This is the first of the more wordy blog posts I hope to make at least once a week. I think I’ll usually do them on Fridays. I try not to work at the weekend but I thought I’d do this one today so my new blog doesn’t just consist of two photos! If anyone wants to follow me on here, please be aware that I can only follow back on my primary account, which is silly and frivolous so please don’t feel obliged to follow that one too.
The content of these posts will vary from week to week - sometimes I might talk about my recent activities as a PhD, as I am today, other times I might write about a book I’ve read, something I’ve discovered or a project I’m involved in - or anything else I come up with I feel is worth writing about.
Anyway, today was the last week of term (not that that makes any difference when you’re a PhD, it just means campus goes into hibernation). I had a supervisory meeting, a presentation workshop and did some social stuff.
It turns out from the supervisory meeting that my literature review isn’t too bad, which is pleasing - I just need to make some minor corrections, add a bit more context and make it even better by reading some more books - which I’m more than happy to do, taking me up to Christmas. Towards the end of next month, I have my first supervisory board, which I’ve been instructed not to be scared of. I know rationally I have nothing to worry about, but that won’t stop me being a bit nervous!
The presentation workshop was good practice for that. I had to do a five-minute presentation about my research, which the other participants were very complimentary about - but again, I was told to be less nervous. Easier said than done. What really struck me was how interested everyone was in my research - I believe it’s because of the ‘human’ element of it, and the fact everyone knows what an only child is. My MA dissertation on Gender in the Irish Rebellion of 1641 took a little more exploring and was less relevant to people’s lives, so that’s probably why it didn’t quite generate the same level of interest from non-historians. The person running the session recorded us all and sent each person the video of their presentation. From watching mine back, I’m a little more convinced that I can actually do presentations. I was awful at presenting at school and was plagued by difficulties speaking loudly and clearly and I still automatically assume I’m bad at it. In fact, that’s probably what’s made me better - I’ve had to really make an effort to practice my presentations to make sure they’re sufficiently audible. Apart from that, I really didn’t like watching myself very much - my eye was automatically drawn to parts of my appearance I don’t like!
I can’t stress enough the importance of social stuff in the life of a PhD student. You’re always hearing about how isolating it is. Luckily, I get out a lot because of the Literature Society, which I’m vice-president/secretary of, and because my fellow postgrads are a lovely, friendly bunch. On Thursday we had the department Christmas party **and the **staff versus students quiz. Alas, the staff won, but our team came a respectable second. This week, I was also introduced to Vicky Holmes, who did her PhD with my supervisor, and we had a lovely hour-long chat in which she gave me a lot of advice and ideas. I’m particularly looking forward to going to seminars in London where I can learn something new and network with other academics in my field.
My plans for the next few weeks are to get my literature review as good as I can for my supervisory board, work on turning my MA dissertation
into an article, and start looking at Paul Thompson’s oral history transcripts. I’ll take time off for Christmas, of course - though I tend to get very bored in the no-man’s-land between Christmas and New Year so I might do some work then. I’d rather take the time off when I actually have something else to do.