Monday, 30 June 2014


The third in an alphabetical series of blog posts: A-Z: An alphabetical journal through the doctoral experience. 

Very early on in my PhD 'career' I attended my first interdisciplinary doctoral seminar.  The rather glamorous academic facilitating it invited all participants to introduce themselves and their research topic before the discussion got started. I remember my jaw metaphorically dropping as as my fellow students rattled off their topics - not only because the terrifying way in which they rattled off complex theoretical perspectives without blinking, but also because at least half of the topics seemed deeply obscure.  Who in their right mind would self-fund a part-time doctorate in 5th century Chinese ceramics?  In comparison, my own research - on the retention of part-time students in English universities - seemed utterly prosaic. Did I imagine it, or did the facilitator raise one immaculately plucked eyebrow as I stammered out my research title? 

Currency.  Something bang up to date?  My research seems pretty damn current to me.  In fact, at times, this doctoral project feels like standing on a railway platform being buffeted by the windy blast of a non-stopping train! Events unfold so fast, my research already feels historical. Criteria used to select research participants is out of date by the time I arrive to interview them. On the one hand, it's rewarding to be so intimately involved with a topic that's in the news, in social media ... on the other hand it's frustrating to have to metaphorically turn away from that railway platform and freeze a moment in time in order to get the thing written. On the other hand (that's three hands...!) two years in, I now understand how your topic, whatever it is, part-time student retention or 5th century Chinese ceramics - winds itself tightly around you and octopus-like, reaches tentacles into just about every aspect of your life.  

Currency.  Something to barter with?  For all I know, there might be a significant shortage of scholars in ancient pottery.  If part-time students continue to decline at current rates, a doctorate in the intricacies of 5th century Chinese ceramics may prove a damn sight more marketable than one in part-time student retention.  My PhD could turn into ancient history before the train's left the station!  

No comments:

Post a Comment