Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Shell shocked

I always come out of supervisions feeling slightly shell shocked and unable to do anything for 24 hours. It is slight consolation that supervisor had the same feelings when she was doing her PhD.
However, my Facebook friends console me.

Informatics Friend: Once you recover, do you find the content was useful and usable?

Me: I do something different as a consequence, so the content is used. But these discussions are so mind challenging that it takes time to use the content.

IF: Being stimulated is good :-)

Psychologist Friend: Know what you mean.

Me: In summer I wrote 5 case studies, and sups said don't structure the thesis with these 5 chapters, rewrite them as four chapters, analysing across cases by addressing four developing ideas. I gave them those 4 chapters last week, but they don't like it done cross-case like that and they want a different structure - more like the first effort.

IF: Which I hope you've got saved somewhere.

Successful OUBS Phd Friend: That is so annoying. Don't they realise you haven't got endless time to indulge their whims!

Me: And the final comment was, "you don't seem to be making much progress". So I don't think I'll be able to submit before Christmas

IF: Which do you think is the better structure? Would there be any value in just outlining it and trying to get some quick reactions rather than going through the pain of writing several chapters to have them 'not liked' again?

I know all this is ahead of me, but I guess there is something in this around who actually owns your thesis and the structure of it - and whether you are happy with changing/conflicting advice.

Good luck!

Me: Outlining is what we discussed, now I have to implement it. I can see where they're coming from, but until I'd written it this way, they, none of us could have seen that it wasn't going to work. Now, it's clear that it doesn't read well that way, so I have to write it another way, and just slightly different from what I did in summer. The slight difference also means that it will integrate more with the methodology, and lead to the conclusion. I see them every four or five weeks, which gives me 3-4 weeks to get stuff to them, then they're very good at reading and commenting. Their changing/conflicting advice is because they're moving on in their understanding of my research as I write it - and I do write and give them stuff, which is why I'm upset by the comment about my progress as if I weren't working.

IF: If they could have said something like - it must feel as if you are not making much progress, but actually it is because of all the work you have done that the way ahead is becoming clearer...

I guess they were wanting to encourage and empathise but it came out all wrong - lessons in this for all of us who try to mentor, tutor or teach!

Are you able to edit your previous work rather than having a major re-write - and are there other chapters you can work on in parallel to draw out that integration?

Me: Oh yes, IF- that's the way it could have been said. It's a major edit rather than a major rewrite because I've written it all before, and filed discards in a discard folder. What will take time is editing the drawings that I use to show the thread through the thesis. So it's like
  • in spring I had skeins of wool and didn't know what I was going to knit,
  • by summer I'd started on a pullover,
  • but in autumn, now I realise it should be a cardigan, and the sleeves are too short, so I have the right colours and know what who has to fit, but need to unpick, redesign and knit more.
PF: Yes, you need to look at the positives and try not to worry about the negative. You have made progress - you've started knitting and now you have a better idea of the final garment

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