No detail of my confirmation viva, nor the destruction I’ve caused to my nerves, would come close to describing the relief I feel today. I am pleased to confirm that I’m through! After a meeting of over an hour followed by an agonising twenty-minute deliberation – whilst my supervisors and I waited outside, I was given some recommendations and informed that I am now a confirmed PhD student. This sounds like zero progress, but this is huge considering I faced being kicked off the programme in October. The letter of my unsatisfactory performance was as recent as January 14th.
What does this mean now? It means with doing the recommendations of the panel (which add about three months work) I can move ahead with the research. I have received a nod from the university for the topic and how I intend to study it. I have successful defended its potential theoretical contribution and (less importantly) its practical. I can move ahead with the empirical work soon. The recommendations are sound and although they will add three months work now, they will save a some time during the analysis stage- so I’m hoping to remain on target for a completion in 2016. Anything beyond that would be financially, psychologically and probably physically no longer feasible.
Today I will just remind myself that I’ve passed, upgraded, transferred, confirmed or whatever the hell anyone wants to call it.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
Yes, it’s April. No, I haven’t submitted anything to my supervisors for review. I met my main supervisor last week who was very concerned. I managed to reassure him but I will need to meet some serious milestones to show (in action not just words) that I am serious. It is shocking how long I have taken on this chapter. I reached 16k and tidied up the content to produce a cleaner 14k version in February. Since then, very little has happened. There are obvious gaps, and I’m hopeful that by the end of this month I will have something decent to call a draft. The time I need for my research is just not there. With all the pressure I put on my time outside work, I am still only able to produce an hour or so a day and a Saturday. This is only possible with disappointed kids, family, friends: often all on the same day.
I am at a cross-road (yes another one) and it looks like a difficult decision has to be made – or has been made. I feel the theoretical side of the research is something I can finally get my head around. The practical side was always clearer. To give up and let this slip out of my hands at this stage, and after some significant investments would be ludicrous.
This is what my supervisor said when I sent him an honest update of my delay – yet again – in getting some serious writing done. I’m so behind, I only found time today to update this blog. January was hectic at work and, with the end-of-year appraisals for my team and bank-wide, it flew like superman shooting to the moon. The truth is: there is time. There is always time. It’s focus and, ironically, motivation, that are lacking. Moving the PhD office to work… didn’t work like I had planned. Interruptions I expected, but deliberately finding a distraction is something I simply need to stop. Even outside the office, I spend way too much time on social media. The latter I’m not sure I want to stop – it provides sanity and contact that I enjoy.
I need to change the perception of my supervisor who was not reassured – despite my nice emails. His most recent reply included not only the title of this post, but also a line that said he found my progress ‘unsatisfactory’. I promised a chapter by the end of February (25th today and I’m just over the halfway mark); and another smaller chapter by the end of March.
Life has a way of planning the unplanned and no matter how much we put in place to create a path, God has a better one that may not always be what we expect. As my first year ended with not much to show, another summer of job change was on the horizon. Holiday plans have been cancelled, and I start a new job mid-May. I’m taking the opportunity to meet friends in London over the weekend and I saw my supervisors earlier today to assure them I’m still around. It looks like the part-time route is the right one since I am simply unable to find the hours every day to justify calling my research full time. At this time I struggle to even call it part-time. I have resigned from my job with Emerson and will be joining a local bank next week.
One of the first things I read – and may have mentioned on this blog – is not to get a job during your PhD. I am now on my second job during the first year! The good news is that my new job will be in the field of Human Resources, which matches my research. There is, thank God, no travel involved – or very little. Compared to today this will hopefully make a significant contribution to my time pool. I have agreed a new timeline with my supervisors for my literature review to be in by end of July (a draft version before if possible), the second half of the literature review (on the subject of Performance Management) by December, and my methodology chapter by June next year.
The more I get involved in this project, the more I realise that an hour here and an hour there (even if they add up to half a day) are not the same as a good chunk of time taken together. I took the opportunity of national day holidays to go to London and be alone with my research. I managed to do a lot of reading before meeting my supervisors.
My review was a little more positive this time, and my next milestone is to hand in a draft literature review about motivation by the end of April. ‘It’s about 500 words a day’ said my first supervisor. Easier said than done with work and travel. It also looks like I will be switching to part time in April. We will make the final call then if I’m still working.
From everything I read and everyone I speak with, this is the chapter that is written last. My supervisor agrees but has asked for it to be the first thing I do in order to set the scene for my research. I agree and it was in my plan for delivery sometime now. It will be a draft – and a weak one at that – but the idea is to ensure I’m starting off on the right foot. I’m meeting my supervisors on Monday and am writing this post instead of writing my chapter which I need to send by tomorrow (or Sunday at the latest). Oh and I’m also watching Wimbledon (Murray vs Tsonga) and am running the British10k in London Sunday morning. Madness!
Update: Miracles are possible… First British man since Fred Perry (1938) has made it to the Wimbledon final.
I mentioned this book before when I came across it in an article in The Guardian’s archives. After reading ‘Authoring a PhD’ I wanted a book that described the process of research and what doing a PhD involves, rather than just writing the thesis. This is without doubt an excellent reference if you’re looking for an overall description of virtually everything. For example, it sheds light on the vagueness associated with words such as ‘originality’ and describes how a ‘Literature Review’ should be made relevant – something I noticed missing in some of the theses I’ve been scanning. Another chapter I found very useful is the one about the relationship with the supervisor(s).
It gets great reviews on Amazon and I agree that it’s an excellent start – and companion – to anyone doing a PhD. I read the older edition (my wife found it among her books from her PhD days). The current one is the fifth and you can find it here and there is a Kindle version too.