Out of practice

It’s an amazing confession I guess, but I’m out of practice writing an extended piece of work.  For the last three weeks the longest prose I have written are emails.  I’ve put finger to keyboard however to reflect on the last few weeks of PhD, and where I have to go.

The confirmation document is more than a hurdle to be leapt on my PhD.  It forms the basis of the whole thesis, and I can understand why it is given so much importance.  It’s 5000 words summarise what you’re going to do, why you are doing it, and how you are planning to go about it.

Like everything else I’ve written my draft confirmation document is peer reviewed, and also reviewed by an institutional academic, in this case my supervisor.  One of the major reasons for spending time in Lancaster this past week was to spend some time with my supervisor, whilst we have called and Skyped each other before, nothing beats a face to face meeting.

I have some concerns about being on the programme, not least of which is ensuring that my writing is at PhD level.  Notwithstanding the fact that I have already written 25 thousand words which are deemed to have been at the appropriate level, there is this constant nag that the words that I write are not sufficiently academic in tone.  Again my supervisor has reassured me that it is possible, but at the same time there is always a subtext that I need to ‘pull my socks up’ academically speaking and write in a more dispassionate voice, even though the subject itself is something that I feel really passionate about.  The phrase repeatedly being used is ‘one step away’… from the project itself, and somehow I have to develop a detachment in my writing that does not sit comfortably with me… whilst still being able to use the first person in my thesis writing.  This surprised me, but without getting too deep into the approach I’m taking, the fact that I am an ‘agent of change’ means I have to talk in the first person.  But then I still have to be dispassionate, neutral point of view, and detached.  Can anyone else see a conflict here?

So, enough of the face to face meeting.  We actually get on well in person, he’s as keen as I am to ensure that I’m given the best possible start to the thesis.  Then a couple of days later I get the written feedback from him on the confirmation document that we have already spent a good couple of hours discussing.  He had warned me that it may appear critical, and indeed it does. A lot.

So I’m now thrown into an academic ditch that no doubt I will again climb out of, and work on rewriting the document.  Other feedback is still coming in, from the peer review I’ve already received I have had some good comments, but when it comes down to it is is my supervisor that I need to convince.  So I’ll through point by point, and address the concerns, pruning or amputating whole sections of words that took me hours or days to write back in January.

One thing that I was asked a lot whilst in Lancaster by those students who are coming through behind me on the course was “but are you enjoying it still?”  The official answer of course has to be ‘yes’, and given this is a public blog I would have to restate the same answer here.  But sometimes, in the middle of the night I do wonder… … …


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