Monday, 30 June 2014

The final (PhD) stretch

My lack of posts recently (sorry about that) has been mainly due to all effort going into completing my thesis. As I write this post, at the end of a long list of posts, I am smiling a bit. Not too broadly, you understand, there are Endnote references to drop in and a mock, then actual Viva to do. It feels like I have been doing this thing for ever - but actually, I have made great progress, completing the thesis (pre Viva) in four years part time. Here are a few of the things I have learnt:

My thinking has changed.
I have immersed myself in what at times has seemed like an ocean of ideas, and had to grapple with them, gaining some sort of mastery over them. It is true that you do the work of a PhD in your head, and beyond words on pages my mind has been turning over ideas and relating them. This has caused me to develop larger explanations and understandings of the things I focused my study on. It has caused me to be aware of my own position as a researcher and writer, and to ask questions. Doing this over a sustained period changes your thinking.

I have learnt about writing
Not that you would know that from this blog, but I have changed as a writer. I will go on changing, of course, but perhaps one of the most significant things I have learnt is that I waste lots of words, and I am not trying not to. This is ironic, as I spent quite some time today editing down my thesis so it would fit in the "10% over the maximum word limit" allowance. I have learnt about voice, establishing and sustaining a narrative and so much more. I now love (and can hate) writing, but it is more part of me now.
I have taught myself sociology and philosophy (well, a decent chunk)
Someone should have given me a reality check early on - or perhaps they were decent enough to trust my potential. Either way, apart from some diversionary reading in my first and masters degrees, I have not studied sociology or philosophy. I then decided to work with Paul Ricoeur as my main philosophical influence. I am glad I didn't know how ambitious that was at the start. Going where I needed to meant I had to grapple with words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters I did not understand. Worse than that, in order to understand them, I need to understand the other people's arguments referenced or implied. This has truly stretched me. I know this because I can now pick up even quite complex social theory and philosophy texts and find a way of making sense, and enjoying them. Usually. Unless they are rubbish.

I have made some wonderful connections 
I honestly am amazed by the wonderful set of connections I feel I have with people in real life and through twitter / Google+. I am amazed and proud that I was one of the first four people to start off the #phdchat community on twitter, which has become massive today, connecting research students across the globe and going beyond our original conversations. I look forward to maintaining links, and hopefully meeting some people in real time. Talking with colleagues, and people at conferences has also been great, and I realise I love hearing about others' research. I look forward to supervising my own PhD students, and I love that I will get to start as a second supervisor once I am through.
Challenging and innovating has paid off
To quote the cheesy book - "Feel the fear and do it anyway". I am so pleased that I have mixed things up a little, chosen the uncomfortable, not the easy route, and been forced to do that whilst being rigorous. I love that I have been able to invest into and develop existing skills (such as use of visual methods) and stretch new ones.

Nearly at the end, I am a bit bored of the thesis, as is to be expected, but I look forward to conversations about implications and next steps. Of course, I have written about this in the conclusion, but that is the beginning of a conversation. This may not be my last post in this blog, but I am nearly there. Amazing.