Long due update

2 Sep

Well, the idea of starting a blog was a good one, I think! However, my intentions to blog regularly crashed and burned almost immediately! Having been inspired by Wednesday evening #phdchat and a tweet I read today from @timbickteeth , who said “I think, therefore I blog”, it has given me a push to getting blogging! 17th July was my last blog – so quick update from there.

The Health and Media Symposium was brilliant! Although a nervous time, one can never really appreciate the extent of potential development/progress when presenting/attending such events. During a very ‘sticky/challenging’ period in my PhD with changing supervisors half way through – different thoughts/different ideas/different expectations, going to this symposium was the start of a real turning point.  Having been ‘interrogated’ for want of a better word by my new supervisors, for the first time since starting my PhD I had major doubts about my philosophical and methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks (despite finishing data collection); my confidence took a major nose dive; I was reading and reading and getting more confused and  I felt completely isolated.  It was as though someone had taken my whole study and thrown it up in the air and I was powerless as to how and where it landed.  Additional to that, being a member of staff at the University, I also felt incredibly stupid and wondered what on earth my colleagues (who are my new supervisors) must think of me! It was a real struggle and yes, the tears did flow regularly!

However, those very dark few weeks actually turned out to be exactly what I needed (although if anyone had told me that at the time, I’m sure I would have been arrested!).  Normally being fairly shy at such events (really I am!), I made it my mission at this symposium to talk to as many people as I could about their research, which also gave me the opportunity to chat about and critique mine.  Although I usually enjoy presenting my work at seminars and conferences, I was particularly anxious about this one due to everything that was going on with it and of course my confidence issue.  However, I needn’t have worried – the presentation went much better than I imagined and as a result, I had some excellent questions/comments/feedback after (all of which were invaluable).  So armed with lots of new thoughts, I went home, took a week off in the motorhome with the family, and just chilled and reflected.  On returning home, I ignored my transcripts, my data and my analysis and  I did nothing but read and read and read and read some more – scribbling notes/thoughts/assumptions at the same time.  I also went to speak to other researchers outwith my own institution.  By the time I had my next supervision session(only early this week) (I’m sure a new box of tissues was bought in anticipation!), I was crystal clear in my mind why I chose the approaches I did and why I rejected others for the purpose of my study. I was also confident that in actual fact, I didn’t need to ‘fit’ my study into a nice neat already established approach – and that it was ok to be different and novel as long as I could defend it. That is exactly what I did and for the first time in a number of weeks I came away with a big smile on my face and a spring in my step – and supervisors who clearly understood what I was doing and why!

I shall finish up now – but just reflecting on these past few weeks, while they were my first real dark time since starting my PhD (although I am sure there will be more to come!), they were also extremely valuable and very necessary to get to this stage!  It also taught me that taking time out to reflect (as much as it is a very difficult thing to do) – away from the desk, away from the computer and away from books and literature is very, very important.  Anyway, this was just a few words (well a little more than a few word!) about my experiences over the last couple months.  Hope I haven’t depressed you too much! I want to try to blog a little more frequently (even if no one else reads it – it is very therapeutic to get all this written down!). When I return to my transcripts, I would like to blog about my experiences of conducting telephone and face-to-face interviews and focus groups – the challenges I faced and how I addressed them.  Bye for now, Em 🙂

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