I’ve strayed somewhat from my true purpose in life lately. I now feel awkward when people ask me what I do and I tell them about my PhD, a PhD I’ve barely thought about in recent weeks. True, I did take a month off for my surgery. When I came back, I had the emotional rollercoaster that was organising a national conference. Like a bottle of fizzy lemonade, that weekend was the final shake to produce the explosion of carbonated thoughts and feelings that had been building in my head for way too long.
But now *sigh* I really have to get back to work, back to what I’m being paid to do. As much as I enjoy mooning around and over-analysing the tangled mess that is my love life/complicated friendship (sarcasm), I really need to get back to the books.
So, I had my supervisory meeting to discuss my plans for the next few months. The major thing on the horizon is differentiation. Differentiation is the process you have to go through after your first stage as a PhD student. Technically, you can’t be a proper PhD student until you are ‘differentiated’. It usually takes place about 9 months into your research and involves an oral presentation as well as the first written chapter of your thesis. You send your chapter to your supervisor who circulates it around your chosen examination panel, they all read it and a week or two later you meet with them. You give a presentation on your research, what you’ve done, what you plan to do and outline what you think your finished thesis will look like. They then grill you on everything from methodology to historiography and everything in between. Then they go through the chapter you’ve written and judge whether or not you’re actually good enough to complete the PhD.
It is kind of a big deal. Having coached Best Friend through his last year, I know quite a lot about just how stressful it can be. If you don’t pass, you do get a second chance to go through it again or you can decide that the PhD just isn’t for you. That’s not really an option for me. I really want this PhD and while I’m not entirely sure I could cut it in the grown-up world of academia proper, I want to give it my best shot.
Because of my rather turbulent first months, my differentiation won’t be until end of August/beginning of September. Which is a good clear goal for me to work towards. In the meantime, while finishing off a literature review and starting on the research for my first chapter, I’m also engaging in some public history with my project team and, for some ridiculous reason, have decided to submit a paper to a conference in Scotland in May. I must actually be crazy to voluntarily do these things to myself.
But, hey, less time to brood on things…