Standing still

e27541204b3623fe3c281d7b578dadf6PhD research moves in mysterious ways: back, forth, slow, quick, or not at all!

In December 2014, I had my upgrade presentation, chapter submission and interview. Things went well and it was a very intense and interesting experience. Up until I started presenting I was quite sure that my presentation was awful and that my world would come to an end right afterwords. No such thing happened. On the contrary, I received some stimulating questions and a lot if interest from colleagues that made me proud but also optimistic about my research. After that, I had a long deserved break, enjoying chrismas holidays and having fun.

January set the limit of going back to research. That is when all went wrong. More than 3 months now, all of my reading, studying, writing takes me nowhere in terms of academic writing or argumentation as if there is nothing to say. Every day, I wake up telling myself that today is the day I will break through this situation, but actually it’s more like the Groundhog Day, only I am not Biil Murray and I dont tell the weather (not yet at least). In this desperate condition, I decided and sent my wanna-be-chapter draft to my supervisors feeling loads of shame for that piece of naive writing that stands miles apart from an academic text. And the thing is that I still dont know how they can actually help me, since I have not yet decided what it is I am arguing about.So, here I am in my third year, where supposingly I should be doing loads of writing, looking at my screen and notes, wandering what it is I am doing. In my first year of research, I was much more driven, decisive and was writing much more than now. Less knowledge it seems, but much more effective.

Why though sharing this experience with you? Because I think that we -as in early researchers- tend to disclose only the results of our research but hardly discuss the process with other people who are more experienced and might be of help. We exchange views on such topics only in informal gatherings and private discussions between us, as if reavealing in public that at some points you get stuck will mean the end of our acedemic careers. Moreover, I am at the moment far away from my academic environment which means noone to talk it through. So, here I am, saying out loud that I am not going anywhere with my research, hoping that it might motivate me to start over again and take a better shot at it from today, or maybe receive some response from other people being in the same heartbreaking condition.

Until then, enjoy the spring with its sunny weather and blossoming flowers, cause summer is coming up soon.




I want to break free

excusedI Know what you did last summer‘ should not be a film title but rather a PhD quote for researchers who spend their summers writing and studying. Valid for starters and for those at the finishing line. From April up until now I have been writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing a chapter of my thesis. It has been something like 3 days that I have sent it to my supervisors for some comments. Fingers crossed that it won’t have major changes, just a bit of editing.

It is very surprising for me that every time I read that chapter, I think I have to re-write it since I find new things to add or new thoughts and associations. It is the same thing with my major sources. Every time I study them, I find something new that creates new dynamics and makes me question my findings or my previous line of thinking. This is as inspiring as it is troubling. Inspiring in that my research is something shifting that creates a constant interest and reviewing. Troubling in that I will forever remain in this particular chapter and wont proceed to the rest of the thesis and its questions.

My aim was to continue once submitting the chapter, but instead I find myself stuck in the same spot. No energy to walk on further, no mind for further studying, no willingness to proceed…for now. I imagine it is an in-between space that I have to cross but on the other hand, I believe that sometimes it is necessary -although time consuming- to completely stop researching or studying and have sometime for yourself to re-organize and re-start. Or, to put it slightly different I really want to break free! The question then bothering me is how do you disengage without always having in mind that you are far behind, that you have to stick to your schedule and go on working no matter what. At this point any suggestions from fellow PhD researchers will be very much appreciated. What do you do when you have to go on but yet again you also have to take a break? Do you ever actually have a break without thinking about your research or is it to much to ask?

Good luck everyone and hopefully I will get back with some more challenging questions and news.

PhD: what is it all about?

Being on my second year of the PhD,  I am now confident that this is a process much more complex than just researching your own topic and writing about it. It is about participating and/or attending conferences where you can share your research but also listen to everyone else. It is  about remaining in touch with the academic community, its trends, questions, topics, rivalries and debates. It is about joining residencies and exposing yourself. It is about learning to write the academic way, which is sometimes useful -in that it demands precision while inviting critical thought- and others extremely annoying -in that it sometimes deprives texts from being communicative, poetic or more simple in some ways. It is about staying focused at your research no matter what, but at the same time networking to remain in touch with the academia. You learn to support your research, present it, raise questions, raise some more questions, doubt even more and then write about it. It is a process of going back and forth, confused, unsure but yet holding on to some 80.000 words that will be miraculously written at the end. It is tiring, challenging, lonely, exciting and as such it invites frequent mood swings that make you look half crazy to everyone else. Or maybe you are half crazy for doing it, but it doesn’t matter since you have already started.

Good luck everyone!