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!

Excitement is new!

I’ve had an odd experience over the last couple of weeks, I’ve got lost in my writing. I actually almost missed a tutorial last Tuesday because I was so sucked into my chapter and I hadn’t set the timer for the 25 minutes like normal. All turned out okay but still, it was a new feeling.

Part of the excitement I believe is linked to the data. It’s great to be in the data and seeing the patterns and building my understanding of what I’m actually going to say. It’s also interesting  I’m more able to articulate where I’m going and what I’m actually trying to achieve because I have data.

I was with Michael for breakfast and we were talking about my thesis and I put a sentence together about what it was about and he expressed how that was the first time I’d been able to put something coherent together that sounded like a plausible thesis. His words were kinder than that because he’s nicer than me, but that was the general gist.

I was then having breakfast with Jason (I have a lot of breakfasts out) and mentioned how I think it’s mean to ask people about their thesis until they are in data collection because it’s only then that you actually know what you’re doing. He commented that surely you must know what your thesis is about all the time. I realised then that I didn’t really. I had a gut feeling for where I wanted to go and an idea about how to get there, but until I got my hands on the data I was lost. I was drowning in the concept of research – the theory, the methodology the literature. The data has given me the excitement. It has tethered me to the idea of what I’m trying to achieve.

And what I’m trying to achieve is a shift in the debate on university education. There is so much complaining about university education and the way it is delivered, but the data shows me that what we have is actually what we want. So everyone needs to stop complaining about university education and how bad it is and actually ask, what is the university education we need? So much effort in research and media and people generally is going towards complaining about what we have. If we, as a society, policy makers, academics, education administrators, put that effort into discussing what we need rather than what we have, well, then we might get the university education we both want and need. Until then we’re all just whining. My thesis is showing people there is no value in whining. The data shows us we have what we want. You can’t complain about that!


Now it’s just hard work

Had a meeting with my supervisors on Thursday. In that meeting I signed us all up to a timetable where, in theory, by the end of this year I should have draft one of a full thesis. I say all of us because a thesis, just like research papers done in collaboration, are a team effort. I will be drawing on the expertise of my supervisors to guide my thesis to a point where it can pass muster. I say pass because I want to get C’s. There will be three assessors and each will award a grade from A – D. I used to be aiming for A’s or B’s. Now I just want to pass. It’s not that I don’t want to do better, but it’s more that I just want to get it done. I don’t hate my research, if anything I’m more excited but it now than I have been, but I’m just ready for it to be done. It’s time for me to move onto the life post thesis.

People keep asking me what I’ll do when post-thesis arrives. I will do what I do now. Teach high school a little, tutor at university a little and research a little. I like the combination of work loads and I think they all support one another. But they are all hard work. Just like the next 12 months of life will be. If I want to get this done I have to work. A lot. I have developed a schedule and timetables and booked milestone meetings with my supervisors. This is getting real. The question is, can I actually do it? Only time will tell, and unsubscribing Netflix, that would help.

How do the professionals do it?

Hats off to every academic out there. You are incredible. How you sustain any mental health normality on the roller coaster that is publishing is beyond my understanding. Today it is official. Leo and I made it. From an initial chat in September 2015 we are now a paper in January 2017. I mean I thought the APS was slow, but this has been a mind blowing experience and a roller coaster of emotions.

First the research doesn’t do what you expect (took us three different approaches to the data to get it to work) then there is the writing, editing, clarification, editing, rewriting (and that’s just Leo and I). Then comes the rejection, then the acceptance with edits, then the extra edits and then the publication. I’m tired just writing this.

So, kudos to you academics. You are awe inspiring (awesome).

On a different note, I had a thought last night about my title. I know I get hung up on it (see here and here and here and here and others…..) but for some reason having a title is really important. Anyway, I realised yesterday while doing my literature review for what feels like the 100th time, accounting is about giving an account. An account is like a story, which is a narrative, which is a discourse. This led to a title of:

A critique using accounts of Australian university education from those involved in a Bachelor of Accounting

This won’t be my last title, but I like it. It has a simplicity I’ve been missing and basically says what I’m doing. I want to bring simplicity back, I lost it a bit last year, but it’s mine if I want it. Comments on the title more than welcome! Writing is a lonely business and I’m an extroverted thinker.


Excitement is weird

On 27 March 2016 I submitted my proposal for assessment. Since then I’ve supervisor meetings (two with each) and prepared my presentation speech and slides (and basically finished) and yet all these milestones I normally record here (so I can refer back and so I can prove I did have meetings with my supervisors) I haven’t.

Today, 8 April, I think I’ve worked it out. I’m ready to get going. I’m done with the preparation and I want to get into it. I’ve come to that conclusion because I’m reading Hansard in order to fix an error I’ve found in my proposal (yep already got it wrong!) and as I’m reading Hansard I’ve had to set up Scrivener properly to make sure I’ve got records and I’ve set up my folder for Hansard downloads and that’s made me excited. Not submitting my proposal, not awesome meetings with my supervisors (because they have been!) but the simple act of administration preparing for my real research. I literally have goosebumps. Of course that could because I like being organised and there’s nothing like setting up a new recording system to make me happy, but I also like to think it’s because I can see what I’m going to do.

It’s worth noting at this point two months ago I didn’t know what I was going to do and couldn’t see how to do it ( we all remember the pulling of the February date and my associated guilt – the blog was bad enough, imagine if you knew me in RL). But in a short time the support and care of my supervisors as well as some actual work on my part means I have clarity and can articulate that to others.

This process means I have a new title:

Understanding commodification in university education using the expectations of an undergraduate course in accounting as a case study

I like this title. For the first time I feel comfortable with it. That’s a feeling of excitement. So it’s not milestones like submitting my proposal, it’s little things like administration and titles. Beauty in the little things. Maybe I will make it through this journey!

PS Got knocked back on the journal article, but Leo says we rework a bit and go again! That’s exciting too!

Crying, again, but this time it’s cool!!!!

So, I just got an email saying I am a co-author on a paper submitted to APIRA. I cried because it’s my first foray into the research world and I had the honour and privilege of working with Leo who was kind, and forgiving and because I think the paper is pretty interesting and it’s something I’m proud of.

Even if we aren’t accepted, this is a big milestone for me and it’s just so wonderful! (so naturally I cried….sigh)

Now, back to my edits for my proposal…..ah, the sweet cycle of research.

Trusting to accept

In my life I trust people very easily in that I believe they aren’t lying and I believe they want don’t want to harm others. I’m very bad at trusting others to help me. In fact I have a very dear friend trying to help me to learn to not just accept help when it’s offered but to actively seek help when I need it. He’s trying but it’s a long road and I’m very entrenched in my habits.

My last post was very hopeless, this week my post is hopeful. I was offered help and I’ve taken it.

David came up with a bright idea of how to write. Instead of writing a thesis, write 1000 word essays on set topics. At the time I felt so sad because I’d been reduced to him having to pat me on the head and offer a ‘dumbing down’ of the process. However, instead of ignoring his advice as I really wanted to do because I’m like that, I trusted him. Not only do I have one completed essay of which I’m reasonably satisfied, I’m writing my next one on theory and it turns out I know stuff!

Writing in little grabs that are complete in and of themselves is making feel like I understand rather than getting lost in all the ideas trying to come out at once. It’s nice not to feel stupid.

I would like to thank everyone who posted happy thoughts on FB after my last post, but in particular Bruce. He is an amazing person I trust regularly as I read everything he lends me! (well skim read some and heavily notate others). You are all amazing people and I will try to trust more and ask for help.

Life post a PhD

Theory was going to be my topic today but while getting my notes from Evernote, I saw on FB a friend of mine just graduated with his PhD (looks very flash in the photos) and I remembered the PG session from the APSA conference and thought I’d go into the life post PhD instead.

The PG day of the conference was really interesting. There were presentations from Inger Mewburn; Kerry McCallum; Patrick Dunleavy and others. I’ll be honest, I’m not great at knowing who people are and so I’ll leave it to the great minds who know these amazing people to know what I’m talking about. I know they are amazing because I listened to their presentations. While I didn’t agree with all their points, there were some great insights into the world of academia. This included how to manage your identity online, use of social media and the changing nature of the academic. These days it does help to be a jack of all trades both in abilities and in research too, as cross disciplinary stuff can open doors for employment.

What I found personally interesting is when Kerry asked who was blogging their PhD, in a room of about 100 PhD students (a lot younger than me) I was the only who put up their hand. Now, two things: 1) People are embarrassed to own up to the fact that they blog or 2) I really was the only one…..This seems unlikely in this day and age so maybe 3) They thought she meant who is putting their whole PhD into a blog and so they just misunderstood the question. I have found my blog so useful as a memory trigger I can’t imagine living without it now. And in fact I tried looking for some old documents I know I have somewhere on the system and am struggling. Here – click on a tag and take a trip down memory lane and find some gold I had forgotten.

Patrick’s session was about methodology and was really interesting. He has five forms of scholarship: discovery, integration, application, praxis and bridging. He also talked about triangulation and getting the writing correct. A PhD should be read, so make it readable. What was frightening was his statistics on citation of the humanities. By discipline, the percentage of uncited papers are: Medicine=12% Natural Science=27% Social Science=32 and Humanities=82%. By a leap of logic, this means 82% of humanity research is useless…..surely this can’t be the case. It’s sad regardless.

I should include in this post I met with David on the literature review I’d submitted (see post Sense of Belonging) and the feedback I got was great. He provided really constructive feedback and advice, knowing full well he will never see that content again as I will be fully re-writing based on feedback because it wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t unusable either which was my greatest fear so all is well!

I’ve also lined up today a possible joint paper with an academic I met at the Colloquium. We are exploring the disconnect (or connection) between accounting accreditation and university interpretation as represented in the learning outcomes for the course. It’s only our first chat and we’ve got a bit of thinking to do to see how we move forward and if there are enough legs to this, but it was great to talk discourse analysis in a context other than my thesis and accounting language disconnect with a practitioner in another university. It’s always great to have insights into how other people think.

So, big post – but the next few might be like this as I work my way through the APSA conference content. I’m also feeling good after a productive research day (although I wish Id’ stop finding out how rubbery all the numbers are! One forgets when leaving government how extrapolation occurs to make ‘truth’). I really love my research days and really appreciate the boss who lets me have them. Thanks!

A sense of belonging

Big week……very big. Went to the APSA conference for four days and it just about killed me. It was a huge four days and a lot happened and I think I’m going to be doing some separate blogs on some of the sessions I went to but my brain is still recovering so it may take some time.

The most valuable lesson from the four days was the discovery that I’m not a political scientist. When I went to the accounting sessions I was not surprised I didn’t really belong, but I thought political scientists would be my people. They are not. And the interesting point is I know I’m not an education person either as I work with these people and I know I don’t belong there. So, where do I belong? My cross disciplinary thesis has three disciplines to choose from and yet I don’t belong anywhere.

But then I got to thinking. Maybe it’s not the disciplines I don’t belong in, but academia.

And then I have a day like today. I wrote words I was happy enough to send to my supervisor for comment (and if you’re really desperate you can see my attempt here: Literature Review 2 October 2015 but keep in mind, it’s incomplete and is just me having a go) and I did original research on the finances of universities and on graduate attributes and I got excited because I was learning new things and making steps forward in how these impact on my thesis. Additionally I have someone brave enough to think about doing a joint conference paper with me for next year. Nothing concrete, we’re going to share some ideas and see what happens.

All these things, the writing, the research the thought of collaboration, these are my sense of belonging. I don’t need a discipline. I need to be able to find me in my thesis and where I want my message to go. Someone last night asked me what I was going to do with my thesis. I said “I will create a one pager for policy makers, educators, university management and accountants outlining how important it is for there to be a clear understanding of university education to enable future growth in the accounting profession and society as a whole. But to get to that one page, I have to write many. Because that’s where the evidence will be.” That’s where I belong. In the building of that one page – albeit seven years away.

It’s happened……I like theory

Each Friday I set up my study schedule for the day. I allocate tasks each hour and then stick to the schedule. Very rarely do I alter. I do this because it’s too easy to flit time away going down rabbit holes, or doing the washing….I also do it to make sure I achieve each Friday and feel as though I’m moving forward.

Well, today I was doing some theory work and it happened. I lost track of time. I am actually finding the theory…interesting. A part of me is jumping for joy, the other part wants to cry. Does this mean I’m ‘one of those’ now? I’ve become a theorist? Oh dear….nope, I still haven’t opened Foucault so all good!