The last few weeks have been challenging so I have to keep reminding myself of things that my main supervisor Karen has told me such as, that as I am part-time it need not take over my life! It had begun to feel like that so it was time to stand back a bit. I also reminded myself of three things:
That there will be an end in sight one day not that far off.
Not to get bogged down with too much information, articles etc. to wade through, as at the end of the day they are to supplement my ideas and provide evidence of my conclusions etc. and I do not need to include everything only the best bits.
If I did not carry on I would be wasting all the money I had invested in this so far and would very much regret it later.
So I am back on track but not making as fast progress as I had hoped by now in view of having to submit some more writing by end of June.
However every now and then a little gem appears. I was asked by Sarah from the University of Hertfordshire who I met at the Kathe Buchler Conference recently, to write a piece on my research for their ‘Everyday Lives in War’ website. Whilst for those who have had lots already published this is not a major deal but for me it is a first. It has also helped in that long battle to regenerate my self-confidence!
A really interesting day at the University of Hertfordshire, in Hatfield. It was a good networking opportunity and chance to see the WW1 photographs of Kathe Buchler which have not been seen much outside of Germany and received little attention. The speakers ranged from Jenny Matthews author of ‘Women and War’ to PhD candidates like Jo Young, talking about their research in connected areas of interest through to Jason Crowley from Manchester Metropolitans University . During the day there was a meeting to discuss the exhibition being held until 5 May of Buchler’s work.
I have also managed to locate a copy of her book but unfortunately only produced in German which will be a challenge. Still I have a German dictionary!
I guess I’m not going to get any brownie points for keeping my blog up to date! However I do feel that unless there is something useful to pass on then it is not necessary to just write for the sake of it. Since my last update and meeting with my supervisor in January I have just buried myself away to research and write. In a moment of madness I said I’d send her a big chunk of writing and it was only when I started that I realised how much I’d taken on, especially as some aspects had not been looked at before 🙁 However I felt that if I sent her my Introduction, Methodology and skeleton Literature Review then this would form a good basis for building on especially during the summer months. For me, I need to be well organised or the amount of sources feel as if they are taking over at times. So it is very much a day at a time and staying on track, not getting side-lined and digging deep.
I eventually submitted 14,000 words so although it was a bit rough round the edges in places and felt a bit rushed towards the end it can now be fine tuned. It showed also the importance of having a critical friend who can point out even minor errors that you may not have spotted. Still I am only in Year 2 so have time hopefully to make big improvements.
Some of the sources I have consulted have been more than challenging. This rare book is worth a mention as the captions with the images are problematic in many cases but as a source of images can provide interesting information.
Following my supervisor’s meeting last week I now need to submit a rough plan of action and beginnings of Chapter 2 ready for July. If anyone says this is a big undertaking was making an understatement as I’m sure I’m not alone in continually questioning my ability to do this. Still I’ve survived so far so that’s a positive!
My contact Pippa Oldfield, the curator at Impressions Gallery, Bradford had notified me previously that they were holding a national touring exhibition entitled, ‘No Man’s Land: Women’s Photography and the First World War’ with the private view and launch on 6 October and the artists in conversation on 7 October. The exhibition funded by amongst others the National Lottery and Arts Council England will got later go to Bristol Cathedral April – July 2018, The Turnpike, Leigh November – January 209 and Bishop Auckland Town Hall February – April 2019. the content It has been put together by a group of local young people called, The new Focus Group.
The following images were taken at the private view:
It comprises work by Olive Edis, Mairi Chisholm and Florence Famborough together with contemporary work produced by Alison Baskerville, Dawn Cole and Chloe Dewe Mathews. It was exciting to be part of the launch and to see larger versions of 15 of Farmborough’s images although they are prints and not original copies. The exhibition as a whole is most interesting and thought provoking
Dr Pippa Oldfield with Alison Baskerville, Dawn Cole and Chloe Dewe Mathews.
I do not know where the summer break went, as it seems to have gone in a flash and a new academic year is now starting. While is it good to be back, I soon realised that things were progressing at breakneck speed.
I have spent a long period of time working on my Final Proposal, so all other research has been put to one side momentarily. I received notification of my First Review date mid November, so whilst I keep telling myself that I am on track and know the people involved well, it is still rather daunting and another hurdle to be jumped. Once I have the feedback from this then I can pull out all the stops and get immersed back into my work again.
I had also hoped to ease up on the Research Development Programme sessions as I attended 14 last year, and so unless I felt the need to repeat some there were not many I had not been to that seemed relevant. However, it soon became apparent that Uni feels it necessary and that I become fully engaged with the programme again, although I do wonder how much of it is a box ticking exercise! Anyway, I have dutifully signed up for some and fortunately some are being held online so does not involve having to go into Uni just for that.
One exciting recent development in my work has been being able to make contact with two of Farmborough’s living relatives through my contact Pippa at the Impressions Gallery, Bradford and my next post will cover the trip up to Bradford. The living relatives seem most enthusiastic about what I am doing and pleased that someone has shown an interest in her work. So it will be interesting to see how this can be developed in the future.
Has it really been a month since I added something to this blog for my PhD? I seem to have been chained to the computer and have ended up with sore eyes, so I need to be a bit smarter as to how I manage my time. Karen my supervisor, gave me some useful tips about time management as she was able to complete hers in four years and if nothing else save a year’s fees. However, bearing in mind that she has youth on her side, I realised that as my work is not competing with anything else such as a job, there is no reason I cannot do it within the same time frame. I also realised that I can’t keep slogging away every day, as apart from the fact I am getting more boring and self-centred than usual (!) I need to take at least one day off per week to rest and recharge and my brief holiday next month is something I’m really looking forward to for lots of reasons.
However, before then I’m busy right now trying to get most of my ‘Final Proposal’ completed as my first review will be around the beginning of November. Although this seems a long way off, the weeks seem to be flying by and I don’t want to spend my week away thinking I should be at home working. I also was lucky to find an old 1950s Rolleiflex twin lens reflex, medium format film camera, in a local camera shop for a really cheap price. So I want to try it out on the holiday as I haven’t used film for some time, and also want to see how the camera behaves! I also realised that the chemicals I have in my darkroom are also long past their sell-by date, so need to be replenished if I’m going to resume film and processing etc. again. Perhaps to have the distraction of occasionally being able to shut yourself away and develop and print would also be a good occasional distraction from computer work.
Other than that I was really pleased to see that blogs can have really positive results and have been contacted by Pippa, from a gallery in the north of England who is putting on an exhibition in October, featuring the lady who is the central focus of my research amongst others. I have been somewhat reluctant to say much online about what I am doing but as Karen previously advised me, that even if I discovered that someone else was doing exactly what I am researching, they would never do it in exactly the same way or cover the same things that I intend to cover. So onward and upward as the saying goes and looking forward to the next weeks of my PhD journey!
Now that I am sitting down to write and update my blog again, I cannot see any good reason not to have done it sooner! The year started off with a meeting with my supervisor Karen, having reminded my that as I am part-time, I don’t need to be in a rush and it is better to take things slowly, dig deep and conceptualize what I am looking at.
So since then I have cut down on the number of Research Development Programme meetings I have signed up for. Although they have been extremely useful and have been an opportunity to find out about something I know nothing about but for some I realised they would not help me, so have taken up time I could have used better elsewhere. Besides as they are repeated, as time goes on I will know better which will be of the most use to me. Two recent meetings were about ‘Grounded Theory’ and I immediately realised that this was applicable and could be helpful in working with my subject matter. These have since led to my reading as much as I can about it to see best how to use it in my work.
I have also been up to London for related events such as two Doctoral Open Days at the British Library. The second of these (which looked at the 20th century) repeated several of the sessions held at the first one (newspapers and media) so was not felt to be so valuable. However the sessions were extremely useful in providing links to online resources and providing information about the vast amount of information that is held within the library.
My most recent visit to London was to view some photographic prints and documents relating to focus of my research held at the Imperial War Museum. It was exciting to see the actual objects ‘in the flesh’ and it particularly enabled me to decide which images I could possibly include as illustrations in my thesis; especially as some were over exposed and of poor quality. The only drawback was that if I had wanted to take any images on the day I would have had to purchase a £10 day permit. So it may be that it is more cost-effective to pay for downloadable copies to be sent to me, when I have narrowed down the selection.
Apart from that I have been reading as much as possible and also started writing! Initially it was painful starting, but I soon realised that my previous practice of writing notes on paper rather than putting them on the computer was a very cumbersome way of working, and that it was much easier writing straight onto the computer. My supervisor had suggested that I sent some writing to her prior to the April meeting, so this was a big motivation to begin. However I realised that much was dependent on what was submitted. If it was good then I could progress without undue worry, if it needed attention then this could be addressed, but if it was not up to scratch then I would seriously have to rethink my future steps. So I ended up submitting around 8,000 words and spent an anxious few days waiting to hear from her. Her reply was so helpful and encouraging and generally came out as good and at that I was writing at the required post-grad level. She also provided feedback on areas that could be improved upon. So this is the best motivation for the future I could have received right now 🙂
A time goes on I have also become more engrossed in the subject matter when possibly one could have maybe lost some interest, but I seem to keep uprooting things that I know nothing about and which provide areas to be investigated further. So I feel a bit like a female ‘Poirot’ right now. Long may it continue.
Following the helpful advice given to me in the Supervisors’ Meeting, I have been attending several Research Development Programme sessions which have been most helpful generally. It has helped me to focus on areas that I personally feel need to be improved, such as my academic writing. The problem comes when we are told not to be too ‘academic’, and for our written work to be able to be read by a diverse audience. By the end of my undergraduate studies I felt as if I had established my own style of writing, and am sure that with some guidance I will reach the required standard – hopefully.
I have spent time since the meeting writing up the notes I had previously prepared for the initial PhD proposal and putting them on OneNote, which has been helpful as it also focussed on different related areas of investigation and in turn possible chapters for the final thesis; such as memory and gender.
Specific items Andrew suggested I addressed were the ‘timeline’ and ‘keywords’. So using a Word template and adding the expected dates to be taken into account, I was able to plot a potential timeline for the future. Once I have my next meeting with Karen and I can discuss this further I am sure there will be many adjustments made as time progresses. However at this stage it will be a good starting point. Andrew also suggested looking at my ‘Keywords’, so following on from this and a useful library RDP session, I set up RefWorks on the PC, and to also receive automatic prompts so that when a new article is published in my subject area I am notified; so that hopefully I will stay up to date with current thinking. During several visits to the library I also downloaded many articles which relate to my work which can now be filed into subject areas for close investigation at a later date.
I have also ordered several new books from Amazon covering such topics as Yasha Bacharova of the Women’s Death Battalion as this directly relates to my area of research and may throw up possible leads to be further investigated. I also decided to reread ‘Nurse at the Russian Front‘ again and more closely with the Literature Review and my Final Proposal Approval in mind. I also need to establish a regular working timetable at home, so that all books and articles can be read and notes made for future reference.
The RDP sessions have also been an opportunity to make some contacts with other members of the group, and fully engage with all the opportunities that the university has to offer. I did offer my services to help at one of the Open Days, but felt that this was something more for younger student representatives. I was in turn contacted by Kate from the Alumni Department, and asked if I would be prepared to give them an interview as they were interested in knowing how I had arrived at doing a PhD at my stage in life. The worst aspect was having a photograph taken, which as a photographer is not easy being on the other side of the lens. Hopefully the outcome will encourage older people to see the value of study in later life.
It was suggested that students sign up for the five recommended sessions as a starting point, and in addition I went through and chose another six to attend between now and the end of the year. These have covered a wide variety of topics amongst the following:
Literature search and review
What is expected of disciplined researchers
Developing good habits around your academic writing
Introduction to critical thinking and argument
The periodic reviews for research students
I would add that my initial impression of what help and assistance is available to new PhD students at the university is extremely impressive, although the undertaking is a little daunting and slightly overwhelming at the outset.
I envisage looking at the RDP sessions again later on as my studies progress to see which would be most beneficial but at the moment to let ‘the dust settle’.