A PhD Student’s Work Is Never Done

This post was going to be a summary of all the things I’ve finished recently, but then my to-do list, which had some lovely ticks on it, suddenly got longer.  Such is life.

First, the good news: this week I finished marking a huge pile of reflective reports and today I finished the first round of Nvivo coding.  Now I don’t have a pile of students’ papers making me feel guilty and all of my notes from the oral histories and autobiographies are assigned to some sort of initial code.  I don’t have to do any marking again for months, but I nonetheless have more than enough to do.

The next stage of coding, for one thing.  I have parts of my notes assigned to nodes such as ‘how did they get on with their parents’ (no question mark, the software doesn’t like it) and ‘did they see their extended family often’ but the multitude of different answers to these questions and others means I’m going to have to sort them into things like (in the case of the extended family question) ‘saw regularly’, ‘didn’t see regularly’, ‘grandparents’, ‘aunts’, etc.  My next board has been arranged for 24th June, and the chapter I’m submitting for it is going to be about how only children (and the control group of sibling children) described their personalities.  Luckily, I’ve already made a start on the secondary coding for this, so rather than just an amorphous mass of people saying/writing different things about themselves, I’ve grouped comments on shyness, being well- or badly-behaved, outgoingness and so forth together already.  I just have to weave the data into something comprehensible.

My research isn’t the only thing I need to write about in the chapter - I also need to discuss my sources and methodology in it.  While I did something along those lines for my literature review many moons ago, it now belongs in this chapter and needs overhauling.  Last week I did this for the autobiography element of the chapter and felt pretty damn good about myself, but I still need to do the same for oral history.  I also think it might be a good plan to read up on personality, and I’m not currently sure where to start with that.

Even though my teaching’s done for the year, the related work isn’t.  I have to reapply for teaching next year, as well as do some reflective writing for my application for a teaching qualification - something I didn’t even know I needed to do so soon until yesterday, as there’s disagreement within my institution as to whether it needs to be done after two full terms of teaching or not.  I don’t mind doing it, and having looked at the form I’m not too worried about filling it in, but it’s another thing to do.  I am pretty organised and flexible, so I can usually fit in surprise extra work, but there’s always an initial moment of flailing when I’m wondering how long it’s going to take and when I’m going to fit it in. 

It doesn’t look like I’m going to get a huge amount done over the next couple of weeks, either, as I’m in London on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, and in Portsmouth for the Social History Society conference for most of the following week.  And that’s another thing - I have to keep finding time to practice my paper for that!  I’m pretty excited about it, though with a few of the sessions, I wish I could split myself into two because it’s so hard to choose which strand’s papers to listen to.  Well, at least my life isn’t dull, right?

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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, editor of web content, haver of PhD

Colchester, UK https://www.draliceviolett.com