I have just submitted my first milestone document in the PhD program at my University; a document that took many weeks (months actually) to prepare that I doubt will ever be be looked at!
The document is a compliance step, due 6 months into the program. It is the first of two important milestones along the way to moving from being provisionally accepted into the program as a PhD candidate.
My lodged (and I suspect now filed completely unread) document included a
- basic Research Proposal (which has raised more questions with me than it has answered),
- Gantt Chart of how my PhD journey will look (my I have a lot to do),
- Data Management Plan (I can’t tell you how often the message of back up and safe storage has been rammed home. It’s a message I don’t need having nursed my laptop with a failing hard drive to the end of my Honours Program), and
- minimum resources document (the minimum resources the Uni will provide – generally pretty good including unlimited fast internet access on campus, 24/7 IT support and I think the world’s only steam powered desktop – it’s still running Vista!).
The process while procedural provided me with the opportunity to order my thoughts and get feedback from my supervisors.
The combination of a complete questioning of my approach (by me more than anyone else) and the Gantt Chart was just depressing. Adopting the point of The Thesis Whisperer’s latest post, I have found myself in the Swamp of Sadness, completely stuck and definitely needing a rope to pull me out
Apparently my research question is sensible, however my proposed research method requires some work as does my review of the literature.
Seems that the research method I’d adopted in my Honours Thesis will require considerably more thought for my PhD. Honestly, I’m not surprised as I’d expected it to be queried in my Honours Thesis.
It’s not only my method that needs more thought but also my Literature Review. Although building on my previous research it needs to be around 5 times longer and about 50 times deeper! This was particularly evident as I re-read what I’d written as a first draft of a section on one constructin my Literature Review – definitely met Hemingway’s observation that “The first draft of anything is s**t”. Quite honestly as I re-read it, I was sure it was the worst piece I’d written in my entire life! It is largely unsalvageable.
Feeling about as low as I could get I went back to basics reading up on what Literature Reviews need to look like and then embarked on a complete review of all of the articles I’d read on that construct. Given where I am upto now, I suspect that by Christmas I might have a decent draft of my Literature review as I will need to adopt the same approach for each of my three constructs.
Reading for my Literature review has sent me down rabbit holes from which I thought I’d never emerge! My Supervisor says you read your way through your PhD, if that’s the case it might have more similarities with Alice in Wonderland than I thought!
One thing that was becoming evident from my reading was that my area of research has gaps in it, which is great as it provides me the opportunity to make a contribution (the requirement of a PHD). My concern is that it seems as though the more I read the deeper and darker it gets. I continually find myself asking,where is the link to my research interest? There doesn’t seem to be just a gap, rather it is more of an abyss!
Discussions with my supervisor and study buddy have not necessarily re-assured me. I’m still looking for The Thesis Whisperer’s rope to drag myself up.
My response in recent weeks has been to do what it seems many other PhD students do in this position – to procrastinate, think about recent holidays (ahh Venice Beach), ones to come or perhaps even doing “stuff” that I can pretend is relevant, like writing this post which is loosely relevant to my study (I agree that is a long bow but…).
All the while I know I’m simply putting off the inevitable of just getting on with it!
Source: Abyss image http://quotesgram.com/gaze-into-the-abyss-nietzsche-quotes/