This week has seen my first real progress. Although I’ve written a 10,000 word draft of my introduction, that was all very basic information that I’d known from my MA and written about before – definitions and theoretical background. This week I drew the spider diagram I mentioned in my last post – a mishmash of themes and potential chapter headings. From that I’ve constructed a very basic outline for my thesis and drafted a couple of different chapter plans and word-counts that I want to discuss with my supervisor.
I also managed to answer four very basic questions that you really ought to know about your PhD:
What do you want to do?
Why do you want to do it?
What does it offer to academia?
How will you do it?
These seem like simple questions, and on the face of it they are – they’re the things you write about in your proposal, but as I mentioned last week, the proposal is academic posturing that you write purely to wow the admissions board. When you can really answer those questions, when the answers fill your fingers with plans and your mouth with the thick taste of ideas, that’s when you’re really ready to start. I hope so, at least.
So what has it taken for me to get there? Well, some months of panic, but also reading. Lots of reading. They say that the first year of you PhD is only research and I can understand why, but I also think that’s dangerous – you’ll get too bogged down with other people’s ideas – you need to get some of your own down on paper so that they can start to develop rather than stagnate. And then carry on reading.
This week I also joined a ‘google live video hang out’ hosted by five academics on the topic of ‘How to be a successful Digital Academic to Boost your Career’, which was really interesting, especially considering my recent foray into blogging. A recording of the session can be found here, and a blog post summary of the session’s salient points here. The basic take away message was that it pays to network and it pays to get your ideas out there.
While we’re on the topic of technology, I’ll quickly mention the couple of apps I use to help me study:
- Coffitivity and Deep Relax are both ambient noise apps. Coffitivity plays recorded cafe sounds whilst Deep Relax has a number of noises that you can mix and match, my favourite blend is city noise and bird song. Ambient noise has been proven to help concentration, and personally it stops me from talking to myself like a maniac just to fill the silence. I mean, I still talk to myself, but its in a more productive fashion when there’s some background noise.
- Alarmed is what I use to enforce my timetable. It allows you to set a sequence of alarms throughout the day, each is customisable with any number of noises, and you can set them to repeat on certain days of the week. I have one for getting up, one for starting work, one for lunch and the return to work, and one for the end of the day. It stops me from clock-watching and ensures I get enough study-hours in every day. I’ve only just started using it, and to be honest, so far I haven’t entirely succeeded, but as of Monday I plan on being far more disciplined. I’ll let you know how it goes.
My plan for next week is to crack on with research on one of the topics I highlighted in my spider diagrams. I’ve also had an idea for a slightly more academic blog post on the topic of the Amazon drama Transparent that I might post as an extra during the week – I’ll tag it separately though.