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So close you can taste it

Today I sent to my supervisors and a willing friend my thesis. Complete (minus conclusion). Once I get their feedback I’ll make changes, fix up my references including update the literature and then write the conclusion. Then a final look by the supervisors and the baby is done.

Of course that’s the dream. When I get my feedback I might be looking at a revisit of the data and all sorts of crap. Who can say?

I should feel good, relieved even. I don’t. The first version I sent had formatting issues so I feel like an idiot. I checked it yesterday, put page breaks in for each chapter and then every field updated to incorporate the page break. So random page breaks every time I’ve cross referenced a chapter title. Fixed now, but seriously. Feel like an idiot.

Let’s see how bad I feel in four weeks or so when I get the feedback. Maybe this is just the beginning of the disaster that is my thesis submission process! (Ah, so cheery)

Well, that’s a little annoying….

I have collected data using several methods and drawn it together in Excel. In December last year, after having done a whole bunch of analysis and writing I discovered the basis on which I’d derived percentages for the submissions was wrong. I corrected this after much effort and all was well.

I have now discovered in my spreadsheet of 14 worksheets I’ve fucked up. Yes, there is the f word. I have, over the last two weeks undertaken a fair amount of analysis and writing based on worksheet X in relation to Hansard, when I should have been working on worksheet Y. So I started a whole new spreadsheet to reduce the number of worksheets and minimise future confusion. In this process I realised the data for my submissions was out by one for each of my epochs. So now not only is my data for the Hansard wrong, but it’s wrong the for submissions.

[time passes because I have a thought while writing this post]

But then while doing the Hansard correction in my new spreadsheet I realised I hadn’t made the error I’d made initially, I had used worksheet Y so all is well. Except now all my data is slightly out for the submissions. I suppose this is a good outcome. I’ve cleaned up my data, made it clearer for me and found I’ve done okay where I thought I hadn’t and done a little bit badly in the bit I thought was okay. Ah, the roller coaster of emotions.

The bonus is of course is all the analysis still holds as the minor change for submissions hasn’t altered the findings, just need to adjust the percentage numbers in the text by one or two points. Better now than later I suppose!

Article number two – complete

Well it took a while due to life getting in the way for both Leo and I, but it’s done!

I have my second academic journal article published, the first on which I am lead author.

I feel so lucky to have someone like Leo with whom to work. He is kind in his feedback and constructive. He also has a great mind full of curiosity and a drive to make improvement, nit just talk about it.

In line with my cross disciplinary thesis – which is across disciplines not truly cross disciplinary (although not sure what the difference is) – I’ve published in an education journal and now in an accounting journal. Now to find a policy and a management journal and I’ve covered my thesis off!

The thesis moves slowly. Work gets in the way more than it should, but I do need to eat. Thinking is hard and words don’t come easily. I write, re-write, and then re-write again. It’s the process and it’s slow but I’m now proud of the words I have and I think I have a thesis that makes more sense than it did before so I’m counting that as progress.

I’ve also not done the ethics for Steph as I have promised I would. Hopefully today! (Researching is hard!)

Well, that’s just perfect

I have 60,000 coherent words in a thesis. I was happy enough to send to my supervisors and get feedback (which I did). I’ve been working through those changes and thinking about the thinking bits and came to a realisation, it doesn’t work. The approach I have for the whole structure of my thesis is, well to be perfectly honest, shit.

After a brief tantrum, a blank piece of 3M thinking paper you stick on a wall, I now have a good framework for my thesis. It is not what I have now, not even close.

So, now I start again with a blank page in Word to build a thesis. I suppose this is the process right? Rob – you’re totally not getting a draft in April…

Step by step

Today the world is COVID 19 mad. There is impulse buying (for no reason), rudeness beyond measure, scare mongering on a massive scale, and not one piece of good news reported ever, because bad news sells. People ask me how I’m going (which is lovely) but I have to answer, ‘no different’. I’m a PhD student who teaches. So I work at home like 80 percent of the time and have done so for four years. My life has no changes except my Dad now lives at his farm and requires food drops.

Based on this, you’d think my thesis was ripping along. But it isn’t and I’ve been thinking about this.

People, as a species, focus on the negatives. We are hard wired to worry about negative things because this is what kept us alive during cave days and beyond. In a world where we are (on the whole) safer, more well fed, more literate, and have greater access to information, we are still focused on the negatives. So I worry about money as I’m facing a massive shortfall in income. I also worry about the stupid. I also worry that people are behaving poorly. I worry about things I can’t control. And that makes me stupid.

So today I will do my marking, my thesis, and edit my paper with Leo (for the second time). I will stop sulking and stressing about things I cannot control and will rely on the kindness of my Dad and husband to ride out the financial difficulties. I am lucky to have these people to help me. Not everyone does, including the students I teach. And most of all I will focus on the positives as much as I can, otherwise this thesis will haunt me forever! And besides, Linda gave me some really helpful feedback on my draft so I owe it to her to get my shit together.

 

Here’s what was missed

It’s been too long, I know. I say often enough how valuable I find this site to go back and remember aspects of my thinking at various times but that only works if I post…anyway, this is sort of a catch up post in the vague hope I’ll be here more regularly. I’m not optimistic.

On 25 November last year, I had a meeting with my supervisors. I didn’t post at the time because I had been given a lot to think about. While positive and constructive with their feedback the basic take away message for me, intended or not, was that my thesis is too confusing and they can’t really remember what I’m doing so the analysis makes no sense. At the time I was a bit hurt but then I realised they were right. I still didn’t know what my thesis was, so how on earth could they?

This coincided with CPA Australia starting to help me out with data. In early October I had begun the reach out process with the help of my supervisor and on 21 January I was in the Melbourne offices of CPA going through archive material. It was wonderful. I really do love old documents. The history they tell you, the surprises they contain, the story they create.

Throughout December I had been busy pulling together the thesis in total on the request of my supervisors. They wanted a full draft in order to work out what the hell I was doing – fair call I think. This meant finalising the data analysis for the submissions and continuing the analysis of the Hansard. It is so boring to read Hansard. I have no words. Politicians are repetitive and stupid. 1988 was more interesting than 2014 simply because the party rhetoric wasn’t quite as prolific, however, boring is boring.

All of this work came to a head on a train back from Melbourne on 23 January when I realised the thesis I started in December, based on what I’ve been working on for five years, was flawed. It wasn’t my thesis. It was the product expected by the establishment and it didn’t work for my data. It didn’t work for my question. My problem is complex, murky, full of pluralities. The stock standard structure of a thesis doesn’t fit.

So I have a new structure. It uses literature and data in sections throughout the thesis. The story is the story and I use all the evidence I have to support the story as it unfolds rather than segmenting the actions of research by chapter. In adopting this approach writing is easy. I am finding it simple to pull together materials previously written with new content based on my analysis of my new data, and old, to tell the story of the problem in my research and then offer solutions. Even my theory has come together in a useful way because I combined it with my model of university education as a process, providing a clear link (for the first time) between my theory and problem. It’s like a switch has flicked. Finally I know what my thesis is.

Last note: My second paper with Leo was submitted to a journal and they have asked for revisions which we are working on now. Looks like we might have win here, but too early to count chickens.

The last 3MT and another meeting

It’s done and I’m never doing it again. On 5 September I delivered my last 3MT. What began as an important way for me to think about my work has become redundant (I’m confident in my direction now) and it’s just heart breaking to do when you’re not a natural science. I mean, how can you compete against people who can save lives? It’s stupid. However, the competition is not for social sciences, but the exercise is worth it. Every year the 3MT process has helped me clarify and articulate my thoughts about my thesis and for this I will be forever grateful. I just don’t see how a social science can win.

Then yesterday, 17 September I had another supervisor meeting where apparently I’m still going in the right direction. This is exciting for both me and the supervisors (I think). Good for me because it means my ideas are sound I just need to keep getting them down on paper and good for them because it’s not a train wreck they have to rescue (yet!).

I have also just completed the compulsory APR process. They have redone the form and it possible it is worse than last year. Questions I didn’t understand that didn’t apply that I had to answer to be able to save and move on. Honestly. Shit governance leads to shit data people. Get your governance together if you want something meaningful. Anyway, I did my usual passive resistance and my primary supervisor was supportive so all is well that ends well. Until they kick me out for non compliance I suppose (full of hope today clearly!).

WiP is done – and another chapter meeting complete

On Tuesday 16 July I complete my work in progress seminar (WiP). It went well. I spoke okay (had a dreadful cold) but what was awesome was when I got asked questions I had answers. I know that my seem weird, but it was the first time I’ve been confident in my question, my data, my analysis, to the point I could answer questions. I mean, I’d always had a go before, but this time I actually could say “Oh yes, well as I show in the model here….” or “Yeah, I know what you’re saying. I’ve not had time today but there’s this reading…..” or “Interestingly the data is not going in that direction and my thoughts are….”. There is something empowering in knowing that you just know your shit!

Then today I had a supervisor meeting which went so well! Basically we all agree I’m on the right path, I just need to do more and find my voice. This is an interesting problem to have. After 13 years in the public service, changing my voice for whatever senior manager desired I’m not really sure I have a writing voice. What was more interesting is my supervisors said the way I presented at the WiP should actually be my voice in my thesis…now that’s food for thought. I’m being encouraged to write as me. For those who have ever been part of the government you will know that never happens! Anyway, deadlines are looming and I need to get more analysis done so no time to waste. I’m off to find my voice!

Questions over time

In the interests of never giving up (and because I’m still in that bloody hole of not knowing what I’m doing) I have been looking and have found (well sort of)! Following are two versions of the subquestions for my thesis. So while I don’t have the actual thesis question over time, I can at least see what I was thinking in the detail. Have put this here so I can find it next time I get lost.

Feb 2016:

  1. What are the current expectations of university education as presented in the literature, given the impact of modern day commodification?
  2. How can expectations of actors within the interested parties of universities, Government and industry, be used to build an understanding of commodified university education?
  3. Do the expectations of interested parties align with commodification?
  4. If not, why has commodification become the dominant discourse of university education?
  5. If they do align, why is there so much concern in the literature regarding the future of university education?

Nov 2016:

  1. What does the literature say has happened in university education over the last 30 years?
  2. What do universities expect of university education today?
  3. What does Government expect of university education today?
  4. What does the accounting profession expect of university education today?
  5. Do the expectations of questions two to four meet the reality as described in question one?
  6. Are there issues in the differences/similarities between expectation and reality that need to be addressed for university education?

Omissions are painful

I met with my supervisors three weeks ago and haven’t posted about the meeting. It’s not that anything bad happened, in fact quite the opposite (I now have a little model I’ve built based on the feedback which is helping to form my problematisation chapter), I just have been short on time. The advice from my supervisors was useful and has helped shape some of my data analysis as well as totally restructured how I’m thinking about the Context Chapter. What has happened though is I’ve fallen into a hole.

To get out of the hole I thought I’d use my blog as I remembered putting my question here somewhere so I would be able to see it change over time. Only the problem is I haven’t. I have no tag of ‘question’ (well I do now because I created it). This has dug my hole deeper. I was hoping there would be a tether here to guide me back to the whole point of my thesis by showing how my thinking has progressed over time. Turns out I omitted it. The pain will continue. Stupid omission.