Christmas Break-ing

There is no explanation for what has happened in the last three or four days.  I can only describe it as mission creep.  I haven’t been able to do much on the literature review, nor for that matter on anything else.  Apart from visiting family and friends for Christmas, I have done very little else.  My drive is no longer there, not even for exercise or photography (exactly… something is not right!).  I was laughing at myself when even the TV remained off as I sat reading the evening paper in the living room.

I guess I need to see my wife and kids and have a ‘normal’ few days to recharge.  I’ll still have to do some work in the evenings but I need to catch up with them.  This has probably been the longest I’ve been away from them- matched only by the summer breaks which are altogether very different.  Anyway – I will have five days back home to breathe a little; then back here on the first day of the new year to make a final push to the mid-January deadline.

Week Six

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).

Week Four

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.

‘Much improved’ but why the change?

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.