Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘PhD Problems’

The title of this post comes directly from a ‘misquote’ inspired by ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ – and was something I was thinking about when I was out on a bit of a run with the Trainers of Glory yesterday.

Having been ‘off’ running for a few weeks I had been a bit worried about making it through the event, but with the support of my lovely running buddies the day went well – even with the unscheduled ‘pit stop’ with the lovely chaps of the St John’s Ambulance – so I think the conclusion was that I am back on track with the plan for our ‘big’ challenge later in the year.  

Thus, whilst out in the Warwickshire countryside, my thoughts turned to my PhD journey; which is now into its 4th year, and has seen many twists and turns.  The 4th year is an ‘extension’ period, rather than being an originally planned 4th year, and is reflective of how time-consuming a PhD can be when things do not go to plan.  The concept of ‘loneliness’ is not a new one when discussing PhD students, the advice is plentiful as to making sure you have regular contact with peers, outside activities, contact with your department etc; however the ‘burden’ of responsibility towards your project, and in many cases those who have given their time and help to you, can make you feel isolated – solely responsible, dealing with issues that no-one else will understand or even be interested in… 

So, the PhD is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint – and what I’ve learnt with my running is that the support of others is key; and I realise that over my PhD history the hardest times have been when I have felt isolated.  The past week was very difficult, because I felt I had the weight of the world – or rather the project – on my shoulders, and that I had to try and solve all the problems, all at once, and all alone. Wrong.  Once I started to discuss the issues with some key people related to the work I was amazed at how much better I felt – it didn’t feel like admitting failure, nor did it result in complete panic/astonishment/horror in their eyes; just an understanding ear, a shoulder to lean on, and more offers of help than you could possibly imagine. 

To complete the analogy then, I’ve decided to see this past week as my ‘unscheduled pit-stop’ – and thus I am very hopeful that the outcome will be the same as Sunday, that I can now go on to complete successfully.  Time is growing short, and no-doubt there are more challenges ahead, but exciting times too – including the HPA2012 conference next week, and a number of sessions with staff at my case study site to keep me rooted in the active research….

Smooth Pit Stop – essential for success! (picture from uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

Read Full Post »

With reflection it is fair to say that after such a glorious weekend the days that followed were always likely to seem challenging, however by any stretch of the imagination I don’t think I could have envisaged just how difficult they were to become.  By Thursday afternoon the word ‘meltdown’ was being liberally spouted from my mouth…!  

In short, I have hit a problem with the Ph.D. project.  All research has moments like this, and when I use my logical brain I can easily sit and discuss how such issues offer advantages as well as challenges, and be thankful that the study has a purposely flexible design, to cope with such eventualities. It is just when I am tired, or when I reach what I feel is a saturation point of contingency planning, I feel sometimes I would just prefer things to be straight-forward. For once.  Please. 

 To put the issue into context, my project design involves running 3 separate studies in parallel, to enable maximum efficiency when working with limited resources, most notably the time of the Healthcare Professionals involved. Thus 1 interview provides data for up to 3 study aims, without the need for additional interview sessions with the same participant.  This has worked well, and has allowed Studies 1 and 2 to progress at planned speed throughout June and July.  However, Study 3 has a segment which is reliant on findings from the interview phase, to allow for data analysis during September, and it is here that the ‘problem/challenge/crisis/meltdown’ has occurred.  The findings from the interviews has proven to be much more complex (a positive on one side) when analysed than previously thought, which prohibits the required data analysis in the form first planned.  

This dawning realisation, checked, re-checked and worked-through-on-the-white-board-and-triple-checked led to a last-minute cancellation of an interview (which I hated doing), and a brainstorming session with a very lovely fellow researcher, and we have now carved out a future plan….  Despair to excitement in the space on one afternoon, 4 colours of white-board marker, 6 cups of tea, and a walk along a canal to feed the ducks. 

I am now off for a break for a couple of weeks – very much needed – and am feeling a lot more confident about moving forwards when I come back.  I need to get back to my host NHS site, talk over the new plans with my key support links there, and with the best of luck things will be able to go ahead as I hope.  If not, I fear we may really see the donkey flip…………

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: