When I initially signed on to do my PhD, one of the things I most wanted to do was include a survey in the project. I’ve been almost exclusively trained as a qualitative researcher but felt, and continue to feel, that it’s important to learn new skills, skills that might actually help position me as a social scientist that someone might one day want to hire – what a thought! The real value of the method to the actual project was always going to be limited, but hey, you can’t let one conceptual question dictate everything.
But, today I reached a point where I actually had to acknowledge that the survey would not only have almost no benefit to my broader study, but that the emotional and financial costs mean that its probably not worth it. Over the last few days, since some #RealTalk from my supervisor, tears have been shed; pros and cons lists created, scrapped, more honestly recreated; a detailed flow chart of ‘to do if’ drawn up. But the reality is, you don’t need to be bound to your initial research plans. Especially if you’re not tied up in specific fundings terms and conditions, which I’m not, and if, as the initial research starts to come in, it becomes clearer that something different is required. If you want to be a good researcher, you have to respond to what you find along the way and acknowledge when your best laid plans are actually not going to work.
Wholly scrapping the plans for the survey and rethinking the project, how to move forward etc., will take a few days – there are several to do lists, timelines, and goals which need to be recreated – but deciding that it’s something which needs to be done has actually left me feeling quite liberated. It’s left some space for new ideas and plans. Space which will soon be filled with new stresses. But new stresses which will hopefully be more satisfying and productive to explore.
I (finally!) presented my PhD proposal last week. After two or three delays I couldn’t wait to get it out of the way.
Let’s be clear, the actual presentation is only the second step in the proposal submission process. Write*; Present; Re-write; Submit; Cry over comments from readers; Rewrite; Submit; Pray. Nevertheless, it feels like a massive achievement, and it was good to present it and get constructive feedback. And by that I mean feedback which didn’t fundamentally question the relevance or theoretical underpinnings of the project. Because, let’s face it, no one EVER what’s that kind of feedback.
In celebration of this step (albeit only one of many), here is a picture of me just prior to presenting**
*this obviously involves multiple writings
**picture courtesy of Dave Francis’ amazing artistic skills
‘Write blog post’ has been on my to do list for the last month. But let’s face it, any to do list has a hierarchy, and ‘write blog post’ has a tendency to fall below ‘actually go to gym this week’ and ‘PROPOSAL’. Yup, that’s right, I’ve been writing my proposal.
Proposals are written for almost any research project. They outline the need for the research and what the research will entail. It seems that as you get more established as a researcher, you can just put together a couple of pages and reference yourself a bunch of times. Not so as the lowly grad student.
The most exciting/ulcer inducing part is then coming up with a title. Why? Mainly because I spend too much time on lolmythesis.com and have developed complete imposter syndrome around this. But also because I’m a goddamn researcher, not some creative genius. Ask me to write a sentence with 100 words it in, and I’ll write you a sentence that (after you’ve read it three times) makes sense. Ask me to write a clever title and I will most probably reference something which occurred in 2007, pat myself on the back for being ‘topical’, and try and include a rhyme.
My time on thesis title sites (of which there are many) has taught me that there are three essential components to a title:
- Something snappy – most often, in academia, this means alliteration;
- A colon – an essential punctuation mark; and
- An explanation
And so, I present:
The proposal writing itself is still underway. But can currently be best summed up by this gif: