Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing a thesis research reflection

My supervisor has told me I need to send him a two page 'thought piece'. Something reflective that explores where I'm going and what I've been doing.

It's difficult. Can't I just start writing the damn thesis already? The words 'thought piece' make me shudder a bit on the inside. But, he's guided hundreds of PhD students successfully, so I'm just going to shut-up and do what he says.

So, I'm going to ramble honestly here, then I'm going to extract the sensible parts and gloss it up a bit.

"It's been three months since I officially started and I think I've been doing reasonably well so far. I've written about 6000 words for my literature review, and I think it reads well, but I also feel like I have been mismanaging my time and my resources. I started off with excellent intentions and a good structure, but all of that seems to have fallen by the wayside. My plan was to write a few hundred words each afternoon. I was meant to cite everything properly as I go and document resources to follow up. In the past two weeks I have done none of these things. Fortunately, I know that my few hundred word system works because it was going very well until I stopped. Why did I stop? I got tired. I became fed-up with doing 10 hour days at work and I became jaded and depressed about the world in general.

Tasks for the next three weeks:

I need to decide on a good way of managing my resources so I can find them again.
I don't have a structured way of managing my resources. So far I have been placing downloaded articles in a folder on my computer, and linking them into my "Resources - fulltext" folder in Scrivener. Books and anthologies are only being listed when they become part of the literature review. I do have a folder called "bibliographies", but I haven't made good use of it yet.

There are a few unfinished literature reviews to work on, and I have yet to look at Johnson's General History. I also need to look at a four volume work called "British Piracy in the Golden Age". Incidentally, I can now do so since I have a student card. My photo is appalling. One lens in my glasses is reflecting light, and I'm worried about the time so I look like a one-eyed botoxed witch with a frozen grimace for a smile. Anyway, I also need to order a copy of some resources held at the NLA, and I expect there are quite a few newspapers I'm going to need to obtain as well.

I'd also really like to paint a giant map of the Spanish Main on the wall of my study. It is unlikely to help with my research, but it would certainly be fun. Plus, my geography knowledge is rubbish."

There. That's a decent start.
In other news, the thesis master has also given me the wonderful news that I am on track with my research! In fact, I'm not just on track, I'm ahead of where I should be. Which is marvellous, because I feel like I'm drowning. Too many readings and not enough thesis time. Actually, too many readings, too much library work and no thesis time.

We have meetings every three weeks because it keeps me working. Guilt and expectation are powerful tools. Thesis master calls it the fear of humiliation. Clever man.

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