Monthly Archives: January 2016

The importance of thinking time…

Today in my supervision one of the things we were discussing thinking time and how you measure how much you have done. Apparently I am a good student because I send some written work in about five days before I am due to meet up and this gives us a basis for discussions and where to begin further work.  I also do this so that I can give myself a weekend of a few days off doing anything to do with to do with my PhD for the interim.*

I feel that written work gives me a benchmark for that “I have done some work” feeling, I have created something and can show people. However, not all my work can be measured in that way,  I think this links back into an earlier post about not being able to concentrate and produce something.  We, as PhD students, and others who observe our actions (family and friends) need to be aware that sometimes it is about the thinking space. If I am not sat at a desk or have my head in a book doesn’t mean I am not working on my PhD. 

I am not writing this as a dig at anyone, but as something that I have come to acknowledge.  Partially through distraction techniques and partially from being told it is ok to just think by my supervisor! Having it confirmed just made it easier to accept.  Is doesn’t mean that I am putting my pen down and solely staring into the distance until my next meeting,  no, I will just be allowing myself to not sit at the computer or scribble things down or read for a bit to allow my brain some space to put things in order. 

Our conversation came about after the suggestion of going on a long walk and mapping out my community in Leicester which is now an action on my “to do” list. 

*However this is really thinking time and I end up coming up with new ideas and concepts.


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Class Reunion and Working Practices

I had a class reunion today, in the coffee shop. My classmate* from my MRes and I met up to chat PhD things.   She began her part-time PhD in October last year and is essentially in the same situation as myself, working full time, studying part time and commuting to see our supervisors every month or so.   She messaged me because I said it was important to speak to others in the same situation and as we both commute to our respective universities meeting up in the middle ground (work) is the simplest option.

I hope she won’t mind me mentioning this, but she said she had hit her first hurdle with being able to concentrate on work. She has a space set up at home to study but finds herself getting distracted.   I was given some advice by my supervisor about distractions quite early on.  She told me to allow some distractions to distract me.  If I am working from home, water the plants if I keep staring at them, put that washing in the machine. Otherwise the small distractions become bigger distractions.  This helped me a lot.  I could shrug off the guilt of moving away from the desk for five minutes and I felt that I was more productive while I was “in the zone”.

We also spoke about where we work. I try and work away from the computer as much as I can when I am at home.  I am mostly desk based at work so coming home and thinking that I might be stuck at a desk for an hour or so in the evening would put anyone off!   I do a lot of my reading and note making sat on the sofa, sat in bed or soaking in the bath**!  I find it hard to work when there are voices on the TV but if the other half is playing computer games it is not a problem (and definitely not a problem for him as he is encouraged to play games!).

Hopefully some of my habits are useful to help her get sorted out. I think we all have to find our comfortable space to work in.

Yesterday I ended up in an interesting conversation with a maths academic about museum visiting. I mentioned my PhD and we ended up discussing class inequalities in museum visiting.  It made me feel quite confident in what I am doing and in what I know.   Hooray for baby steps!

*There were only two of us on the MRes when we took it. We both work(ed) full time and are now both on part-time PhD courses. The stats for progression following our degree must look amazing for our cohort!

** The bath has its downsides, dropping papers in the water and difficultly in jotting down ideas when they come up!

In a twist of fate, the PhDSupportNetwork posted this which is strangely relevant to this post!

paperclips and coursework

Numerical paperclips for organising articles, so satisfying!

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What is this all about???

Firstly I took the opportunity to update my ‘About’ section on this blog. I read it the other day and it doesn’t do me justice.  So in the spirit of self-confidence and a little more self-promotion, I have made it more about me and what I do and not just why I am writing a blog.

So, what is my PhD all about? This feels like a big step to put it out there in the public eye.

I am interested in how people experience museums, in particular their emotional responses, memories, understanding and how sensory engagement plays a part in this.   Now, this part has been delved into here and there in the last decade and there have been some interesting advancements in understanding.   I am also interesting in well-being and how museum visiting may help to foster a sense of well-being.   Currently that part is something I need to look into a little further to see how it might fit in and in what way.

So, how do I contribute to original thinking or move this subject on from where it is? This is the key question.  It is not a PhD if I don’t.

I live in probably the most multi-cultural city in the UK (barring London). Leicester has a wealth of diverse and exciting communities and I want to know how people from diverse and exciting communities experience our local authority museums.  Local authority museums should be accessible and exciting for all local communities, but they still only really attract certain audiences.  I am going to look at how different communities experience our local museums, how they feel about them and if the messages that the museums are putting out make any sense.  Essentially, local museums are for the local communities, but with such diverse local communities are they really representing them?  How can they represent them and communicate with them better?  In the long run, would this encourage new audiences into the museum?

There is quite lot in there to do with communities, understanding how new visitors approach museums and how people feel. Putting it into so few words makes it all seem quite simple!

I am not entirely sure of how I am going to go about collecting the data I will need to complete this. I do know that I will be using visual methods, creative explorations and other ways of understanding emotions and feelings.  That is a challenge for later this year.

I will add a disclaimer here of how this may change as it goes along. I was set on a different subject entirely when I first began and this is what has come out of my discussions with my supervisor and having read more widely around the subject.

Now I need to put this into a literature review!

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It is not a resolution, it is a goal.

As usual I have had my January realisation that I haven’t blogged enough in the past few months. Well, here is an update on where I am and what my plans are.

I finished my first year of my PhD (0.5 year really as I am part-time) with a glowing report from my supervisor. I have been assured that progress is being made (some days it really doesn’t feel like it!) and that my writing is going in the right direction.   I will come onto my writing later on.

I am feeling a little more academic after each supervision meeting now. Being part-time and living an hour away from my institution is tricky, I feel distanced from the research community there.  I also work at a university as part of professional services (I hate that term) but I also don’t feel part of the research community here either. In fact, the academics in my subject here (where I work) know me, and know me as a student and a professional services colleague but not as a researcher is this year’s hurdle.   One of my goals is to put forward a proposal for a poster at the Museum Studies Conference in April; this will put me in the middle of the people I know, but in my PhD student capacity. *Daunting!* This is a prime scenario for Imposter Syndrome to kick in.


I have mentioned my writing before. It is still something that I feel I am battling with, but I have found some absolute basics that I write in my notebook next to my scribbles regularly to keep me on track.

– Each paragraph should have an introduction, body and conclusion.

– Each section should have a body, introduction and conclusion.

– Do not use the following terms:

– Research shows that…

– As it can be seen…

– Keep sentences concise.

After a while this became a little more natural.

I also decided to try and take part in the #AcWriMo in November (it is like Nanowrimo) but with self-set goals and academic related.  I set myself a goal of 200 words per day.  I failed.  However I realised I can write a comfortable and good 100 words per day (on average).  The key thing I took away from this was the ‘good’ words part.  I can scribble down as many words as I like but after a while I repeat myself and get confused about what I am trying to say.  Editing brings it back together and evens it out at 100 words average.  I don’t think that was too bad.  When I am back on writing again I will try and keep up with that as I don’t think it is too much of a reach but will help with progression.

Not a resolution

I don’t really do resolutions. I don’t think it matters what time of year it is if you want to make a change you need to make it. January always highlights shortcomings as others are making resolutions around you and it acts as a spotlight on anything you might do or not do or even need to do.   As such I am just going to talk in goals.

My goal in the next few months is to gain confidence in my academic abilities. I met up with a friend before Christmas who began her PhD in September and has been going through some of the same thought processes as I did.  It was strange giving advice on those issues, I didn’t feel qualified!  The other day I had a lovely message from her about how it had really helped.  Maybe it is time to shake myself off and take pride in what I am doing instead of hiding it away like a guilty secret!

So, to gain confidence I am going to (if I put it here it is like committing to it!):

– write a blog post about what I am researching. This is a bit of a stepping stone.  I realised that I talk about my PhD on here but haven’t actually said what it is that I am doing, like someone might laugh at it or tell me it is ridiculous if I do.

– put forward my ideas for a poster at the Museum Studies Conference in April.

-Go to more seminars and lectures when I can. There is a wealth of opportunities to get involved here (at work uni) and there (at studying uni) and I need to make more of them.

– Meet up with other students or post-docs that I know in my field. Just for a cuppa and a chat, I have found those reassuring in the past.

Overall, I think I am in a really good place. I have a bunch of opportunities and I just ned to take them.  I am sure I can squeeze them in around everything else!

Coming soon… what I am really doing on my PhD!

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