Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This blog is moving

After much deliberation I have decided to move part of this blog - the Helen's reflections part - to another site and I am pleased to introduce Curious Reflexions:  I have registered Curious Reflexions as my business name and eventually will be offering consultancy and other services, but for now my focus is on finishing my PhD.  I have selected a wordpress blog because I am looking for a blog template that does a bit more than the blogger one, and the wordpress one looks like it will do the job.  If you are still interested in following me, please pop over to the wordpress site and check it out. It's still shiny and new, so let me know if there are any bits that are broken.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Does having a PhD help you at a Trivia night?

I went to a Trivia night last night with some colleagues at the University. I used to love Trivia nights but I haven’t been to one for a long time. They are different these days, with powerpoint slide shows and projectors, and last night I realised that I am different too. There were six rounds of questions and we did well for the first two rounds – the general knowledge questions. We knew the chemical symbol for gold (it’s au in case you were wondering), the two highest grossing movies of all time (Titanic and Avatar) and we knew the names of all of the characters marooned on Gilligan’s Island. We did particularly well in the third round when we had to identify international architecture, and as a table we chatted about the conferences that we had attended all over the world.

But then things got harder and I realised that while I have focussed all of my attention on my PhD research topic the rest of the world has gone on without me. We were stumped in the sports section. We couldn’t remember who won the 2010 Women’s Singles Title at the Australian Open (has it really been eight months since Kim Clijsters took home the trophy), or the name of the person who won the Australian Ironman Championship six times (I will save you the trouble of Googling it – it’s Trevor Hendy). We stumbled in the section where we had to identify cartoon characters – who has time to watch TV when you are busy writing a PhD? There are cartoons on TV that I haven’t heard of and some of them have been on TV for several years. But the section where we failed in the most spectacular fashion was the flags section – we couldn’t remember if the stripes on the French flag were horizontal or vertical, and which country had the red stripe over white and which one has the white stripe over red. Actually, I still don’t think I can explain the answers to that one.

As I drove home and contemplated our performance at the trivia night it occurred to me that as much as I have loved reading in the past, I don’t have time for it anymore. Pre-Phd, I had one or two novels on the go at all times. I loved to read all kinds of books or to curl up on the couch with the newspaper on a rainy Saturday afternoon. But today, I can’t even remember a time when I did more than glance at the front page and the employment section of the newspaper. I think I am craving a trashy novel. It’s hard as a PhD student to contemplate using precious and valuable time to read something other than a journal article or text book, but I think that is exactly what I need to do. Maybe, I will even watch TV!

While I am absorbed in PhD research I am immersed in a place that is privileged and sheltered from the realities of what is happening in the rest of the world. And maybe, from time to time, we should come up for air and check out what is happening in the rest of the world. Read a trashy novel, see a tacky movie at the cinema or watch a re-run of a long-forgotten comedy on TV. Because while I have spent months reading, thinking and writing about qualitative research methodological approaches that have epistemological credibility, it is unlikely that there will be any questions about that at your nearest trivia night.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm back...

Well it has been a long time since my last post, but it is time to get this blog going again.  Plenty has been happening, but I haven't felt inclined to write much about it  - especially in a way that I am prepared to share with other people.  Anyway, I have felt inspired by two blog posts recently and I am keen to explore them a bit more.

Firstly, I have opened a twitter account, and you can find me @HelenHickson pretty easy huh! I have had the twitter account for a while and enjoyed the chatter of people I know and people I don't. I saw it as a fun thing to do while I was procrastinating about something else. Then I found this regular weekly chat called #phdchat and each week PhD students and graduate from around the world chat about different topics. The timing is not good for me and I need to get up at around 5 am if I want to participate in real time, but I enjoy reading through the resources, hints and tools that are shared by other students at different stages of their research. It's an amazing resource for PhD students. 

But back to the two blog posts.  Of course, now I have made friends with people on twitter and they share the coolest of stuff.  Dr Inger Mewburn is  The Thesis Whisperer and she writes and collates stories about the experiences of doing a PhD. I have only noticed the twitter feeds before, but they are witty, clever and always so very relevant.  Yesterday she posted a story called, 'Is the University a bad boyfriend'.  What a catchy title! I loved the story and I loved the metaphor and it got me thinking - why did I enrol in a PhD and what are my expectations about University work. Am I on track to have my dreams shattered and is there anything that I can do about it?

Then, today I saw this story in The Age: Lonely PhD student? Just log in.  It is a great story about how the PhD journey does tend to be a lonely and sometimes boring experience, but social media does provide inspiration and food for thought, and the opportunity to connect with other people, anywhere in the world,  who understand just what it is like.  And that has got to be a good thing.

I promise to write more often!