Shut Up and Write

My university along with many others has adopted the concept of “Shut up and Write” where there are designated times that students commit to just writing. It’s a great way to simply get on with it. 

This is something I’ve needed to do in recent weeks. It’s all been a little disjointed lately with too many other things getting in the way of my thesis. In particular my time has been spent dealing with one last work assignment that has involved a considerable amount of time and travel, starting to plan our trip, and marking. However, over the last week I’ve made real progress on my thesis.  Even while traveling it’s been possible to get stuff done. That along with time at Uni, discussions with my supervisor and time at my desk , my thesis is really progressing.

I’ve largely completed my interviews of participants and had most of the interviews transcribed. I have a couple more interviews over the next week or so and then that task will be completed. It’s been a really interesting process made so much better by the locations, topic and the occasional opportunity to sample the product. This was a good topic to pick!


I’ve revisited my Literature Review. I wrote it last year as part of my course work and as a result it has needed to be refined to take account of my topic. I revisited my definitions again yesterday after a mild panic about whether they were still appropriate having regard to my data. The good news is that they seem OK and it should not need a major rewrite to integrate the subject matter of family wine businesses into it.

I’ve also delved into the history of wine. Its roots in The Middle East, the importance of religion and trade to its progress, and in an Australian context its rocky beginnings as early as “The First Fleet”. The decision to focus on family wine businesses has been fascinating.  Such a rich history in far away places as well as in my backyard, with the region I am focussing upon a region located literally 20 minutes from my home. South Australia has a rich wine heritage, however my focus is on a newer region which will hopefully make my research contemporary and relevant. 

With the majority of the interviews completed its been possible to start the data analysis process. This has involved checking and and rereading transcripts, identifying “rich description” and an early focus on potential themes. It’s both daunting and exciting. My research is really starting to take shape.

As well as being enthusiastic about the topic some early and serious discussion about starting my PhD has provided focus and purpose. My Honours Research is like an apprenticeship or a very long job interview. The good news is that my enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be waning. It’s all reinforced the need for me to do well in my Honours so the best opportunities are fully available to me next year.

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Research can be a dark place

In the last few days I’ve seen the pressure that self-directed study and research can put people under. One was someone just a few weeks from submitting their thesis,  the other had just embarked on their PhD. Both just seemed completely overwhelmed by it all. They were in a very dark place.

It made me think what sort of consolation and comfort could I offer? It’s easy to say, just get on with it and write. I said that to one of these people a couple of months ago. It might have been the right answer, however when you are down at the bottom feeling depressed such comments were perceived as a kick in the guts. So what else could I do or say?

On reflection, I think it’s just about being supportive and providing encouragement. It’s not possible to know if they have done enough work, answered their research question or even asked the right question, even if you think you do know. It’s  important to stress that there is no value looking back as this just wastes valuable time and energy, rather encourage them to look forward. Maybe cooking them a meal or even doing their ironing could be a genuine help. Above all else,  just check-in and see if they are OK.

Research can be such a luxurious place if you have the time but when you don’t it or you for some reason lose your perspective it’s just plain horrible!

Footnote: I wrote this post a few weeks ago as a reflection.  It seemed also appropriate for today’s 

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Status Update – the completion of the first month of “What’s Next”

Wow a month down already. Where did I have time for work?

My thesis is now back on track. I’d ignored it over the month of March as I wound out of life at my firm. I then submitted a draft of my Research Design Chapter that my supervisor said just wasn’t OK. I’ve now resubmitted it and got the OK to proceed. My data collection is moving forward with a number of hills wineries now interviewed. I still have a number to do. The interview transcripts are coming back for review and analysis. I have also made a start on my Introduction and Literature Revew a chapters. 

I have continued with my Uni tutoring, have completed one guest lecture in an MBA Program and have been invited to give another. I have also been asked to act as Research Assistant in a new project – that’s exciting! I have also at the advice of my supervisor started to meet with potential supervisors for my PhD which I hope to commence in early 2016,

I have also formalised some advisory opportunities and started to meet with my new clients. That too is very exciting and so rewarding. I am also excited at the discussions I’ve had with people about other opportunities to build new and interesting networks. 

Then there is bike riding. I’ve met my objective of riding to Mt Lofty at least once each week and increased my kilometres significantly. My objective of 2500 kilometers by 30 June may have been a little ambitious but I am getting into the hills more regularly, getting fitter and losing weight.

Then there is the matter of our plans for Italy later in the year. We have settled on an a basic itinerary and are thrilled that each of our children are planning to spend some time with us in Sicily. We still have six months before we leave so plenty of time to plan.

Oh, I have also had a few work commitments to attend too as well.

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Anzac Day


Australia and New Zealand took time to remember those who fell 100 years ago at Gallipoli on Saturday.

I along with about 20,000 others attended the Dawn Service in Adelaide. Hundreds of thousands also attended at other locations elsewhere in Australian and around the world. It wasn’t the first time I’d attended but certainly with so many more people present and it being the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landing it had a little more meaning than usual. 

Anzac Day is quite possibly the most significant day in the Australian calendar, as it signifies the day when to many Australia came of age. As I stood there yesterday listening to the service and the speeches I was taken by the comment made by the service’s MC, a returned serviceman, that it matters not whether you have a view that Anzac Day is jingoistic or one that views with scorn the decision to get involved with a war on the other side of the world or somewhere between, it is simply an opportunity to remember those who have fallen in battle.

For me it’s not a day of celebration but a day of contemplation. To reflect on the sacrifice made willingly by so many for what they considered to be an important cause. It’s also a chance to acknowledge those who have served since and those still serving. It is not in my view appropriate to take  disagreement with the cause out on them but to acknowledge their contribution. 

As I was in my period of reflection I recalled the Vietnam War era, where as a child I recall hearing that returning vets were spat on and jeered at while marching at the Anzac Parade. Even the as a child it seemed wrong that those opposed to the war took it out on them, particularly as so many were conscripted.

Governments make the decisions to enter these wars and those who are in our Armed Forces are called into battle. To me they deserve our admiration and gratitude. They have made Australia a better place for their sacrifice and I for one am grateful.

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So that’s Chapter 3 not done

The last week or so has seen  a concerted effort to get Chapter 3 of my thesis my Research Methodology completed for discussion with my supervisor. I’d reworked and reworked the draft over the last few weeks. I was happy with the general outline and key sections so I emailed it to my Supervisor on the weeekend ready for a meeting on Tuesday.

I’d looked at a number of suggested approaches to writing the Research Methodology chapter and felt I was on track. My reading suggested I needed to tell a story which I thought I’d done. I knew it was too long at about four thousand five hundred words but felt I could bring the words down with some editing.

So off to my meeting I went feeling reasonably comfortable with where I was at. After some general discussion my supervisor got my draft out. A line through most of the first page wasn’t a good start! Bluntly, my supervisor didn’t feel I’d taken the correct approach and it would need to be completely rewritten. 

I’ve said before that I like the critical evaluation process that my study is producing however this time I was feeling decidedly uncomfortable and even a little upset. I gritted my teeth and took the advice on the chin only making some general comments as I listened, all the while, knowing my next couple of weeks would be a refocus on Research Methodology rather than turning my attention to my Literature Review chapter and Data Collection. My supervisor tried to put a positive spin on what I’d written saying it had shown I understood the concepts but that it wasn’t what would be required in my thesis. It wasn’t what the examiners would be expecting to see.

I thanked him for his feedback which I know was well meaning and constructive however for the first time in the last year I felt genuinely down hearted. It was the true realization that I have a very long way to go on this journey.

 My university is about a 25 minute walk from home so plenty of time to reflect. My spirits hadn’t lifted by the time I got home. I’d planned to keep working on it when I got home but couldn’t be bothered. A night infront of the TV was all I felt like before I faced upto the rewrite.

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