Friday, January 28, 2011

Week 4 - missing The Archers

I still don't have a date for the next formal assessment, but the lit. review synthesis is making good progress and creeping towards c. 6,000 words, 2,000 of which are absolute final version - yes, indeedy! - fully checked and referenced, and the next part not far behind.  I've been keeping late hours here, cycling home in the dark - and missing the Archers - in the interests of reflective research.

Early next week I'll need to slot the review into the assessment submission, and then maybe I'll take a couple of hours off, before I start looking at my data analysis.

I've been admiring my  good friend E's blog and am starting to realise that there is a useful parallel universe that I can sign up for. I also have another follower - hello Ivan - and have added links to both their blogs.

This has been a busy week with very little time for reflection, starting with a day out to see a retrofit project as part of my paid research work, which  prompted me to think that Out There, people do what they do, and all we do in academia - or at least in PhD land - is surround it with philosophy - but then that's the point of a PhD, I suppose!

Meanwhile, in the real world, I plan to take part in the RSPB Garden Birdwatch - a reason, not an excuse, to sit for a whole hour and do nothing!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Week 3 - mixed reviews!

So, I did my 3 hours on Sunday, did a major tidy up and sorted all my papers. During the week I've re-read maybe 30 papers - about half of them - made brief notes on old-fashioned paper, put some to one side as they were clogging up the process and am currently circling round the new, short synthesis - about 300 words long at the moment. So even though the word count is low, I have cleared the decks and done some serious thinking around the research problem, reaching a state of clarity not previously attained. I still need to get all this down "on paper" and, without a date for the next formal evaluation, I don't have that crucial deadline.

My blog does, however, have 1 lovely follower now - hello, E! So I'm not a billy-no-mates any more and you can hold me to account for my pitiful word count. It will be interesting to see if this makes a difference to next week's reported word count.

 Meanwhile, in the real world, various bulbs are emerging in the garden and I'm off to the Lake District for the weekend for a walking birthday party - hoping for good winter weather!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Week 2 - not a good week

So this week I've been a bit rubbish and now I have to account for my lack of progress - that's the idea of this blog so there's nowhere to hide!

The wheels of academia are in motion for setting a date for my next formal evaluation, and I have one document with front pages, contents list, appendices and ready to go - apart from the literature review which is still in my head. Advice from a learned friend is that reducing text - in my case from a sprawling and incomplete 20,000 words to a tidy 3,000 - doesn't work and I should start again.

So, next week I will come in on Sunday morning for 3 hours and make a start - the pressue is ON!

Meanwhile, in the real world, I have seen The King's Speech and a kingfisher when I was out with the dog.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Week 1 – probably too early to see if this blog works for me!

As an exercise in being accountable to the wider world, this week I have set up this blog and all its various accounts and passwords, had a useful session with my supervisor during which we agreed to arrange a date for my next formal university assessment, and spent a day having (and recovering from) root canal work – ouch!

Next week I will lick my literature review into shape. I have had trouble generating academic quantities of words, and my earlier versions of literature reviews barely scraped 8,000 words. However, the recent trick of writing discrete chunks and then adding them together seems to have worked, so I now have 20,000 words describing a long and aimless wander around my three key points. I also have, in my head, a different review which is relevant, concise, justifies my research and resolves itself with three neat research questions. I need to stop tweaking the details of the 20,000 word review, turn it on its head and pummel it into the review that complements my research – let’s see how I get on!

I will also sort out fonts and formatting for my blog!
Meanwhile, in the real world, we have snowdrop leaves peeping up maybe 1cm in the garden in sunny south Manchester.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

PhD progress - introduction

This heading implies I’m at the start and this is a comprehensive account of my progress towards the Holy Grail of PhD. Sadly it’s more of a kick up the bum for me to account for my PhD-related action in public on a weekly basis as I move towards writing up and then completion. My three year research council funding ran out at the end of September 2010 and, whilst I’m at my desk every weekday, progress is very slow and the act of stating goals and targets, and then assessing movement against them, will help – so my motives are entirely selfish, and if anyone cares to follow my journey over the next few months, then that’s a bonus.
This is my first attempt at a blog of any sort, so it’ll be basic – no links, pictures or bells and whistles, just a truthful account of what I hope to achieve in the next few days, and a weekly update. The act of writing it down should promote a level of self-examination that isn’t happening at the moment – but it mustn’t turn into another work-avoidance technique, so it’ll be a quick Friday lunchtime update, starting on 7th January 2011.
So, best wishes to anyone who's picked this up,