Monday, September 24, 2012

Why am I dining on elephant?

Okay, so much for posting something every week as per my original intentions. That didn’t last long, did it? In my defense, I’ve been plagued by a grotty cold and a series of migraines, in between which I’ve been trying to keep a handle on what I need to be doing rather than bothering to think about a blog entry to write.

When I think about it, I should have expected the migraines—they tend to plague me when I’m doing something upon which I’ve placed a high level of importance. I’ve written previously that my teaching career put me under great pressure at times and that I’d hoped I’d be able to manage my stress levels better when working under my own steam but so far I don’t seem to have been highly successful.

I think the reason for this is that my project, as I look at it now, seems so enormous and I feel like I’m getting nowhere. And Time continues to dribble away whether I feel good about it or not. I know the old adage that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. But I’d like to add to that the thoughts of Andy Hunt (whose blog is really about programming but this post is relevant here, and anywhere really) who suggests that this idea may not be sustainable and really we should be asking why we need to eat an elephant in the first place.

So, why am I doing this?
  • I guess the first reason comes down to personal challenge and fulfillment. I never thought I could study for a PhD in the past but my experience of writing an honours thesis seemed to convince me otherwise. I was always a fairly good student but I never thought of myself as particularly ‘clever’, I got good marks by working hard (I’m hoping the same will get me through this).
  • The second reason is that when I am through it, I’ll be able to lecture—the thought of which fills me with dread at the moment the way teaching high school never did but I still think it’s something I’d like to do.
  • Finally, but most importantly, I want to know. I want to know how food preparation and the stories that go with it contribute to a culture; I want to know how collections of short stories might highlight similarities and differences between cultural groups; I want to know how honouring and valuing ‘women’s work’ can make a difference to their place within a society; I just want to know… lots of stuff really.
  • Or maybe it's just this:

Anyway, once you know why & you’re sure you really must eat an elephant, Andy suggests: “…you're going to need  a lot of friends.  Or a lot of Tupperware.” So, here I am again, blogging & reaching out to my friends.

Seconds, anyone?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Induction & Workshops

This post is a couple of days late because I’ve spent the last two days at different induction-type workshops and I wanted to write about them.

Research Services at Deakin offers a range of HDR (Higher Degree by Research) Workshops of varying lengths of which I’ve decided to avail myself. This is in addition to the Faculty-specific “Induction Session” which I’ll be heading to next week—I’ll let you know how that goes since the confirmation email I received today indicated there was to be me and one other HDR candidate in attendance (with sessions run by the Faculty HDR coordinator and two members of staff from the library—3 Deakin staff to two candidates, hardly seems a valuable use of their time.)

But back to the workshops for this week. Monday I trundled down to Burwood for the second part of “Induction” titled ‘life as a research student’ (I missed part 1 called ‘procedures and support’ which I’ll try to catch when they run it again at the end of November.) The presentations covered the skills one can expect to gain by completing a PhD; analogies for the process of undertaking a PhD; and some warnings (like you’ve got 1000 days to write 100,000 words—which if you’re good at maths, doesn’t sound too bad but I’m concerned about the other words you have to write and all the ones you have to read to be able to get out that final 100 per day.) But my favourite thought came from one of the ex-students: that the write up is “like having a bath in broken glass, you know you have to do it but you just don’t want to get in.” I’m not sure that I’ve ever been in a situation where I thought I “had to” take a bath in broken glass but I think I get his point.

Tuesday (was that really only yesterday?) saw me hiking down to Waurn Ponds for “Critical Thinking”. I was to discover that this massive campus (the existence of which I had been previously unaware) was the original Deakin campus back in the days when it was dubbed ‘the super TAFE’. Here's a map so you can see it too. My session was in 'na' building so I had the opportunity to drive all the way through the campus to get there (and then round & round for a while to find a parking spot!)

The critical thinking session was mostly related to developing a Literature Review which will be [one of] the first things on my list. The Lit Review has to be completed as part of my Confirmation of Candidature which has been set for the 14th of June, 2013 (and I’m already nervous). There was a lot of interesting & helpful discussion as well as an opportunity to meet with other HDRs, some new, some not-so-new.

These HDR workshops (although far away) are free and I’m going to try to get to as many as I can. I’ll keep you posted… I’m off to hop in the bath (water, not broken glass!)