feedback PhD proposal reflection

Research update #50: Thesis proposal feedback day

I got some rich, detailed feedback on my thesis proposal from Peter. Given that this was firmly entrenched in my mind as a first draft, I was prepared for the worst – I think – so I was fairly happy that some of the key issues were things that had already been concerning me.

I need to go over the comments again in more depth but the biggest areas for improvement so far seem to be the fact that I got a little repetitive in the latter section (and I know this is true) and I focused too heavily on building and supporting my argument in the literature review rather than just describing the current state of scholarship in the field. That I had been less aware of (or perhaps didn’t quite understand at the time), I think maybe because I’ve been concerned about snooty examiner academics looking at my idea and saying – so what? I probably also liked the flow that this  – making a case – gave me in that it made it easier to look at the connections between a range of ideas but I’m sure there’ll be other ways to do that that will be less, I don’t know, needy?

One thing that was interesting was the fact that I had been concerned that I was trying to cover too many things and needed to reel it back in a little to come to an achievable project. On the contrary, Peter suggested a couple more avenues that might be interesting to explore and noted the virtual absence of students. I think it’s more about teaching than learning but I also had a great discussion with a friend last week along the lines of ‘you can learn without a teacher but you can’t teach without a learner’, so there’s some room to move there when we look at the practice of teaching (If that’s what I’m going to do)

One thing that I was perhaps a little wrong about was my sense that older literature might carry more weight or have more gravitas or something. I’ve read a lot and must confess that some of the more recent work has been particularly valuable in some ways (probably that whole standing on the shoulders of giants thing) but I guess I was concerned that overemphasising this might make it look as though I’d only taken a shallow step into the pool. Just picked up a handful of recent journals and gone ‘this’ll do’. I do still think that the older literature has value in demonstrating that these issues aren’t new and that, in spite of much discussion of them, little seems to have changed. Room for both I guess.

There were also a few minor things – formatting and heading size, indenting quotes etc – which I’m always fine with because these are the easiest to fix and the more of this there is, the less there is to improve in the actual writing and arguments and ideas. I also need to be a little more mindful of my broad declarations that a thing is a certain way and claiming knowledge of things I couldn’t possibly know. That’s fair too. Sometimes you just get caught up in an idea and go too far.

So there’s still a fair bit to be done but there doesn’t seem to be anything majorly wrong with my key ideas, so I’m happy.

Also, hooray, 50 research updates. I have no idea if anyone reads these, I seem to get maybe 10-15 hits on these posts on average but I have no idea how much people read. If you’re still here, I hope you get something from this. It’s a weird form of public personal writing really, blogging, when you think about it.