Signup date: 08 Sep 2018 at 5:00pm
Last login: 15 Jul 2019 at 11:40am
Post count: 8
I am reaching the end of my second year of my PhD and have all but completed my empirical data. I am feeling the sense that I am now at the business end of the process but am finding it hard to fully engage with all the information out there. To summarise, I am researching a relatively new area of law that is subject to a lot of NGO campaigning and change (especially as I'm in the UK, so we've got a constant state of limbo with Brexit, which feeds into all this) I feel like I am seeing new reports and stats coming out all the time and while it's all useful and helps with my research, I am feeling overwhelmed with where to start analysing all this stuff and how to prioritise it :(
I'd been getting on really well since the spring, and the empirical data collection feels like it's been useful but now that's reaching its end, I am back to the laptop and spending too much time staring blankly at the screen. I've been given a deadline to write a chapter, and I've managed to write over half of it incorporating information from my data and previous writing from my literature review but now I'm just feeling lost again.
It doesn't help that it's sunny outside! :(
Sorry this reply is a month late, I've not been on the forum for ages. Your current supervisor sounds like the one a colleague of mine had. In every meeting she was given conflicting advice to the one before, and because she was so nice and didn't want to kick off, she dutifully did as she was told, only to have her work trashed the next time around.
It was only through finding a secondary supervisor in a different faculty (cross-discipline) that she was able to get herself on track and get through the PhD successfully. You haven't mentioned a secondary supervisor but I am assuming you have one? If not, now is the time to ask or, if you are feeling assertive enough, go out and find one yourself.
For what it's worth, I am missing a secondary supervisor at present, as mine left a few months ago and no-one has yet replaced her. I have been advised by a colleague that if the school doesn't offer someone soon, I am within my rights to seek out someone of my own volition. This seems to be sound advice as although I am lucky enough to have a great primary supervisor, I am one long-term sickness/resignation letter away from being completely bereft of support. The other implication was that with only one person providing feedback, you are receiving a limited perspective on your work. You sound very isolated and almost trapped with this current supervisor. Any extra support will help to liberate you from this feeling and will also give you more grounded feedback.
Is there anyone outside your university that could provide additional moral support and guidance? I reached out to a few academics on ResearchGate recently, just because they had done similar research and I wanted to make connections with them. I have since met with one in person and she was lovely, offering me an informal means of supervision should I need it.
Hope this helps - let us know how you get on.
Thanks for replying.
Mattfabb, there are a few postgrad research groups and informal events picking up again now that the academic year has restarted so I am thinking of going to some of them. My secondary supervisor also advised me to make links with some PhDs in close departments for this reason.
You're almost correct, my research is more legal but with a heavy slant on social sciences, so I know there are a few different schools I can get in touch with nearby.
It's also an issue that I am quite a perfectionist, and have always been really driven with my studies before. I don't recognise myself and my current poor work ethic, and that has disheartened me a lot. Now I'm back teaching, I've noticed a shift in my ability to crack on with things again. I've talked about this with my supervisor too, and we've already agreed that next summer, when I face another 3-4 months of no structure, we will set something in place to avoid another period of lethargy.
I don't know it's normal at this stage (I am at the beginning of my second year) but I do not know where my PhD is heading, whether it's going to be worthwhile, and honestly what the hell I am doing with it.
I have just begun my field research, which has been slow going as I am reliant on busy people who I've had to cold call and ask if they're happy to be interviewed. I have managed to get one under my belt, with a few more booked in, but this is nowhere near what I need to achieve before the end of the academic year. Although that's months away, it's taken months just to get these organised!
Meanwhile, I am so detached from my PhD topic at the moment. I just can't seem to get my head back into it. When I do try to focus, I feel like I am flailing about, trying this avenue and that, none of which really feel right. Most of the time, though, I am just not focusing on it at all. It's like the more I try to get into it, the more my brain wants to avoid it.
I am very lucky in that I have a great supervisor, and she has been extremely supportive, but she keeps singing my praises and saying how great I am doing - I feel like a fraud! :(
Part of the problem is that I am a sprinter, not a marathon runner so we have been trying to work on smaller, shorter deadlines to keep me on track with the bigger picture. Unfortunately, I am so far into this lethargy that even this isn't getting me back where I need to be. Meanwhile, as I also teach, I am finding that my seminar preparation is always up to date, my house is sparkling clean and I am keeping organised with everything else in my life! So why can't I just get my head in the game on the most important thing??
I do have a Masters, loads of work experience (relevant and otherwise) and I still flailed like a gibbering idiot this time last year. Starting a PhD is so much different to taught research: you have no timetable, no given reading list and, depending on your supervisor, no set workload. As someone who needs structure and a bit of pressure to perform well, I really struggled with the sense that I was left - trusted - to get on with things in my own time. It was a prime environment for Impostor Syndrome to rear its head.
It is also hard trying not to compare yourself to others, even though it isn't a race and you are all doing completely separate pieces of work. One of my PhD colleagues is like the Duracell bunny and seems to be able to rap out 5000 words a day! The thing is, my area of research is on a relatively new and rapidly changing topic so I reminded myself that a lot of my lit review efforts now will be well out of date by the time I come to submit. Instead, anything I do now is useful for context but there's no point getting ahead of myself only to have to dismiss it all at a later date anyway.
Someone showed me this recently:
Do you have any colleagues who you can chat with for a bit of moral support? I am lucky in that I do have two other PhD students in my school, and we're all feeling quite deflated after a long summer, so we've agreed to make more effort to meet up and keep each other motivated. Have you spoken with your supervisor recently?
I'm glad you've come to a decision that you're happy with. I completely appreciate the dilemma - I registered with the forum as I am quite bored and unmotivated by my PhD at the moment and wondering how to get back on track. Reading through the posts on here is at least making me think I should give it a chance after a long, dull summer - a new academic year beckons...
Impostor Syndrome. I completely sympathise with that and frequently dip in and out of it. I am currently going through a pre-new academic year lack of motivation and am trying to pull myself out of its claws. I've spent most of the day trying to write interesting seminar questions for one of the modules I will be teaching. This depleted into writing good seminar questions, and now I will settle for just writing seminar questions at all. Who would think that a person in possession of a Masters degree could lose the ability to produce simple instructions for undergraduates? :(
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