Monday, August 27, 2012

In the first week...

Before I started my enrolment, I spent some time reading ‘around’ what I was about to embark on. Much of the time during my honours year I felt as thought I didn’t know what was going on. Sure, I went to my classes, I knew what and when the assessments were but there were plenty of things that I felt very out-of-touch with and I wanted to try to be fore-warned and fore-armed for this academic adventure.

One of the things I did was start reading a blog called “The Thesis Whisperer” by Dr Inger Mewburn. “5 things to do in your first week” caught my attention so today’s post is a reply, of sorts, to Dr Inger’s post. The subheadings are Inger’s 5 suggestions.

1)   Get thee to Facebook (even if you hate it)
I was already all over this one! Yay, big tick. I’m an awesome student. Except for the fact that I’m pretty sure posting pictures of my dogs; checking in when I’m at the Dumpling House; and commenting on photos of friends' babies or their latest love life dilemmas wasn’t exactly what Inger meant. I was initially concerned this time wasting aspect of facebook, might hamper my ability to actually get any study done. I have an ex-student who, during VCE exam time, logged in & had her mother change her facebook password for her so she couldn’t waste time when she should be studying. I was thinking this was a tactic I might need to employ but so far my facebooking time has been kept under control by simply being busy.

What Inger was actually referring to was the opportunity for support to be found on social networking sites so I’ve joined the Deakin HDR group and might get on facebook later and see if I can find any groups dedicated to Creative Practice Research. Inger is also a proponent of Twitter so I’ve re-activated myself in that arena as well in order to follow a number of research- & PhD-related hashtags.

2)   Make friends with administrators
Although in recent times (not counting my undergraduate degree which I began more than 20 years ago on campus) I have completed a number of years of study with Deakin, it has all been as an off-campus student. What this means is, although I developed a rapport with my immediate lecturer, I knew very little about who the administrators were or who to contact if I had any problems (blissfully, I had very few).

So, in an effort to follow suggestion number 2, I’ve started a list of appropriate people’s names and roles. Like I said, being off-campus makes it a bit tricky but I plan to go & introduce myself when I go in for induction in a couple of weeks. Maybe I just get half a tick for this one.

3)   Do a library tour and make an appointment with your Liaison librarian
I haven’t done this just yet. (Big black cross!) But I am going along to my induction session on the 10th of September and tonight’s homework is to suss out when the library sessions are.

4)   Crank up that software.
I think I have all the software that I need but I need to become a bit more au fait with using it, I have my eye on an Endnote session at the library which might help me to wrap my head around this particular software. I learnt about it during honours but I didn’t use it, in fact, I tended to keep my reference information on paper. (Nothing like kickin’ it old school.)

I’ve also checked out a few apps that might come in handy. I’ve downloaded ‘MyBib’ for managing references and reading lists and ‘Mendeley’ for keeping track of PDF versions of articles. Both of which I’ve already found pretty useful.

5)   Don’t panic
Ummm. I’ve got panicking so down pat that I haven’t necessarily noticed myself panicking (particularly) this week. However, I have been asked to submit my CV for some tutoring work—the whole thought of which leaves me with fairly high levels of angst. (So, big tick for already panicking so much I didn’t notice any extra?)

The other things I’ve done this week included reading plenty & writing down all sorts of other references to find; writing notes & trying to keep them in a manner that’s not going to become unwieldy later on; making use of my own version of the Pomodoro technique; and going to a couple of relevant sessions at the Melbourne Writers festival, the highlight of which was meeting Stephanie Alexander! Now, that reminds me, we need to have dinner…

Monday, August 20, 2012

And they're off!

Today is the first official day of my enrolment so there’s not a great deal to tell so far in terms of what I’ve been up to but I thought I’d share how I got here. I’ve blogged variously about my fascination with education & the different courses I’ve undertaken so let’s not go there again. I've also mentioned that towards the end of my honours year, I went to an information seminar about continuing into a higher degree by research, so this is how it went from there.

Originally, I only toyed with the idea of continuing to study—I knew I’d have the time because I would be recovering from back surgery but I wasn’t sure I had it in me. I had the slightest kernel of an idea of what I wanted to do so I discussed it with the honours co-ordinator who assured me that, compared to some students she talks to, I had quite a well-formed idea of a topic.

I went along to the information session which failed to freak me out (I was reasonably convinced that I’d come home determined that a PhD wasn’t for me.) Everyone was incredibly supportive and encouraging; from current students who were there to give us their take on what it’s really like to academic staff to admin staff. And there was supper—can't go wrong there, really.

At the time, I couldn’t afford to get too enthused about it, though, because I was still trying to finish my honours thesis and submit it. I had to stay focused on the current project rather than letting my head run with new ideas. Once that was out of the way, I started straight immediately on the application for candidature and scholarship (I actually submitted my honours thesis a few days early and was in front of the computer working on my application the next day). The long and the short of it was that I didn’t get a scholarship but I did get offered a position at Deakin. So, here I am.

In all the time I had to get prepared for today, I still didn't manage to clear my desk so, I took over the dining table, just for today (I promise, I'm going to clean my desk tomorrow).

My pseudo-desk first thing this morning...

And the slightly more chaotic evening version.

My exciting news of the day is that last week I developed a timetable for study and today I managed to stick to it using the Pomodoro technique to keep me on track. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow…

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

As it stands ~ one week to the starter’s blocks

When I went to an information session about Higher Degrees by Research towards the end of last year, one of the presenters (a current PhD student nearing completion) gave us a metaphor to show the differences between your honours year and taking on a PhD. He said,
“Honours is a sprint, but a PhD is a marathon.”

I liked his analogy but I guess it makes my running reference in the title a little inaccurate. Never mind, luckily my project has nothing to do with sporting analogies or metaphors.

So, what exactly am I planning for the next three years of my life (aside from a number of unscheduled panic attacks, eating too much chocolate and procrastinating by playing with our dogs or digging in the vegie garden)?

First of all, while I’m setting up intentions, I should make it clear that I do intend to get this done in three years. Just putting it out there, I did say this blog was about being accountable, didn’t I? 

I’m going to be conducting Creative Practice Research which means that I’ll be working in my creative field (writing) in order to discover some truths and new ideas. My research is looking at women as the keepers of culture through recipes, cooking and stories. So, basically, I’ll be writing stories about food! Excellent. I’ll probably have to cook some too, just to really get that deeper understanding of my topic, of course.

I’ll be writing short stories set within a number of different cultural communities. I imagine about six different sets of stories/cultures. Nic (soon-to-be PhD widower) has taken to referring to my project as "the cookbook you're writing" but I guess we all have our fantasies.

The academic component of my thesis will then be an exegesis—a kind of explanatory/elucidatory piece of writing that places my creative work within some kind of theoretical framework and helps to explain its research value. Phew, that sounds… well, scary, quite frankly.

Officially my thesis topic is “Stirring the brew: the power of stories and food.” And my main research question is: How does investigation through the lens of practice-led research into the use of artefacts such as cookbooks bring us to new understandings regarding women & food & their role in maintaining culture?

I'm trying to figure out how to get that all down to 140 characters so that I can post it to the #TweetYrPhD hashtag on Twitter. 

Any suggestions?

So that’s how it stands right now, let’s see where we go from here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The count down to enrolment.

In the lead up to my PhD enrolment I've been trying to prepare by reading some blogs and articles about the process. One of the suggestions that I've read in a number of different places is to blog your PhD progress, so that's what I've decided to do here.

I'm starting this PhD blog for a number of reasons.

1. I want to keep a record of my ideas, thoughts, process and choices that is public and that makes me a bit accountable.

2. I think it's valuable to share my experiences with others on the HDR hunt--the good, the bad and the melancholy.

3. Lastly, I want to have a record of what I've learnt or discovered as evidence of my progress in order to alleviate the inevitable crises-of-confidence I'm bound to have (truth be told, I've had a few already). If I can look back on my posts, I'll be able (in theory) to see how far I've come.

Perhaps there are other reasons too, ones that will only become apparent during the process.

My blog intentions are:

  • to post something (however brief) every week.
  • to be honest and transparent at all times no matter how confronting that might be.
  • to share my own research as well as the tips, hints and links of others.
  • to not panic, just remember to breathe...

Join me on the roller coaster?