The past month I have been rather reflective to how I have survived the MPhil/PhD process so far. It has been triggered by a number of things:
- Moving house and inevitably having to clear through those piles of papers and collectables that you ‘put’ for safe keeping but never file away (now in boxes or a collage);
- My pride over a colour coded, A3 printed and formal GANTT chart for June to December 2017;
- A Ted Talk about ‘the surprising habits of original thinkers’ by Adam Grant.
Now, I am definitely not making a statement here, that I am an original thinker or particular an efficient thinker. But, I have come across 3 moments since October 2015 (start of my PhD) where I have presented my thinking in very different ways. I am going to reflect on them one by one, then connect how it gives me confidence for the upcoming final (yes, final) fully funded year of my PhD.
- October 2015 – Collage
A collage right at the beginning of my PhD represents a daunted me who wanted to put down thoughts and ideas about what I wanted my ‘research project’ to look like. But, with a fear of not being good enough or academic enough I grabbed magazines, a glue stick and put together an assortment of arrows.
- September 2016 – Conference Poster
Nearly a year in, I was getting quite cocky and put together my first academic poster to present down at the University of Chichester. This thinking involved my preliminary PhD plan and a lot of loosely connected references. It was the first time I tried to ‘fit’ thinking into something an external reader could understand.
- June 2017 – GANTT Chart
Role into 2017 and in April I passed my RDB2 ‘transfer’ where I had submitted a written piece and presented orally my project to date, then post an interview with an external reviewer I was deemed PhD worthy or not. The Gantt chart represents two months of formally transforming the RDB2 thinking into an actual to do list. More based on time than ideas and something I can use from now til December as a benchmark.
In my reflection this month I realise that I have travelled from abstract thinking (collage), to educated guess thinking (poster), to reality thinking (gantt chart) and demonstrate possibly the most difficult skill of a PhD – progressing from thinking to doing. The Ted Talk discusses the utility of procrastinating and giving space to think, which I certainly have done, as I am 21 months in and now using the F word (finish). I definitely needed the earlier thinking stages to progress through to doing.
Why is this useful for anyone other than me and my brain?! It is useful to any other research student that has the normal and frequent fear of… am I thinking enough; am I thinking too much; how and when to present and use such thinking. My answer would be to share and reflect. Everyone does it differently, but the better you know how you think yourself… then surely you can become ‘better’ at it?! Or maybe it is not that mechanical and by Christmas I shall be collaging using magazines again…?!
Rosie Plimmer (Researcher Development Officer, University of Worcester) of course I am also using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework to formally document this!