Hey guys. I know it’s been a while since I properly posted something…so here it is -:) The academic year is coming to a close so I thought I would update you guys on what has been going on and all. As I discussed in my last posts, Mentorship is something that is very close to my heart right now. I think it is really important that you have someone(or maybe some people) who can guide you in the right direction. If not for anything, to at least help you maintain your sanity.
The Search for a voice…
So, following the appointment of my first mentor who I shall refer to subsequently as “Miss B”, she advised me to “find my voice” and to ” master my research area”. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I remember looking at the email thinking, ‘What does she mean “find my voice”…I’m not singing for X Factor ya know! Anyway, after much clarification I understood what she meant.
In the academic world, finding your voice or feet as the case may be, is important. However, it will not happen overnight. Start by reading wider, see what topics you find more interesting with relation to your research. Once you do that, you are on your way. I have not found my voice yet, but I have certainly started mumbling my first words.
Writing early is a good idea regardless of what anyone else will tell you. Look guys, this PhD is not beans. It requires hard work, dedication and CONSISTENCY. The combination of all three is so crucial, goodness. The likelihood is you may not start writing for the first 6 months because you will be reading widely. Even if you discard a large chunk of what you eventually write, you should have something to work from. Writing the first few sentences is difficult, but after the first paragraph, you’ll see that it will all flow and come together. What you want to avoid is a situation that you start writing in your third year and then run into a stage of panic because a) you haven’t found your voice, b) your supervisor thinks you need to go back to the drawing board, c) you don’t feel confident enough to even submit a draft to your supervisor or d) you are OVERWHELMED that you feel a breakdown pending. Avoid that ish. Write SOMETHING!
My plan is to submit my first chapter soon. However along the way of voice searching, I started writing an article on a topic which is in my chapter. Writing articles can be beneficial because that’s an indication that you may be on your way to publishing. Although it is a very rigorous process, it can take up to six months. Numerous editing and cutting and pasting and throwing away of words etc. Publishing is good. It will thrust you into the limelight and your article will also be peer reviewed. Again, good for you because you’ll get much feedback on your work and also the opportunity to re-evaluate. So in a nutshell, writing the article has helped me shape the way my chapter will go and also helped in shaping my ideas. Plus, it helps with the word count!! I took the first part of her advice and I must say it is certainly working well for me. The second part was a little more trickier..
Mastering your research area and at least becoming fluent in the language is crucial. Imagine being asked a random question on a topic relating to your research and having to resort to fillers to answer. ERM? Even if you don’t admit to being embarrassed, it’s possible you will feel a little stupid. I mean, you claim to be doing a PhD in this research area and you don’t know the basics? Guuurrllll. Ok.
Master your area. It won’t happen overnight; no-one is saying that it should. What I am saying however is that you should manage your time well and give yourself enough time to understand the mechanics of your research. If there is a topic that you don’t understand, take time out to read about it. Cultivate it. Don’t hide under the disguise of “I don’t need to know about it because it’s not part of my research area”. Learning about it could give you the inspiration you have been looking for. Trust me, I know about that! Once you have mastered your topic generally, you can will find and develop your voice and then take your baby steps into writing.
My second mentor, (this one is more like a father figure, so we shall refer to him as Dr A) gave me some pointers a few days ago. He said “Fola, you should really consider getting a reading partner”. Again, confusion struck me. How can I be doing this much work and now I should also get a reading partner. Surely not! When he explained however, I understood. Again.
How MUCH more reading yo!
A reading partner does not necessarily have to be someone in your exact field or even in your department. Preferably however, it would be nice if it was another PhD student. S/he can appreciate the demands of this course and you guys can go through the struggle together. When choosing a reading partner, be mindful that this person will actively be expected to criticise your work, look for loopholes etc. etc. Obviously, you can expect to do the same to theirs
The point of having a reading partner is in two folds. One the one hand, you may prefer someone other than your supervisor to look at your work, depending on the kind of relationship you and your supervisor have. I have highlighted in earlier posts the importance of having a good working relationship with your supervisor. Less awks. On the other hand, it would be good to have someone review you work to a) make sure it makes sense and b) make sure it makes sense. If you and your research partner are from different fields, then think of him or her as a “lay man.” By doing that your work should make sense to your reading partner. If it doesn’t then at least you have identified that there is no consistency in your work and it certainly won’t make sense to anyone else reading it. You can’t go wrong with having a free proof reader as a reading partner.
If you do decide to take this reading partner advice, please take note of the following.
1.You and your partner should work within a good time frame. Give yourself like two weeks to send work to each other, read, correct and send back. I’m sure you will thank me eventually..
Agree to be brutal to be kind
2. The truth is bitter whichever way you decide to look at it. But so is the world of academia. The last conference I went to, academics literally ripped some of the presenters works to pieces. BRUTAL..HONESTLY!! But as I have said before, the feedback helps in terms of the bigger picture. If there is one thing I have learnt so far, the world of academia requires you to have thick skin. At least that way, you are preparing yourself for potential knock-downs. It wont be so hard after that.
So far so good that’s all they have given me and to be frank its enough for me to be working with right now. So yh, take it on board:)
This weekend I shall be partying with my bestest friend in the WORLD to celebrate her 30th….Cannot wait! Sunday night, I shall be eating fried fish and drinking cocktails. Or Chapman. Either way sha. Those who know me know I do not compromise on weekend enjoyment..unless it’s REALLY serious.
Have a great weekend all