Signup date: 12 May 2009 at 1:12pm
Last login: 20 Dec 2009 at 11:59am
Post count: 264
So sorry to hear about your terrible loss.
Surely it must be possible to postpone your viva in such awful circumstances? I can't believe any institution would insist you went through such a stressful process at this time. Could you maybe suspend your registration on compassionate grounds?
Maybe you should start by talking to someone like the welfare officer at your uni.
I really hope you manage to sort something out to ease the pressure on you.
I'd just like to second what KB says, and also to emphasise the point that you need to get over your fear of being cheesy! I know you don't want to gush embarassingly, but you do need to sound like you think the uni you're applying to is THE place to be as far as your research goes. I can't imagine why anyone would ask you why you didn't just stay put to do your PhD - why would you? - but they WILL want to know why you want to study in their department above all others. So that's the answer you need to have prepared.
Really this all boils down to the question: is it too late to rescue your PhD?
No, it isn't. You're in a difficult situation, like anyone who's done the 'office romance' thing and has to work with someone they have complex feelings for, but people can and do cope with this.
As you recognise, you've only hurt yourself by letting your PhD slide. Now you have to make a positive decision not to hurt yourself any more. Push your feelings to one side (I know, easier said than done) and get your relationship with this guy back on a professional footing.
At the end of the day, what's really going to help you move on emotionally - throwing yourself into your work and getting that PhD, or giving up and brooding forever more about what might have been, who this guy might be flirting with now, etc. etc.?
I'm not really at the writing stage yet, but I've been dabbling with JabRef - as suggested by Cleverclogs - and it looks good to me.
Cleverclogs also recommends LaTex, I see. If you're interested in going down that road, I'd heartily recommend you take a look at Lyx. It's a sort of word processor "front end" for LaTex, so you get the very professional typesetting without all the code-y gubbins. Basically you just use a drop-down menu to tell Lyx what each bit of text is - chapter title, section header, bulletpointed list etc - and it generates a beautifully typeset document for you, complete with citations, bibliography, contents page, footnotes etc. It really is very clever and straightforward - much less 'tinkering' with the look of things than Word.
Both pieces of software are free, so easy enough to try out.
This sort of issue is very much at the back of my mind - well, not 'dating', as I'm already married with kids, but the fact that I'm just not in a position to chase jobs all over the country (or all over the world!). But I live within a commutable distance of quite a few major unis, so I'm just hoping I'll be able to find some sort of work - part-time, whatever - until the kids have left home. Or even just do independent research for a bit. Then maybe it'll be time to think about upping sticks.
(How ludicrous is that - not waiting till I'm past the 'moving around' stage of my career to have kids, but waiting till the kids have left home before entering the 'moving around' stage of my career! I'll still 'only' be in my early 40s, though, so hopefully it's not all *too* ridiculous.)
I certainly don't see why it would be a problem to get back in touch with referees after a break - it must happen all the time, what with people working, travelling or having kids in between periods in academia. When I applied for my MA, I was reliant on references from people I hadn't spoken to in 10 years! So if you're going to do another Master's, do it for academic reasons (e.g. improving subject knowledge, becoming more specialised, going all-out for a distinction), not because you're just worried about having been away for a while.
Have you consider a research Master's as a stepping-stone option - something that's not just another Msc but might be easier to get on to than a PhD? (Sorry if that's an ignorant suggestion and that's just not how it works - the sciences aren't my area.)
In your shoes, rather than write off a whole year and who knows how much money to pursue another Master's, I think I'd focus in the first instance on getting as much good advice on PhD applications as possible - be that asking institutions that have turned you down for feedback, asking your referees to look over your proposals, or whatever. It might be that a a few weeks or months spent getting your applications as strong as possible would do you more good than collecting another qualification. And maybe there are other, less drastic things you could be doing to make your CV look more impressive - e.g. I wonder if doing some sort of teaching work (private tutoring?) might give you an edge over other candidates; or if you could emphasise the 'transferrable skills' you've gained in the workplace? (Part of being a successful PhD student, after all, is being someone who can work in a team, manage their time, manage projects, handle admin, deal with other departments/institutions, use IT effectively etc.).
Thanks guys - some definite food for thought there. Maybe I'm letting myself get too worried by the feeling that there's a mountain of literature to get through, and skewing things too far towards reading.
I like the idea of writing a lot of bits and pieces and then fleshing out the ones that have potential. In fact I'd wondered about asking my supervisor if I should keep working on the essay I've just handed in, and turn in a longer draft next month. I have a feeling there's material in it that could end up in my thesis, and I need to have a chapter finished within a year in order to upgrade, so maybe I should just start working towards that now.
A question for arts and humanities people, especially those for whom 'research' just means 'reading' (rather than field work etc.):
What sort of balance do you try to strike between reading and writing? I meet my supervisor once a month, and I'm supposed to send her a piece of written work before each meeting for us to talk about. (That's fine by me - 'write early, write often' is good advice, I'm sure.) But I'm also still in the very early stages of getting through all the literature I need to tackle. So obviously there's a trade-off: the longer I spend writing, the less time I can spend reading.
Last month I spent around three weeks mainly reading and one mainly writing, and submitted a pretty good 4,000 word essay, this month I spent four weeks mainly reading - there was a book I promised myself I'd finish! - and turned out a less substantial 2,000 word essay over the weekend. (In my opinion, though, there's still enough there to give the basis of a useful discussion.)
Obviously this is ultimately something for my supervisor and I to work out, but I wondered if anyone had any words of wisdom or rules of thumb to offer. At this stage (first year), should I just be looking to produce quick, short, maybe slightly rough pieces intended just to spark discussion? Or should I be spending a bit longer producing good-quality drafts of material that might ultimately end up being revised for publication or inclusion in my thesis?
I'm not going to try to choose just one. But some honest choices - i.e. films I love, watch and enjoy over and over again, rather than films I deem 'worthy':
Dawn of the Dead - you should get this Walminski, you were recommending the World War Z audiobook (I think?). A bona fide horror epic!
The Fly - another horror, but one which genuinely works at the level of drama too. Great stuff.
Across the Universe - why has nobody seen/heard of this film?! I have a theory that if it had come out a year *after* Mamma Mia, rather than a year before, and hence could have been marketed along the lines of 'does for the Beatles what Mamma Mia did for Abba', it would have been big news. Not everyone likes it - some people find the whole idea naff - but if you leave your cynicism at the door and go with the flow, it's a great movie with some great visuals and great versions of great songs. Heartily recommended!
Duck Soup - and most other Marx Brothers movies, really... to me, one of the great joys of life. (Harpo's my favourite!)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - I love the rambling, picaresque structure. And the music, obviously.
Jason and the Argonauts - and Harryhausen in general; give me stop-motion beasties over CGI any day!
Quatermass and the Pit
... and lots of others...
Cleverclogs, I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'spiritual', which may partially explain why I'm finding it hard to engage with your position.
But leaving that aside, let me see if I can say something that challenges your position directly rather than committing any 'straw man' or 'ad hominem' fallacies:
The tension I can see in your view is between your view that prostitution is a bad thing because of the harm it does to prostitutes in particular (and perhaps society in general), and your view that prostitution is a bad thing because it involves some sort of denial of human dignity/spirituality/nobility.
Now, I don't think anyone here is going to deny that there's a close connection between prostitution and all sorts of terrible things of the sort you describe: assaults, drug addiction etc. There's a debate to be had about how we should respond to that fact: do we try to 'stamp out' prostitution, for instance, or do we bring it out in the open in such a way as to make it easier to offer appropriate forms of support to prostitutes - health advice, union representation etc.?
Your view, I think, is that we should 'stamp it out'. Now, that's a legitimate view - somebody could argue for that approach, for instance, by producing evidence that increased toleration of prostitution is always likely to do more harm than good (perhaps because more women would be attracted to the profession, and hence exposed to unacceptable and ineleminable risks).
What's worrying, though - and, I suspect, what's behind some of the 'ad hominem' attacks that have been made in this thread - is that your adherence to the 'stamp it out' view seems to be based not so much on concerns about the safety of prostitutes, but on the view that prostitutes (and, I suppose, their clients) are morally blameworthy, spiritually deficient, less-than-fully-human individuals.
So, two questions:
1.) If the risks involved in working as a prostitute were minimal, would you still oppose it as being 'animalistic', 'beneath human dignity' or some such?
2.) What is it about selling sex, in particular, that makes it a *morally unacceptable* surrender to our 'animal' natures? (Presumably you don't have a problem with people indulging their 'animal' desires for food, warmth etc.)
I think the challenge for you is to give consistent answers to those two questions. If you just think sex is 'dirty', you're on safe ground from that point of view but most people will disagree with you. If, on the other hand, you think that prostitution is to be condemned just insofar as it harms people, I supect you're going to find it easier to answer the second question than the first.
Cleverclogs - of "animal nature vs. spiritual nature" fame - is a biologist?! Priceless.
Does her thesis defend the following taxonomy, do you think:
This is all quite challenging stuff, actually. Should we be thinking "gosh, how awful - intelligent, middle-class women being forced to degrade themselves", or should we be asking if we're just projecting our own sexual hang-ups on to other people in assuming that prostitution is a dirty, disreputable thing to do?
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