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!

And what a week it’s been

Monday is up there as one of the more amazing days of my life. My introductory seminar was amazing. While I thought I was muddling through I got to the end and then the questions showed I’d not actually muddled but had been clear and had made my point well. Then there was discussion in the room about my topic showing just how interesting people find it. And from this discussions have identified issues I need to think about and ideas arose that I hadn’t considered. All in all it was fantastic.

Then afterwards I had people send me further points and questions as well as provide me feedback on my presentation skills just as I had asked! I really am so thankful for everyone who attended and for continuing to push me further.

After that we had a small lunch in the pub. It really was lovely. Diane you’re just wonderful.

Then I went to a two day colloquium with a bunch of academic accountants. I have to say, I was not looking forward to it. After all how exciting can accountants be? Turns out, bloody interesting! There were amazing sessions and amazing discussions with people afterwards. There was a lot of ideas and challenges to my own concepts for my thesis as well as different directions I can now go in. I’m going to need time to digest it all and I think there are likely to be posts coming in the future. That’s how amazing it was. I’m going to think more about it, revisit my notes and then write more about it…..oh god, I like accountants…..

Amazing what you can find

I have been working this morning instead of researching like I’m supposed to be doing. But what is good about this is I found this page again which I haven’t seen in a very long time. “From the cave to the coin” was my working title back then. You know, it’s funny, the title is now “Credentials or Citizenship” which is not really that different. I thought I had come so far but I seem to be going in a circle. This is inspiring!

Inspiring? Really? Not disheartening? No! Because it links nicely with a meeting I had with David this week on my seminar. He asked me why I had 20 slides. I said because I was copying what I had seen from the other HDR sessions. He asked if that’s how I prefer to present and I said I’d prefer no slides at all. We agreed on three. Coming in a circle this way shows me I can trust me more. I am on the right path, I am able to do this, and I can do it my way, rather than following everyone else.

See – inspiring!!!

Critiquing and being critically reviewed

Today has been a big day and as I worked my way through my list I realised a lot has happened that I haven’t blogged and I should. If only to make sure I don’t forget how amazing people are.

So since my last post I’ve had a few meetings.

The first was a catch up with Doug the coach. Really great ideas and conversation about how to build narrative for the thesis and what the actual message is I’ve got to convey. Also interesting conversations in relation to literature reviews as this is constantly my bug bear. Interestingly he asked if I’d mapped out my Introductory Seminar in a mind map. Unlike me I hadn’t. I’d just written it. Based on this excellent advice I have been able to map not just the seminar but also how I plan to do the thesis. Doug critically reviewing my work made me work harder to articulate what I’m doing and where I’m going. This has turned into an amazing leap forward in my own understanding of my thesis.

Then it was a supervisor meeting – actually it was a master class on the ‘posts’ – modernism and structuralism. This was a fantastic meeting. It clarified the reading I had done in this space and gave me a stronger grounding in how post-structuralism is applicable for me. Today I’ve done some more reading and I’m not sure I’m post-structuralism just because I’m exploring how meaning is constructed and then constrains. I’m not sure I’m fully in this space so more thinking and reading to be done. We also talked about how research changes you. This was a valuable insight as the day I was having needed a tether. By that I mean I often feel like I’m at sea in this thesis and people around me are drifting away. The conversation highlighted it’s me that drifts, not them, so I can choose to not drift and actually re-engage.

I shared this view with Sarah – about research changing you – and she agreed. We then discussed how it is a privilege to undertake a PhD and how humbling it is to be in the world of research. Sarah is an amazing academic. She researches across disciplines in really imaginative ways and chatting to her was just wonderful.

I also met with my second supervisor to go through my Introductory Seminar plan. After some frank and fearless discussions we got to a path of clarity. It was amazing. We were talking, exchanging ideas and then all of a sudden my brain switched gears and today I’ve been able to write about the literature in a critical way. I’ve been thinking about it differently and my thesis too and this in turn has led me to the most positive I’ve been about my literature review ever.

I’ve also been to two sessions on the three minute thesis. While these have been interesting I’m not sure there’s been sufficient value for me personally. It comes from having a major in drama I suppose. I’m also concerned about having to put my research into a box that is familiar for everyone just to be heard. But then if you want to be heard, you have to sell the message a way people understand. This is making me think hard. I have decided to do the three minute thesis every year I study. It’s an excellent process of critically reviewing where I am and what I’m thinking about my thesis.

Reading these paragraphs you can see why I have the title for this post I do. I’ve finally moved my head into the space of critiquing others and am learning so much from people critically reviewing me. These meetings all led to an amazing research day today. I’ve got what I think is close to my final content for my Seminar and I’ve also been able to consider weaknesses in the literature I’ve found. Weaknesses my research can help address. Today has been a landmark day. My brain is starting to get it. A long road to go, I know, but it’s comforting to know I’m now strong enough to walk it.



Seriously, who knew??

Today I have a whole day by myself working on my PhD. It’s amazing. This is the first time this has happened. Yes I’ve had weekends and basically spent whole days researching but there was always that hang up that it was a weekend and I really wanted to be doing something else.

Today is different. Today is a work day and I’m working – hard. But it’s my work, not working for the man! Although I have to thank ‘the man’ for giving me research time – so, thanks, man! (You know who you are)

The other amazing thing today is I’m opening old Scrivener files as I’m moving from literature review which is my main file, into other spaces. When I first got Scrivener I set up various files for my thesis as I though I was ready. I was arrogant. I was not. But you know something? It’s amazing seeing where I was and where I am today. It’s exhilarating. Seriously, who knew I would actually have come so far?

Doing a PhD is isolating. You do it alone – really. You have no regular assessment telling you how you’re going, you have no cohort for comparison (and if you do, it’s a slippery slope as each thesis is different so each experience is different and then you’re comparing apple with oranges) and so the only comparison you have is you. Wonderful people have been telling me lately to be confident. Well, you know what, after seeing what I was writing and thinking eight months ago compared to today, I am confident. I am confident in another eight months I will have moved forward again. And this gives me confidence I am doing the right thing at the right time. Yes I’m a bit slower than others, but the nature of my thesis is one of a lot of thought. And who knew? I’ve been thinking! *excited dance*

Now, back to work.