Hello! I am seven days post conference in (very) sunny Seville and am right back into the swing of things. I was once again reminded during my week away of the importance of stepping out of routine and day-to-day life once in a while to get inspiration and creative juices flowing. And talking of creative juices, that’s what I want to talk to you about today.
We all have times in our lives when things just suck. When things aren’t going quite as we would have hoped personally and yet we still have a job to do – we still have to get our PhD’s. The pressure of this can become exceedingly clear when personal issues crop up and it can add to the difficulties we are facing.Sometimes we can do things to overcome the hard times, sometimes it’s just a case of making the ride a little gentler. Rather than burying our heads in the sand, which can be oh so tempting, there are ways we can make life easier for ourselves. There are steps we can take and things we can do that enable us to feel supported, and most importantly, to take the pressure off whilst we find our feet again. It is inevitable that during the course of a three-year PhD personal issues will come along, but they don’t have to mean the end of your doctoral pursuit and in fact, could help you find a new way of doing things that will help you in the future. Here are some of the things that help me when things suck.
It was around this time two years ago that I had (finally!) submitted my PhD research proposal and applied for both a position and ESRC funding here at the University of Bath. The six weeks following the application date were a bit nerve-wracking to say the least, but that period of time confirmed my strong desire to do a PhD. I got the email to confirm an interview that took place on March 23rd, and I found out I had been successful in my application the next day.
Interviews for PhD positions and funding tend to take place around this time of year, but positions can come up at any time. It felt fitting though, whilst I was reflecting on the process two years ago to share some tips regarding the interview.
My UCAS personal statement began:
“We are all different, it is the one thing we have in common”
*Cringe*. It is so incredibly cliché, but like most clichés, it’s also very true. The last few years in academia I have become aware of a number of differences that at first made me feel a bit like an alien, or at least someone on the sidelines that perhaps didn’t ‘fit in’. And that is exactly true, I didn’t ‘fit in’ to the ‘typical’ and I’ve learnt that is perfectly ok, and I’ve actually come to love it.
I’ve done a lot of personal work on the self-care front over the last few years and am experiencing the benefits of doing so. In fact, my lack of blogging over the last few weeks are simply down to needing some time to myself. However a recent experience got me thinking about other areas of my life where self-care might be lacking. In particular, the area of conducting research and having contact with participants.
Ethical guidelines and standards aim to ensure that participants are protected during the research process, but can the same be said for the researcher themselves? The researcher is coming into contact with other people, and in some instances, particularly psychology, some really sensitive and emotive topics might be covered.
When I was developing my ethics proposal I thought a lot about reducing any possible distress for my participants and making sure that I did not cause any harm. I did think of myself in amongst this ethical application, but on a very matter of fact physical level. My recent experience has made me consider other factors, mental and emotional, that perhaps need to be taken into account. As a result of all this thinking and considering, I’ve developed myself a bit of a tool kit which will hopefully help me in the future to manage any potentially difficult situations in the moment and afterwards.
For the first part of my PhD my supervisor and I agreed that it would be good to do a systematic review, after identifying that the research area I am studying was in dire need of one. I have mentioned the systematic review I conducted in a previous post, and that it took me quite some time, during which I felt very unmotivated and somewhat ran out of steam. However – once I had recharged my batteries and rekindled some enthusiasm, I got right back on that Systematic Review train and got it finished. And I can honestly say, I am really glad I did it. It has provided me with not only the knowledge and experience of conducting a review, but has also helped massively in terms of situating my own research within a body of literature that already exists.
If you are considering conducting a systematic review, or are about to embark on one, read on to find out more about my process and some of my top tips. These may also be helpful for carrying out a general literature review too.
Those who know me will most likely know that my PhD research is focussed on studying a factor called stress. Something that we have probably all had a taste of. But when we talk about stress we are often referring to a psychological state and rarely are the physiological aspects of stress considered. Many people have heard of the fight or flight (and more recently considered, fright/freeze) response, and when provided with the classic saber tooth tiger analogy they can somewhat appreciate the possible benefits of stress. In that situation it is quite simply survival. But at what point does stress become too much? At what point does stress go from friend, to foe?