PhD Progress

I’ve not blogged for a while, because I’ve been quite busy with my PhD. I’m currently in the middle of data collection, whilst starting the analysis, trying to write things up as I go and doing things to try and get published. It doesn’t sound that much in a list like that, but it’s time consuming anyway. One of the things I have done recently was enter the University poster competition, which I won. Here’s a picture of me looking pleased and confused at the event.

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Photo courtesy of @liedra

It has made me think a lot about the process of doing a PhD. Because it’s very unstructured, you don’t often get formal feedback on how you’re doing. Supervision meetings allow for some feedback, but as nothing is perfect, there will always be suggestions for improvement or other avenues to explore. Entering the poster competition did give me some formal feedback on my ideas, which was really nice. In all my past education, I’ve submitted work regularly and been given a formal mark for it. It’s a way of being able to track progress and see if you’re improving or not. This doesn’t really happen in a PhD, so it can be easy to get a bit lost and not know if the work you’re doing is good enough. The only real progress you see is that you have more words on a page, more data, or quite often, more questions than answers. Actually progressing in the project is the marker of where you are, but not necessarily how you’re doing.

One of the other things I’ve been doing recently is marking undergraduate work. It’s made me think about writing style and drafting and so on. You tend to notice inconsistencies and problems more when looking at a piece of writing as an outsider. When I write I’m often told I don’t make my ideas explicit, this is because I know what I mean, so I think it makes sense. So I might start to formally mark my own work when going through drafts. Normally when I go through drafts I make notes of errors or things that need changing and so on, but I don’t necessarily take a critical eye to it. I think I might start doing that and holding it against an overall “mark scheme” so I can tell if I’m getting to the standard I need. Hopefully that way I’ll get the feedback I’m after and have a better idea of how my work is progressing.

Do any of you have tips for making sure you’re meeting the standard you want? I’d be interested to hear them.

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About Jess Urwin

Lecturer in social work at De Montfort University, youth justice researcher, musician, crafter, constant reader.
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One Response to PhD Progress

  1. Ruka says:

    I have a ‘critical friend’ who looks over my work and makes comments and sometimes rewrites a sentence so I can see how to improve it. I was keeping a spreadsheet of sections and was able to track my daily word count, but when it gets to drafting and crafting, it is very hard to see ‘progress’ so the critical friends and supervisors feedback is invaluable. I was marking students work and it makes me harder on myself because I know what not to do now. I have downloaded a few theses to compare and contrast and now at the stage where I can critique their work in light of my own findings, I think that is one way to know if you are getting somewhere when you can actually start to argue with the other experts in your field. Getting publications peer reviewed by others outside your sphere of influence and they see your work in a totally different way to supervisors and colleagues.

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