February 20, 2013

Adapting to life as a PhD Researcher

I always enjoy the reponse I get from friends and colleagues when I tell them that I'm doing a part-time PhD, and at a university 2 hours distance from home. The response is usually anything from incredulity through to jealousy. Anyone who knows me through my daily professional work life cannot comprehend how I'm managing to balance the two, and there are many days when I feel the same.

Real life v student life

I'm a co-director of a marketing consultancy working in the arts, heritage and tourism sectors working across the UK, and working days can often stretch into the evenings and weekends making it tricky to find time to squeeze in the PhD.

When I travel to Warwick I feel like I'm entering a rarified universe where I can indulge my passion for my subject, and just spend valuable time absorbing information and developing my knowledge. That's valuable time I rarely feel that I have in my professional life where decisions have to be made quickly.

New ways of working

So one of the biggest challenges for me is adapting my years of professional work into new ways of working as a PhD researcher. I've got to remember that I don't have to solve every question from the outset! I've got time to explore my subject area in depth and have access to a great array of resources from which to draw on.

I have to be very structured in my work life with task lists, deadlines and clear actions, but I haven't quite managed to adapt those work skills into my researcher role yet, but I'm working on it! As a part-time researcher there is a danger that if I don't prioritise and set deadlines, my PhD could drift, so that's one of my key tasks for this term...

January 01, 2013

1st term reflections

Good intentions

I had started with all good intentions to write a regular blog about my experiences as a mature part-time first year PhD student, but from the off I never really had any quiet time to sit down and fully reflect on my taking on such a monumental task. It's four years since I completed my Masters which I managed to do through distance learning with the Open University, whilst also working full time. However it's about twenty years since I was a student on a university campus, and that was a really small university. So to coin a cliched phrase, it's been something of a culture shock to adjust to being a proper student again, and this time I'm working full time running my own business too which involves long hours and travelling round the country, oh and I live two hours away from campus.

Getting started

Well there's been so much information to digest, seminars and research groups to attend, supervisor chats to plan for, buildings to navigate; never mind brushing up on all kinds of research skills, plunging into the library's resources and of course getting started on delving into research databases, note-taking, and even perhaps doing some writing (well actually not had time for writing yet). And not forgetting watching films which is pretty fundamental as a film studies student, as well as getting to know the other postgrad students in my department and the tutors too.

Catching up

It's been such a whirlwhind of activity (at the same time as my paid work being busy), so much so that Christmas and New Year has been designated for catching up and especially attempting to write my first 6000 words... As well as finally downloading all those helpful software tools I've been hearing about at skills seminars and organising all my notes, rewatching films and trying to have a break at some point too.

But so far I'm enjoying being a student again and wish I could spend more time indulging my passion for film - good job really as it could take me many years at this rate!


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  • Hi Helen. I just came across your blog while scrolling Warwick blogs. Have you heard of the PhD Life… by Tomi Oladepo on this entry

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