A Year in Research

IMG_2320.jpgI’m reaching the end of my first year as a part-time PhD researcher.  The time has disappeared quickly, which is to be expected as I work full time and look after a family, too.  My supervisor (who is brilliant) says I have progressed through the year, and I have to agree even though I’ve had some proper up and down times during the 12 months.

Things worked out, other things did not. But my research question is much tighter, my field of research much more concise and, to be honest, I’m finding it much more interesting.

2018 was a year spent finding my feet, to build new habits and new routines. Even suffering from a knee injury in the late summer turned into an opportunity to read more and start writing.  An obvious highlight was being named as one of the CIPR’s 70 at 70 – which came completely out of the blue – and I was delighted that it was for my work in evaluation, which is the subject of my research.

Here’s the top 10 things – in no particular order – I’ve learned from my year:

  • My subject has evolved for the better.  It expanded, contracted, even got lost down rabbit holes, but key themes are starting to hold it together.
  • I’ve found spaces and places where I read the best, think the best and write the best.  They are different from where I started.
  • I have plenty of moments of doubt, suffer imposter syndrome, and thinking this is all way beyond me.  I’m sure I’ll have many more of those, but I’m starting to recognise and manage the symptoms.
  • I really, really love reading. On trains, in the pub, waiting for my daughter whilst she’s at Brownies, there’s always a book (and highlighter, and pencil, and notebook) in my bag.
  • I’m learning to critique and question everything. It’s like being a young child again. Honestly, it’s a liberating experience which is having implications in my workplace, too. Accepting the way we do things “because that’s the way things have always been done” is now something I challenge.
  • Despite seemingly always having my head in a book or note book, there’s still plenty of downtime in my life with my family.  My supervisor has been keen to remind me that there needs to be time away in order to appreciate life.  That’s a key lesson for us all.  Being constantly “on” is a very bad thing, even if you think you thrive on “busyness”.
  • The subject absolutely fascinates me. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be looking at it.
  • I live on Yorkshire Tea.  So much so that my family keep sending me boxes!
  • I’ve always loved a good notebook, and I have a growing collection by the week.
  • I still enjoy my research and I’m starting to publicly enthuse about it.  There are ups and downs but overall it’s a great experience.

2019 is going to be a challenge within my workplace as a huge change programme takes effect, but I hope year two of my research is as challenging and liberating as year one. This year will about raising my head over the parapet and exposing my work.  This is a new skill as I’m generally one for keeping my head down and getting on with things.  Not so this coming year.

Thanks for your time reading my ramblings, and happy 2019.


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