B is for… Beginning #AtoZChallenge

B is for… Beginning

I have been “doing my PhD” for a good while now though I only registered in October 2011. I’m doing it part time and I seem to have been starting it FOR.EV.ER. I came to a realisation about why this is after supervision the other day. It is because whenever I have been pressed to come up with my research question it hasn’t felt right, it doesn’t seem to encompass what I want to explore.

At the moment I am toying with a new idea and it is one that is still sitting comfortably a week or so later and so I hope to move forward with it.

I submitted the abstract below to an internal Post Graduate Researchers’ Conference – it wasn’t accepted as an oral paper (so substitute the word reading for listening) but I will be making it into a poster and I will share on the blog when I’m done. This summarises how I have been feeling about the beginning of the process. It also links to my theme for tomorrow, C is for… Conferences.

Round and Round in Circles and Back to Square One

This autoethnographic account of my early PhD journey (inspired by Taylor 2008) will explore the confusion I have experienced from trying to narrow my research focus on a topic that is so meaningful to me. A PhD is not just about the one research project but is also about training in research (Marshall and Green 2010). It is therefore important to develop skills of analysis and to be able to rationalise decisions made. A sense of frustration can be created by exploring the ‘dark side of the moon’, only to come back to the ‘light side’ again. What is important though is returning from that journey with the acceptance that where I have settled is the right place for me. My account will be subjective, but by sharing, a dialogue will be opened with the experiences and emotions of those listening (Ellis 2004).

Ellis, C., 2004. The Ethnographic I: a methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Marshall, S. and Green, N., 2010. Your PhD Companion. 3rd ed. Oxford: How To Books.

Taylor, J., 2008. An Autoethnographic Exploration of an Occupation: Doing a PhD. British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 71 (5), 176-184.


For me though I think I will still feel as if I am beginning until I am in the data collection process…then, as they say in the vernacular, this shit is going to get real.

If you’ve completed a PhD or are further in the process than me – how did you find beginning? When did it feel real for you? Does the title of my poster-to-be fit with your experience?

Posted on April 2, 2013, in April A-Z Challenge, PhD and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi Kirsty — Nice abstract. These stories do need to be told. So much of this process goes undocumented. New students pick up what they can from the people around them, but it’s so haphazard.

    I did my PhD work kind of haphazardly myself, between 1990 and 1996. (Two schools, with a year off in between them, but I got there.) Now I’m advising a student myself. The details may differ between the humanities and the physical sciences (me: the latter), but “livin’ the life” is very much the same.

    You know about phdcomics.com ? (A very insightful mirror on the grad student life, if there ever was one…)

    • Hi Cygnus – great to hear from someone with experience. You are right that I don’t think it matters what type of PhD you are doing. I have started to connect more with other students at my uni so I don’t feel so alone. Enjoying blogging the process – and that all fits in with autoethnography I guess.
      I’ll share the poster when I’m done.
      I love PhDcomics – have made a Pinterest board dedicated to the ones that ‘speak’ to me – http://pinterest.com/kirstyes/phd-comics/

  1. Pingback: Y is for… Your story too #AtoZChallenge | kirstyes

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