Conquering the Home Office: Some Things to Keep in Mind

Even before we all had to start taking measures against the spread of COVID-19, I pretty much worked from home full-time. As much as I enjoy working in various libraries and cafes, it is not always feasible for me given that my research can sometimes require watching films side by side multiple times a day. It’s not really quiet work, involving things like listening to clips of scores as loud as possible to isolate instrumentation. So, I find myself for the most part working from my apartment where I have all the things I need, but sometimes, not a lot of company. Graduate work, whether masters or PhD level research work, can be an intensely isolating process that becomes especially compounded if you work primarily from home. However, after three years of building my little media-infused work bubble, I’ve come up with some things that help me maintain focus, break up the monotony and develop healthy work habits.

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The Power of the Felt Tip: Drawing My Way Through the PhD Process

It can be really hard to feel like you are good at anything when doing a PhD, and so when I heard the advice to do something you are good at to keep you sane during the process, I knew mine was drawing. Having used drawing in my role as child psychologist and a conference illustrator, I wanted to use drawing in my research with Colombian children with disabilities. What I hadn’t expected was that drawing would also become central to my own journey through the process. Not only did it help me navigate the ‘should I quit my PhD?’ moment, but it also helped me clarify, and communicate, my research proposal. This blog tells my story before giving some practical steps for building your own creative talents (yes, you have them) and inspiration for how you might illustrate your final thesis.

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The Importance of Saying ‘Yes’ in Ethnographic Research

To prepare for ethnographic research, doctoral candidates learn a diverse set of skills. From observational techniques to critical discourse analysis, we study the best methodologies to engage in fieldwork studies and document the experience. I’ve taken many classes and read countless guides on best quantitative and qualitative practices, many of which I employ on a daily basis here in China, where I am conducting ethnographic research for ten months. Although I have studied, lived, and worked in China in the past, this is my first time in this country in a new role: researcher. I’m now learning to navigate the fine lines between asking questions vs. interrogating, observing vs. staring, and not being nosy despite trying to be invited to everything. Appropriately conducting oneself as a researcher takes a significant amount of cultural knowledge, aplomb, and to be honest, trial and error. Of all the skills I have studied, practiced, and employed, there is one skill that has provided far more opportunities and data than any of the prescribed methodological practices: always saying ‘yes.’

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Feeling secure in myself within my reality

The PhD journey is also not always fair or objective.Some people have money, some people have creativity, some have great social support, some have romance, some have their family around, some have familiarity with British society, some don’t look like outsiders, some never have problems with their supervisors, some have charisma, some have native English, some have peace, and some have good health.It is not fair, but everyone has something valuable.

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Succeeding at Writing a Theoretical PhD Thesis

My dissertation contains no interview or survey data, even though I was a journalist and should be good at interviewing. This option – a theoretical study – appeared to be a relatively rare one among my PhD colleagues. It certainly has its own perks: you don’t need to worry about travel plans and other fieldwork problems, and your friends will probably be jealous of you, because to them you are just sitting in a library all day.

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