despair

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!

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.

 

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?

Misspeaking leads to revelations

Yesterday I presented on my thesis in public for the first time (my confirmation doesn’t count as only those who had to be there were, yesterday people could have left!). It was a wonderful and horrifying experience with the later the greater emotion.

Wonderfully people seemed interested in my work. They nodded a appropriate times so either they though I had a good point, or were just feeling sorry for me, either way I’m taking it as a win!

Horrifyingly I tried to do too much in one presentation, it became too confusing and to top it all off I misspoke. Of course I didn’t realise it at the time, it dawned on me about an hour later. This meant I couldn’t fix it at the time and I can’t fix it now. For about 24 hours I was thinking about it over and over again feeling horrified and embarrassed, but then I realised what I could learn.

A thesis outside the natural sciences (and maybe within the natural sciences, I don’t know, but from the outside their work seems a lot more clear cut and exact so I’m assuming they don’t have this problem) must use language exactly. If a word is written or spoken, the author must be clear on the meaning for themselves and their audience. de Saussure tells us this is not actually possible but I really need to try to do better than I did yesterday.

I misspoke for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t know what I meant because I’m no far enough into the thinking on my thesis. Secondly, I chose stupid words. The English language is diverse and fulsome. I could have chosen a whole range of words to better express my ideas. Better still, I could have shut up.

I have been careless with words. I recently submitted a draft of my theory chapter (again…..yes….again) and it was shit. I have chosen that word precisely. The reasons were exactly the same as above. My own thinking was falling short of my ability to express my ideas and my choice of language was inadequate. I am half way through this thesis and really want my first draft done by the end of next year. I can no longer be careless with my thinking or with my words.

This blog will the exception of course. Here I can just dump what’s in my brain and hope for the best. I see my last post was almost three months ago. A lot has happened on the thesis over that time and I’ve not been writing it here. I’ve been writing, just not here. The lovely AARE people reminded me on Sunday blogging can be a really interesting and important part of the thesis journey if you use it. And I know I’ve said this before, but I really think I need to put thoughts here more often. Especially if I’m going to start thinking more clearly and choosing better language elsewhere. I’ll need a place to ‘throw out the trash of my brain’. See, it’s already starting….

Un-pressing pause (this is not the research we are looking for)

It has happened. Someone has let me know my research is as meaningless as I think it is. To be fair they just said it wasn’t in line with their research requirements, but I do like to add some drama!

This rejection means I’m stuck at the University of Canberra. So, what to do? I’m at an institution who thinks my research is useless (but they accepted me when they thought it wasn’t – a change of VC does that) and who I think is useless because they (administrative types) treat part time social science students like scum.

I think, and I reserve the right to change my mind, I just suck it up, stop being a princess about it all (yes – totally gendered language and all you SJW’s can rant all you like), and just write the thesis. After all, I’ve been accepted at another conference, I’ve had one paper published, have another two in the pipeline, and have still managed to do some thesis work all while I’ve been pressing pause.

I think this should remind me that while I’ve been rejected (and painfully as I really wanted to be accepted and had found a really like minded, yet not, potential supervisor, who would have been great), I am actually okay. I can do research. I can write. And I’ve done all this while not being involved at the University of Canberra at all.

I now un-press pause and will get to work. After all I owe Steph at University of Adelaide some slides for our conference workshop!

Living the nightmare of perception

It is evident in my last few posts I’ve really not been working on my thesis enough and this week I worked out why. Unfortunately I didn’t come to a mature, reasoned position. It came to me while basically throwing a tantrum. Truth often appears in anger, and boy did it this week!

It turns out I really hate the way I am treated as a student. I’ve complained about part time before (Colloquium Write Up – July 2017 and Back in the saddle – apparently) well I’m going to complain again. It is just awful. All support and training events are held in work time slots so I can never go. It is really isolating and depressing. Especially when only a couple of months ago I attended a focus group (where only two people turned up) asking what support HDR students needed and Paula and I both stated how much part time students, or student with work commitments, needed events on after hours.

Additionally, in my last post when I expressed the idea of support and how it’s a complex thing and I wasn’t sure why students and academics seemed to be not supporting one another as much as I think they could (How’s it going?) two things happened.

  1. A friend on FB posted a response I thought was a little loaded in language as he’d called the 3MT “an embarrassing gimmick” and when I pointed this out he became so incensed he has de-friended me and removed the conversation we were having. See, I thought it was a conversation about the use of language, he thought it was about being attacked.
  2. Coincidentally, there came a barrage of advertising through email and twitter about me going to support members of the faulty competing in the pitch for funds. This made me a little annoyed as the 3MT had not been advertised or supported by the faculty.

Both of these events are about perception. I perceived the advertising as negative because “why didn’t the 3MT get the same support Wha!” (yes I know this a petty and childish perception, but it was my perception) and I perceived a conversation, a debate on FB, not a range of personal attacks.

All of this leads me to this week and how I’m sick of how I’m treated as a student. It’s about perception. I perceive the university doesn’t actually support my research. I research about how bad universities are these days, how it’s all about the money, and then I live it. I am not ever going to make money for the university and I’m costing them as a part time student because I want things out of hours and this costs more, so resources cannot be wasted on me. Worse, my perception of what personal support looks like from a supervisor is totally different to the perception of my supervisor. Although this has occurred before (It’s all about perspective) he and I never really addressed how to engage with one another as people and this week at a meeting I realised it was never going to work. It’s not his fault, it’s not mine. It just is.

We are two different people who are quite simply too different in how we engage with others. This leads to meetings where I feel stupid and he feels like progress has occurred. Progress has not happened from my perspective for twelve months. I am no further this time this year than I was this time last year except I really like Natalie at the House of Representatives.

This is why I’m living the nightmare. I’m living what I research – students are treated well when they make you money and treated badly when they don’t – and I’m living the PhD nightmare – the unproductive supervisor relationship.

All of this leads to ‘what now?’. Well, change. That’s where it leads. I have done some investigation on how to change universities. Everywhere else may be just as bad, but I think I’d like to try a different devil because the one I know is just too hard.

One amazing outcome from my tantrum, was someone gave me their perspective on the situation, “It can’t be all bad” and he was right. Being a sessional tutor at my university, and its college, is amazing. I am supported in my teaching, in the administrative process to get paid, the way I can get access to various sources and generally I have had the honour to work with some incredibly intuitive academics.  They are intuitive because they sense when the students need more or less support and because they alter their teaching approaches based on success or failure, not just year to year but moment to moment in tutorials. I am so lucky to have worked and currently work, with these people.

Well, at least that’s my perception. Their perception may be something entirely different.

Walking a different path

Won’t lie, it’s been a tough couple of weeks. But this morning, in the shower, there was clarity. (Often is – not sure why showers are good thinking time, but they totally are!)

People do PhD’s to become academics. To show the world their smarts. The issue in my research I am finding is the ‘dumbing down’ of all levels of academia so a PhD is no longer really showing your smarts, it really is just a gateway piece of paper to be an academic. So that means anyone gets in now. And recently that has annoyed me as I feel like I’m working so hard, and all I really needed to do was become a favourite of faculty management. Apparently they would have enrolled me, regardless of my ability, and would no doubt support me in such an active fashion I couldn’t possibly fail. This annoys me because it devalues my work.

Then I thought, no. People like that aren’t going to have the full experience of the PhD because they are people who always take the easy road. They aren’t going to grasp the full details or implications of their research. They are going to do what they have to and take the piece of paper, the prize at the end. They are not a giver to society now, and they won’t be a giver just because they have a PhD.

You see, for me a PhD is about giving. Research is how we advance society and my PhD is about trying to address issues in university education. I won’t be an academic (they work way too hard). But I will have a license to publish more research. I will have a piece of paper to show the world I’m allowed to be out there with my position on a topic. I want to give in a way that people might just listen, rather than me just being another person with an opinion.

I had dinner with two academics last week and the conversation we could have about society, and concepts, and how their own research changes them and others in unexpected ways. That’s what givers can do. They can change the world.

So, I need to let go of what I think about other people. I need to let go of a concept of ‘value’ in the work I do and how it compares to that of others. I just need to work, do my thesis my way, show what the research shows in a way my dad can understand, and then keep researching and writing, so maybe I can change the world – just a little.

The sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists are welcome to their ‘take’ attitude. I walk a different path.

Silence is not golden – but maybe the end is shiny

It’s been a very long time since I posted and that’s not a great sign. In fact even that post was depressing too. This is a really handy insight into my journey and I’m really glad it’s here to remind me how bad it’s been for so long. Of course bad is relative – I’m not starving, I’m not homeless and I’m warm (I currently have two heaters running). Bad for my thesis has been no writing in almost two months and total frustration with theory (again).

There’s the summary, now what’s the detail? Well, as can be seen in my last post the literature review was not ideal. Of course what happened was I sucked it up and gave it to my supervisors anyway because horrible feedback is better than nothing, and is considerably better than me sulking in a hole about how awful it is. Turns out, both supervisors weren’t too unhappy. They aren’t in love with it or anything, but they had constructive feedback and there was no suggestion of binning the whole lot. What did this teach me? Well, that maybe my bad is not the same as everyone else’s.

Other detail is David trying really hard to get me to write the theory and methodology chapters. He has given me structure, he has given me word limits for the structure, he has given me reading resources, he has guided, cajoled, prodded, advised, humoured and been patient. I repaid all this with an email to him expressing frustration and anger and stating how I was going to do what I was going to do and then we would talk about it.

Something amazing happened. As soon as I sent that email I started writing. A lot. And it wasn’t dreadful. I mean let’s not get delusion here, there’s still a very long way to go, but at least I can write about theory now without wanting to vomit. (That’s serious there people – theory made me actually want to throw up every time I tried to write.) My plan is to write as much as I can (with references and everything!) and then provide it to David so he can see my vision of theory rather than more conversations of me trying to explain what I mean, failing, getting frustrated and sulking.

The other amazing thing is back in July I met with Leo on our next collaboration and I promised him a proposal by the end of July. That didn’t happen and the guilt has been building. Today, I got it together, did the data analysis I needed to in order to draft the proposal and then drafted. It’s now with Leo for comment. I can see the next article in what I’ve written and more interestingly, the theory was also completely clear to me. I can see how discourse theory works in this next paper and how I would write it up. And so while the silence of the last two months has not been golden (teary, frustrated, complicated – but not golden) I think the results to come from the silence might just be a little shiny.