On the edge of something

Wednesday 26th November saw the first official conference for members of the Sheffield Institute of Education. The Institute is relatively new, having only launched in May 2014. As a PhD student within the Institute, my supervisor encouraged me to use the conference as an opportunity to promote my research. So, a couple of workshops later I put together a colourful representation of what I’m going to be spending the next three years doing. Here’s me posing with it with my cup of tea:


Talking through my poster over lunch was a comfortable ease into presenting at a conference. Being surrounded by colleagues at a conference organised by my supervisors meant that it felt like a safe space- and one where I wouldn’t get asked too many difficult questions! I had drafted and redrafted my poster, trying to use as few words as possible, and find images which would make it more interesting to look at. So I was surprised when a colleague who came over to read my poster asked me who my participants were going to be. I turned to my poster, about to point out the relevant section, but I realised that it wasn’t there! I had assumed that it was obvious in what I’d written, but it wasn’t. So that was a bit embarrassing! But a useful lesson to learn, and I’ll certainly be checking the content of future posters more carefully!

Along with overcoming this first hurdle of presenting my work, I’ve been pretty busy trying to keep on schedule with the various requirements for my PhD. As I’m starting my interviews with participants in March, I need to submit my ethical approval forms early so that I get clearance from the University before I interview anybody. So after some useful feedback from my supervisors I’ve submitted my ethics form which is definitely a step in the right direction, and I’m hoping to have my ethical approval confirmed by Christmas.

Continuing the theme of important forms (there really is a lot more form-filling than I had expected…), after what feels like at least 200 drafts I’m about to submit my RF1 form (this imaginatively named acronym stands for ‘research form one’). This is the first part of a long (and slightly dull) process which is actually quite important. This form is a measure of whether my research can be considered ‘good enough’ (or not… a scary prospect) to be of a PhD standard. In June next year I’ll have to fill out a longer form and do a presentation on my research which will be the final stage of this process. Fingers crossed all goes to plan!

On a more exciting note, I have also managed to recruit a number of participants for my study. My call for initial expressions of interest has resulted in 16 volunteers (so far) which is great. I’m hoping to get a few more, assuming that some people who have volunteered might change their mind and drop out at some point. Actually doing the interviews with these women is by far the thing I’m most looking forward to. I have really enjoyed the experience of interviewing in the past, and much as I have learned from the various things I’m reading, I feel that I’ll learn a lot more from the women themselves. I can’t wait to start!

It’s good to feel as though I’m achieving some goals, because when every day is the same- reading, reflecting, writing, making cups of tea- at times it doesn’t really feel like you’re making much progress. So I decided to get involved with a few extra things as well as the everyday work. A while ago I started writing a jointly authored article with my lead supervisor, which has been an absolutely brilliant experience. I’ve learned so much about how to write with another person, and I’ve really enjoyed working with someone I have so much respect for and benefiting from her knowledge. I’ve also met with some research students from other disciplines, as we’ve been organising a series of research cafes which showcase the work of PhD students and post-docs from across the University. Our first event was last week, and it was a real success. It was really inspiring to see the range of research that goes on in the University, and it was nice to take some time out of my subject and hear about what other people are working on. Hopefully one day I’ll pluck up the courage to give as presentation about my own work!

Reflecting on the various things I’ve achieved in the last 10 weeks, I realise that I can be a bit hard on myself sometimes. I never feel that I’m doing enough, but looking back at what I’ve done so far, I think I’m doing ok. I just might be on the edge of something.