December 19, 2014
Well… that was a short-lived celebration I fear. I’m back to being confused again after a strangely short and misleading meeting a couple of days ago. It was followed by an email from my first supervisor asking why I’m not involving him. There is clearly a serious communication issue here. I can probably figure it out – but is it really my role to CSI the situation? In any case, I reassured my supervisor that I am doing nothing other than my PhD since the beginning of November, and that my bad communication is unintentional. For God’s sake I’m trying and failing to meet my second supervisor who in theory should be available at least once a week- why on earth would I not involve anyone?
I suggested a joint meeting but with Christmas around the corner, it is not going to happen! It’s back to email with one and, Skype with the other; and back to me wondering if I’m on the right road. At least I’ve found my road so I’m no longer as lost as I was in a couple of months ago. My navigation skills have improved somewhat- so I will push, pull, force, kick and punch my way forward- and hope and pray for the best in the new year.
Frustrating times again- and really missing my wife and children (and cat).
December 8, 2014
A week after my second literature review was submitted, I met my second supervisor yesterday who seemed genuinely impressed, and moved the conversation forward to focusing the research questions and some ideas on methodology. What a feeling! From nothing at all, to something worth discussing over a few weeks. Indeed, what has happened in the last six weeks would have taken that in months if not more if I stayed in Kuwait!
A few suggestions were made about how to direct the literature to the questions and we agreed to meet again a week later. I’m spending this week and next at the Surrey campus- it will be really good to connect and familiarise myself with my institution since I’m here longer than the usual 3-5 days.
December 2, 2014
The feedback on the first chapter is positive (difference between the traditional supervisor and the one with a more modern approach – but that’s expected) and there is clear agreement that it’s a departure from the sad first attempt back in the summer. Of course I always knew it had nothing to do with ability, and I’m glad my supervisors finally know that too. Some amendments have been suggested and I will work on them soon, but that’s not what made today a very difficult day.
The title of the second part of the literature review may suggest a departure from my original research. In many ways it isn’t a departure at all, it’s the autofocus kicking in as I zoom into my particular area. I only shared the work on Saturday (late night at that) and it’s only Tuesday today – so they haven’t yet read it. When I was asked why the change, I explained that the research took me there. In fact it’s the most normal thing to hear that the research focus shifts slightly over time. What I am perhaps not explaining well to them is that the last two months are equivalent to a much longer period, relative to the time I’ve spent studying the subject. It’s a frustrating day because although I feel ready to talk about my research questions and methodology, I need to wait for the second chapter to be read and for it will hopefully bring us all to the same page (no pun intended).
I therefore need to get through this week… Patience is not something I associate with what feels like a race. I know research is more of a marathon than a sprint- but at this stage of my ‘marathon’, I have no option but to sprint to make my final time look somewhat reasonable.
November 30, 2014
I have worked harder and longer on my research in the last three weeks than in the last year put together. The results are clear and I managed to send a re-written chapter two weeks ago, as well as a whole new one (that I started in September) yesterday. This covers 90% of my literature review. I have not seen my supervisors yet but I am meeting them this week which is great news and perfect timing. I just need to maintain the momentum and to start on my methodology this week. Very exciting time.
If you’re reading this because you’re a PhD student, I recommend wasting a little more of your time on phdcomics. It’s always good when we realise we’re not alone…
November 18, 2014
Ok it’s just over a week and I am pleased to have just sent in a revised chapter to my supervisor for his feedback. That’s a proper rewrite of 13,000 words and some 200 references. Now working on the next chapter and hoping to start on my methodology as soon as possible. Waiting to Skype my supervisor as he’s still not back in London and will hopefully be even more clear about how to maximise the next few weeks in London.
Special blessings and a lot of help have come this way from my amazing wife. None of this would be possible without her!
November 14, 2014
It’s day five and I have managed at least nine hours a day since getting here. I should be able to do more considering I have NOTHING else to do. I’ve even managed to get access (via sconul) to a local university library which makes my daily ‘commute’ a 15-minute walk. Yes. There are no excuses. I am fortunate and extremely thankful.
This week I managed to complete the structure of the second part of my theoretical framework (this would have taken me three weeks in Kuwait). I should be able to send my supervisor a draft of the whole thing early next week. He already has the first part (I sent it before I travelled) which he is reviewing and we will discuss soon. Unfortunately, the same weekend I moved to London, he left fora 3-week trip to Canada. It will therefore still be via Skype when we eventually speak again. I hope to see him in person as soon as he returns.
Difficult but exciting time. Difficult because I miss my wife and kids. Difficult because I have left everything for her to manage (as well as helping me with my research). Difficult but necessary. Feels great to take control again.
October 22, 2014
Was a little busy this morning, but I got to test out the theory of doing nine hours with zero waste today. I had seven hours to test and I timed it without a minute wasted with any sort of distractions. No achievement to speak of though! Still learning my way around the process of critical writing … Need to learn and fast. Tomorrow I will have a full nine hours and the timer will stop with any distraction – including my call with my supervisor (on Skype – I’m still in Kuwait).
October 19, 2014
Like it or not, the content of the annual report is mostly a true reflection of the status. Yes… some was out of context, but frankly it has been 30 months and I have only done a year’s work at best. I’m moving to the UK (I am so blessed I have a wife and family who support me – and not just in words) and will be there until I get this situation under control. I will stay until I hand in my confirmation report which has been set to me as a make-or-break target. Not going to be easy nor fun – but I’m remembering now it was never meant to be all fun – some pain is always necessary for anything worth having.
October 17, 2014
It’s probably an unnecessary title but September ended up being slow after a whole month off in August. I am paying the price in October. Just when I’m starting to find my rhythm and the hours in the day, just as I restart communication with my supervisors in a face-to-face meeting on my way to the States. Unfortunately after the first Skype call since July and after talking to my wife about spending daily sessions of uninterrupted six-hour slots, I receive my annual report. Unsatisfactory again but very petty indeed. I agree with its content overall, and with the new set objective – but it’s a punch below the belt considering only last week I was sitting in the same room explaining everything and putting it all into context. Yes it has been 30 months… but with the extensive travel in job-one, switching to part time, and the demanding and somewhat draining job-two, coupled with health problems mid 2013 and a house build project earlier this year, I’ve actually only had a year or so on this research. It annoys me on many levels and demotivates me (so to speak). It also gives me the impression we have a serious breakdown of communication.
August 15, 2014
It’s been refreshing having time to catch up with my wife and kids. We even managed to spend a week in Paris and am now writing these words having had three meetings on Skype with my advisor. I sent an unfinished chapter on Motivation that we will no doubt return to one day. I’ve started the next chapter (headings and chapter plan only for now) and we’re talking about sample size and questionnaires which is great news. Not sure how the next few weeks will be – but I finally feel focussed on the research and am thinking about it from different angles. I’m also ensuring my days are spent as a student and evenings are family-and-me time. Hobbies such as photography and cycling have made a come-back too! Being a student and on holiday is a fun place to be: an important reminder to all those young people who wish their lives away wanting to rush to a working life after graduation.