct research interviews as part of the data gathering process for my thesis. It's been roughly two weeks and I am happy to mention I have made substantial progress on my work. However, this is not without gleaning a few lessons along the way from experience and from interacting with people.

Here are the lessons I have learnt.too_many_words.jpg

Identify people who "know the ground":

Nigeria is my home country, but I have had to admit that I am a novice when it comes to being "street smart". From immediate family, to friends on my Whatsapp and so on, I have sapped knowledge on how best to navigate the terrain at the most minimal cost.

I will give you an example. When I arrived with my unlocked iPhone and needed to get Internet data bundle (long story) on my phone, and the codes formally advertised didn't work. I called an old classmate, who had a friend working in the telecoms company I was subscribed to. This friend finally gave me the correct code, and instantly my top-up (a substantial amount) was zapped from my phone and replaced with 1.5gb internet data for the month. All I had to do was introduce myself to the person as xxx's friend, and magic. Simple street-smartness.

Other examples would be advice I have received on the best time to set out and return to base in order to beat mad traffic. On majority of my interviews I have arrived hours earlier than scheduled in order to maintain my mantra "Tomi is always punctual".

Be as concise as much as possible in explaining your research - Master your "pitch":

This is useful in the situation where you need to access to someone for an interview but need to go through this 3rd party. In order to convince them to help you meet the person you are after, you gotta have a good "pitch". Rule of thumb, keep the details of your theoretical framework out and just go for the meat of what your research is after.

Evernote is the next best thing since sliced-bread:

A friend saw me milking my Evernote at an event and marvelled at how organised I was. to be honest, Evernote does the organising for me. I sincerely don't know how I would cope with the data I have now (which is not yet up to half of what I am after), if all I had to lean on was Microsoft Word. The complexity of the web of information amassed would drive one to the brink of madness. Shout-out to the Evernote team: thanks for the Reminder function on the notes.

Reminder App is the next-next best thing:

I have never appreciated my iPhone Reminder app as much as I do now. It's never been easier to be forgetful as it is while one is on the field. You are having this interview, and the person tells you,"hey I have a document to back that up that I can share with you. Just pop me an email to remind me". What do you do? Make a note, and electronically input into your Reminder app - otherwise, you would forget.

I also use the Reminder App to remember to say THANK YOU for taking time out to speak with me. I may be filled with all the thanksgiving in my heart that could power Heaven to rain down Manna on earth one last time, but if I don't communicate it to the intended party, it's useless.

The Reminder app has also been useful in helping me recall when to contact someone who wants to reschedule an interview and much more.

As I approach Week 3 of many more weeks ahead, I reckon I would have more lessons to share on the blog. Being on field (especially outside the country) is exciting, but I do miss Warwick PG Life.

Have you gone past the "field" stage? Please share the lessons learned in comments. I don't need to reinvent the wheel :)

I'll be back here soon with more tales.


June 14, 2013

#FamousCollaborators

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/researchexchange/famouscollaborators

Marie Curie didnAt The Wolfson Research Exchange and The PG Hub we believe that collaboration lies at the heart of human achievement. You need only look around you at the buildings and cities we build to live in or the vehicles we move around in; at the great works of fiction in translation and the epic collaboration that goes into masterpieces of film and theatre; at rocket science, brain surgery, the London Underground, CERN and Warwick University; all the products of massive collaboration.

But we’re looking for inspiration on a more personal level and so we’re asking you to name three of your favourite collaborators that can be linked in some way. Whether you’re a fan of Paul Erdös or Kevin Bacon, Marie and Pierre Curie or Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville, Wings or Cream, we want you to find a link between your favourite collaborators and let us know about them.

For example, you could choose:

  • · Marcel Duchamp, George Perec and poet mathematician Jacques Roubaud who were all members of the OuLiPo.
  • · Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama are not only all American Presidents but they’re also Nobel Peace Prize laureates (Jimmy Carter is also in this group).
  • · Carl Gustav Jung, William S Burroughs and Albert Einstein are all on the cover of The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

To enter simply use the hashtag #FamousCollaborators, message us on Facebook or comment on this blog post! Be creative with your choices and you could be in with a chance of winning one of our £20 theatre vouchers suitable for use in Warwick Arts Centre (for more details and to see entry conditions visit: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/researchexchange/famouscollaborators).

So get thinking and let us know your 3 #FamousCollaborators!

Mine are Alvin, Simon and Theodore Chipmunk, obviously.

James Horrocks

PG Hub and Wolfson Research Exchange Assistant


June 10, 2013

COLLABORATIVE SANDPIT – THE "RIGHT" CAREER PATH

The journey to establishing a career on any path (academia and otherwise) is usually laced with numerous opportunities. Although there may be seeming setbacks along the way, the ability to identify and tap on the right door, then go the extra mile to walk through it, makes a great difference between progression and regression or stagnancy. Many big breaks in life have come through someone literally being at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing - this could be enrolling on the rightworkshop, networking with the rightpeople, or participating in the rightventure.

When I first heard of the Collaborative Sandpit at the University of Warwick Research Exchange, the first thought that came to my head was, "THIS IS RIGHT!"

Let me tell you all about it. group_seated_crop.jpg

The Collaborative Sandpit is a 2-day intensive and interactive workshop, where "interdisciplinary research teams" work together to achieve two goals:
1. Define research problems on a given theme (*community),
2. Outline a grant proposal

Successful project teams would receive funding to work with an academic mentor in bringing their research plan to fruition.
Doctoral researchers and early career researchers at University of Warwick are eligible to participate in this initiative.

I reckon you are tuning into WII FM at the moment. Don't get confused, WII FM is simply the acronym for WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?
I'll tell you what:

Build team-working skills:You get to collaborate the wider academic community at University of Warwick. On any job interview, it's a given that your ability to work in a team is going to be put to the test. Being a part of CS offers you a credible pool to draw a demonstration of that skill from.

Research to Reality: You are also afforded a chance to apply your research to contemporary real-life challenges. Speaking as a fellow researcher, I have a good feeling that I would find this aspect of research more gratifying than anything else.

Boost your research profile:Every hour, every minute, every second you spend on your individual research projects is an investment - an investment everyone else around you is making. The best way to stand out of the pack is to do something OUTSTANDING. I am convinced that the Collaborative Sandpit offers just the right shade of differentto add some colour to my research profile.

Skills Support Pre & Post Sandpit: I never hesitate to point out to my friends in Warwick that if we had to pay £££ per workshop we attended at Warwick University, we wouldn't be able to afford 3-sqaure meals in a matter of weeks. There is so much support available to which the only cost to you is your time - fair bargain if you ask me. CS offers many skills support workshop to ensure you are as successful as you can be on the program. More so, these skills are transferable, hence if you wish to work within or outside academia, you would still be getting your time's worth.

Transforming Ideas into Funded Projects:Funding is a key part of work life. In the commercial sector, you have attract enough funds to cover your salary and beyond to keep your job; and in academia, the scramble for funding is…I need not say much. My argument is that while on CS you will gain the experience of converting ideas to viable projects - how does one think through such ideas, what factors are to be considered? etc. CS is just the rightfallow ground to train and hone that skill.

Expression of interest forms are available online
Visit the website here.

For more information or queries, please email researchexchange@warwick.ac.uk

May 24, 2013

REx Fest – A Festival of Exchanges

If you closed your eyes, it was like Elton John truly was in the room, belting out his classics. Open your eyes, though, and yep, you were definitely in the Terrace Bar, where Elton ain’t been seen in years, listening to an otherwise-diminutive PhD student from Economics belting out ‘Bennie and the Jets’. After he lifted his fingers from the final chord, there was a second before the applause, a second of silence as everyone looked at everyone else, and mouthed one word: Wow.

There’s nothing to bring postgraduate students together quite like one of their own getting up and doing what they non-academically do best. Watching someone who by day builds robots shooting off down the wing on a football pitch, or eating the freshly-baked cookies of people who spend their days elbow-deep in algae: these are pleasures which I and countless others have enjoyed. REx Fest was no different. For a few hours that night, it didn’t matter which department you were from, what you were researching, or whether you had a list of publications longer than the piano: what mattered was whether you could make the audience sing along. And sing along they did, a sea of arms all swaying in time to the closing euphorics of ‘Hey Jude’.

Step away from the front-line of the audience, where the tone has now changed from an indie cover of ‘Call Me Maybe’ to some strain of Portuguese folk-rock, and you would find postgraduates dotted all around the Terrace Bar, and indeed, a swarm on the balcony, sharing lighters and stories of days, weeks, years, spent in the archives or the lab. People who lived together in their first year got a chance to catch up after five years and two degrees apart: one guy whom I knew when he was eighteen had to leave early to see the girl he was dating back then, and whom he is now marrying.

Back inside, stood around a table now littered with empty pint glasses, is a postgraduate football team, discussing their latest nail-biting match, occasionally forgetting themselves and repeating the kicks and jumps which sealed the last-minute winner. In another corner, people are exchanging stories of their first years of teaching, lamenting poor excuses and late-night marking, laughing over spilt chemicals and seminar faux-pas. Meanwhile, at the bar, there is a tussle to buy new companions drinks, often culminating in a bizarre comedy of errors, with everyone insisting that it’s their round. I spent many an hour in a Terrace Bar as an undergraduate at Warwick, and never did I know it as lively, as fun, as pleasant as at REx Fest.

Back in the union building, meanwhile, I spotted several heated games of table football, with people compulsively depleting small piles of fifty pence pieces in the pursuit of victory. The same went for the pool tables, where the atmosphere was a little quieter but no less heated. Much like an excellent musical performance, there is nothing to bring postgraduates together quite like a shared ineptitude at a game. I learnt that night that doing a PhD in Physics is not necessarily an advantage when it comes to playing pool. I guess you might need a calculator.

rex this

Needless to say, the whole event worked a treat, and I must admit that despite my own initial scepticism at the whole thing, it was quite the night. I couldn’t believe that amongst the small circles of postgraduates there exists quite so much musical talent. At the end, I found myself giving a guy whom I had only met in the last three minutes a lift back to Kenilworth. In the car he talked candidly about his recent break-up. It really was that kind of evening.

One of the issues with the postgraduate lifestyle, certainly an issue which often gets mentioned on this blog, is how easy it is to find yourself isolated, cut off from the real world. It is essential for your sanity (and for your research) that you get the opportunity to put your studies to one side, even if just for an evening, and enjoy some music, some sport, some chatter. Sure, talk may well eventually turn back to your work, but that’s part and parcel of the whole shebang. If you imagine the world of research as a quiet one, full of plain green fields and the occasional hill, then REx Fest is like a dinosaur of fun and sociality, a tyrannosaurus REx, if you will.

Sorry. Sorry I wrote a whole blog post just to make one awful pun. You’ll thank me one day.


May 20, 2013

PG TalkFest is back!

Would you like to meet postgrads? Do you having nothing planned for Tuesday evening? Then come along to PG TalkFest!

PG TalkFest is back after a successful start in March. It is a great meeting place for postgrads and a way to listen to interesting and lively talks. The aim is to keep the style informal and to engage with the audience.

For this version of PG TalkFest, there will be a Masters student and two PhDs who will be presenting talks about Batman, video games, and evolution.

It is being held on Tuesday 21st March from 6pm-8pm in the PG Hub. Talks don’t start until 6:30pm so you have some time to socialise before the event begins. There is also an interval. Light snacks and drinks are provided from 6pm.

The speakers of the night are:

Sebastian Averill (History)

Joanna Cuttell (Sociology)

Steve Norton (MOAC)

For any queries, please contact Sarah on S.A.Cosgriff@warwick.ac.uk.

Sign up here to help with catering numbers: http://doodle.com/wtahg4p4sbtpbkvh


May 15, 2013

In the middle of the journey of life…

dark woods"In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death; but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there". So begins Dante's Inferno, and so begins the tale of where I have been for the past seven months, since I last wrote a blog entry.

My story left off at a difficult point in my PhD life: I had begun a postdoctoral fellowship without finishing the doctoral thesis. I was hugely disappointed by this, as I had always considered that three years would be ample time in which to complete a PhD. But I had reckoned without the vagaries of my ongoing cardiac symptoms, which had made me take some time off in the late Spring of last year. In October, I wrote that I was stressed. I could almost laugh now, given what has happened since...

A couple of weeks after my last blog, my dad suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage. He had surgery, but never recovered and was in a coma for twenty days. Twenty days of driving to Sheffield. Twenty days of sitting, watching, waiting for signs I knew would never come. At the end of twenty days, he died. I was with him, which was a strange and beautiful thing - just him and me in a room, and the most peaceful thing he had ever done.

On December 1st, I returned to the fellowship research. My brain was full to exploding, but I felt my manager had given me too much time off in November to take any time to think about what had happened. In December of course, everyone in the world was ill. Except me. My children had the flu, my husband had the flu, then my children had the vomiting bug. Then it was Christmas, which of course was difficult.

Then in January, I was ill. My turn at last! But I had a report to write for my boss, and I carried on. The relief I felt when that report was done was immense. I remember saying to a friend of mine that I could now take a few days to sit and think about my dad and begin the grieving process. As if it would ever be possible to grieve neatly, in a compartment marked 'time to think'.

The very next day, I discovered a mass low in my abdomen. I thought it would be nothing, although my midwife hands were slightly surprised at the size of it - my GP and I laughed at the idea that it felt like a 20-week pregnancy. But the scan I had that same day agreed: a mass of some kind, 10cm big. 10cm? How had I not noticed that earlier?! There followed urgent appointments in gynaecology oncology (the NHS moves fast when it feels the need...), an MRI scan, and lots of serious faces, my friends (midwives) included.

So I had a hysterectomy at the end of February, and because of the uncertainty of the tumour's malignancy or non-malignancy, I also had my ovaries removed. Instant menopause! Then a long time sitting still - the longest I've ever spent sitting still, by some considerable margin. And now, a damaged ligament and more sitting still.

Meanwhile, my fellowship contract ended, and I now find myself technically unemployed, although still registered as a student - that was an easy extension to get permission for, thankfully! I'll be extending again next month, which will take me through to September. And then, I say determinedly, the thesis will be submitted.

So a dreadful time. The worst time of my life. But as ever, there are bright moments to be found: my husband, beside me and caring for me; my children, who seem to be enjoying the whole sitting down thing; and my friends, who have brought me such joy over the years, and who have shouldered such a lot of my burden over the past few months.

What a strange post this is. It's taken me a very long time to write. I hope to begin blogging normally again from now, as I return to the process of writing up the thesis. Because for all of these seven months, the PhD has been sitting in a tiny corner of my over-crowded mind, and now, finally, it's getting some attention. sun through trees


May 14, 2013

Thinking of Academic blogging?

I just found this write-up on Inside HigherEd, So You Want to Blog (Academic Edition) by Liana Silva. I will summarise the points the author made in bullet-points, and include my personal reflections on the topic:

Academic blogging develops your writing because it helps you connect more with your audience/readers
In Patrick Dunleavy's book Authoring a PhD, a recurrent phrase is "meeting reader expectation". I agree with Liana that blogging really does help you develop a voice of your own that connects with people. The interactive feature of blogs helps you understand what you need to improve on and what you need to do more of in your writing, especially if you take the reflective approach to feedback from your readers.

Academic blogging does not require an airtight argument, simply exploring questions is not a taboo.
I still grapple with this bit in my venture into proper academic blogging. I can't help but always feel like I have to make a stand, so thanks Liana for this reassurance.

Language can be casual even if it's an academic topic
Hallelujah!
I have a Wordpress blog (Diary of a Media Junkie)that I have been reluctant to let go of simply because I started a Research Blog. My wordpress blog bioreads "my mission statement upon founding this blog was to break down (academic) media issues (print, broadcast, online) in such a manner non-media professionals would still find interesting and educative enough to engage…".

I still had this conversation with one of the career advisers at uni (who is fast becoming a good friend of mine) where I shared my worries about my Media Junkie blog being playful and not necessarily branding me as the serious academic I know I am. Then again, I realised that I was losing sight of my mantra - which is to WRITE ACCESSIBLY. Hence, if humour and wit (which I have in abundance) help me convey my ideas across, and people enjoy reading (because I get hits), then that's my style and I am sticking to it.

To me, my blog is a getaway spot from Academic Writing, which I love, but would like to take a break from, from time to time.

It's scary to be different from others, but it's bold; and the rule of thumb is that it pays to stand out.

POWER to casual language in academic blogging.
Think about length (word count)
In blogging, I apply this rule: if my reader has to scroll 3 times to complete reading my post, they would most likely not read it all. I try to keep the "needed scrolls" to one and at most two. Liana suggests 750-1500 words. Personally, I wouldn't go anywhere near a thousand.

I have found that with blogging, pictures work like magic - and luckily, they tell a thousand words according to a Chinese proverb. How about we swap all that grey matter for a powerful picture that conveys your message precisely!

Other tips from Liana are:
  • Share your research interests img_0034.jpg
  • Ask for feedback (this takes a lot of boldness, but it endears you to your reader)
  • Keep in mind the style of the genre (let your headers be shareable - hence keep it short and punchy)

I really recommend reading the entire article whether you are blogging or not, or simply thinking about it. If you need me to give you a bit of a shove on why you REALLY should be BLOGGING as an academic, just say the word in commentsand AMMA BE ON YA CASE lol.

Have a brilliant week ahead.

May 06, 2013

Work, life, study balance by Helen Palmer

There are a number of questions that I'm regularly asked about doing a PhD part-time whilst working full-time - how is your PhD going and how do you manage to balance work and study (never mind a social life!)? Well the answer to those questions is always the same - to the first question - slowly, and to the second - if I ever find the balance I'll let you know!

Clocking the hours

A colleague of mine who had completed a PhD whilst working full-time advised me to allocate a minimum of 15 hours per week to dedicated study, recognising that this will build over time, particularly in the last year. In my first term I took advantage of some of the free training sessions available to post grads to help with developing my approach to study and picked up a lot of useful tips, particularly with reference to note-taking, setting out the parameters of my research and planning my approach to study. I had a four year gap between completing my MA and starting my PhD so felt a little rusty to say the least. Of course what I discovered was that I needed to allocate dedicated time in the week to study, so at Christmas I took the decision to ringfence a day in my working week to focus exclusively on my PhD. My business partner (also my brother!) has been great in respecting that day and all was going well until a couple of months ago.

Impacts of success in work

As a marketing consultant working in the arts, no two days are ever the same and work naturally ebbs and flows with no recognisable pattern. Just to get political for a moment, the arts sector has suffered greatly due to national and local government funding cuts and my business has felt the impact of such measures with a difficult start to the year. But it's like buses, you wait for one to come along and then three turn up! My brother and I are actually directors of two consultancy businesses plus Joint Head of Marketing for a biennial festival taking place this autumn, and in the last couple of months we've been successful in winning new clients too - great for our businesses and our bottom line but not so great for my PhD studies. My precious one day a week has all but disappeared in the last two weeks due to the pressure of work and having to travel around the country to work with clients.

Getting back on track with time management

I always thought that I'd have much more flexibility as a consultant, hence fitting in a PhD in the way that I'd managed to complete a Masters whilst working full-time. But a PhD is a different beast and requires a different approach and particularly a different writing style. So to claw back some time I took a week off work at Easter to dedicate to research and writing as well as recharging my batteries. I anticipate that most bank holidays, like today, will be spent as PhD days, so no enjoying the glorious sunshine for me...

I'd like to think that I could spend one or two evenings a week working on my PhD but I'm either out a work related event, travelling home late or frankly just too tired. So I try to allocate one day at the weekend for PhD study, as well as the day in the week, as there are no work phone calls and I can ignore work emails too.

I'm the only part-time PhD researcher in my department (film and tv) so I've learned not to compare my progress with anyone else. I'm glad that I chose an area of study that I already know well as it's related to my Masters dissertation, that certainly makes a difference. I fear that if I'd chosen a completely new topic I'd have had thoughts of throwing in the towel by now!

It's good to talk

I've had to make a difficult decision in the last two weeks and that is to defer my planned summer archive visits to Los Angeles and New York to January 2014. I'm thankful to my tutor, department and the Graduate School for being so understanding and supportive. My professional workload is such that I simply can't fit in the trip and the pre-trip required research. I'm lined up for a busy summer and autumn so I'm aiming to keep plugging away at the PhD in the snatched time slots I've allocated so as to not slip too far behind.

I've found that it's helpful to flag up concerns early to my tutor so that we can discuss my priorities and arrange appropriate deadlines to fit around my busy work life. So today I'm finishing rewriting my first chapter and my aim for this academic year is to complete that first chapter to a standard that my tutor and I are happy with, and to have agreed the thesis chapter structure. The literature review will probably have to wait until autumn when I'll be in my second year but technically I'll still be a first year!

Top tips for time management

I wish I had a great list but my main advice is to not sweat the little stuff! Every PhD is different and everyone has to deal with unexpected turns in their lives. Whilst we all may have an ideal way that we'd like to complete our PhD, the reality is very different and that's all part of the experience. I'm a completer finisher by nature so I'm determined that I will go the distance and submit a thesis even if it takes me the full 5 years - I completed my Masters over 5 years due to work interruptions. Having to earn a living, run my own home, deal with family commitments and maintain some sort of social life helps me to put things in perspective when I'm feeling stressed about my lack of available time for my PhD.


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  • I feel like we need to make a formal disclosure that I (the Wolfson Research Exchange Coordinator) d… by Peter Murphy on this entry
  • Love this post. We try to make a point of running everything in the physical spaces (Postgraduate Hu… by Peter Murphy on this entry
  • This is a great piece of work in my opinion by James on this entry

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