Swimming for an academic survival during 1st year of PhD

One year ago I have started swimming in a totally new ocean: my own PhD journey. I think I am a good swimmer, more of a resistance type than speedy. In the water I like trying new moves and techniques, floating and pushing and diving. It is quite playful and sporty. My 1st year of academic research had something similar. I started with attitude ‘I know how to approach this’. However, as expected I did stumble on several occasions just to mention:

-deciding on the research method to use for papers;

-the immense task of performing correct literature review;

-formulating very critical constructive feedback;

-framing the discussion in a world of ideas rather than action-oriented as my reviewer wrote it:

‘better to slow it down. I don’t mean you rush the writing, but the reading is fast! It’s bang, bang, bang! Idea! Quick! In! Out!’. J

You see I was used to policy world where my work reports need to be actionable and recommending measurable pragmatic steps. In the academic research, I discovered the experiment dimension: Thinking hard of an idea, drafting it and trying to see if you have any results by developing, testing and documenting it. Once the favourite path discovered I started swimming with confidence towards empirical research, developing ideas through communities of practice, testing if existing theories apply and in which conditions, and more experimentations.

Milestone one is achieved by ending 12 months of the programme. To reach this point, several lessons served me well:

-how to reflect on my learning and try to see how I can maximize the synergies between my professional ecosystem and my academic endeavours;

-usefulness of communities of practice and peer to peer feedback;

-connecting to support of members of the cohort, for good and for bad;

-time management and avoiding procrastination by self-measuring every little step;

And indeed enjoying my days spent in the Royal Library of Belgium each and every time in new ways, resourceful peer to peer discussions over coffee and travelling to conferences to be exposed to yet new research.

Once I learnt how to swim in a salty lake at Romanian Black Sea side, now I’ve started learning how to conduct research at Lancaster and visiting many different libraries all over Europe.

By Daria Catalui, PhD student EduTech.


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