Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The PhD reloaded (apologies to Neo)

Summer has seen a dramatic slump in my blogging and Twitter efforts. Partly because we've been dragging our four children round London on holiday (dramatically close to Riots on a couple of days). During that time, I got my feedback from the ethical review process that scrutinised my PhD research proposal. On reflection, the comments are fine and I can deal with the amends, but feedback, any feedback takes you back. Perhaps it is because the PhD process is quite an isolated one, and the moments of dialogue can often be straight to the point! 

I have reached a 'end of year one' (part time) moment where it all seems a bit daunting. This is one of those points at which I have to just push on, because I'm not sure just how I'll read all that literature for example. I am aiming for a point at which I am able to articulate a perspective about my subject, but getting to that point calls for some confidence in putting it 'out there'. 

Most of the time this summer, I've been a tourist, however. Watching fish, sitting in Covent Garden, visiting friends and so on. I did manage to read a book (On the Other Hand, by Chris Cleave). Oh how I wish it was academic, but it was competing with a review of sociological theory. PhD fail.

Moving on. A better focus might be about what's interesting me. Here's a random list to give you an idea, but more importantly to kick me into thinking action:

  • I've got some work to do on my research methods. Specifically, I'm planning to use a form of 'visual mapping' I've developed through my mentoring practice with early years leaders. It's one thing having a plan, but I need a dry run to see if this approach does help people construct their narratives of professional identity.
  • I need to think a little more about symbolic objects. If this sounds strange, it's because in the theoretical perspective I'm using (an adapted form of symbolic interactionism) 'objects' are things recognised and named in our definition of the situation we're in. At the moment, I'm really interested in how individuals 'use' these objects in thinking about themselves. I'm thinking about 'objects' as sort of reference points for thinking about ourselves. 
  • If I get it right I'll be able to relate these two points: I'd like a visual methodology that helps people to think about a) their symbolic reference points (objects) and; b) talk about what they mean to them and how they work with them.
  • I think I need to work out just how I need to adapt 'classic' symbolic interactionist theory. To this point, I've looked at adaptations that allow me to consider a slightly more 'structural' versions which balance the consideration of the individual as 'agentic' (able to act) with consideration of factors that might shape that agency (issues such as power, role position etc).
 So, either this blog post has given you an insight into a particular stage of a part time PhD or it reads like a weird therapy session. At a minimum, it gives me a 'to do' list. Onwards, then.