Work in Progress

October. That’s the last time I posted anything about the PhD. It’s also the last time I can remember being even remotely productive.  Back then, I was attempting to recruit participants for my fieldwork and, after what seemed like forever, 13 potential participants had come forward.  I was feeling lucky, slightly overwhelmed, and grateful both to those who had expressed an interest in my project and to the people who had helped me with recruitment.  I only need 10-12 participants, so to find myself with 13 so early in the recruitment was quite a surprise.  What came as an even bigger surprise, however, was when one by one they all either stopped meeting the inclusion criteria and so could no longer take part or didn’t get back to me.  By December, I had no participants left.  None.

It was around the same time that my supervisors pointed out that it was almost time for my progress review. Awesome.  What on earth was I going to talk about?  Unless they were willing to rename the milestone as a ‘lack of progress review’, I couldn’t see how this was going to work.  I had until the beginning of February to assemble my lack of visible progress into a document and a presentation and to think about how I would handle the inevitable questions about my non-existent participants.

Progress reviews are funny things, though. Yes, they’re a bit scary.  Yes, you need to know what you’re talking about.  And yes, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have actually made some progress.  But, PhDs are funny things too.  The lack of visible progress doesn’t automatically mean you’ve not made progress.  I, for example, have learned quite a lot over the past five months about how not to do things.  I’ve got a far better understanding now of what can go wrong during recruitment than I did back in October.  I’ve also got a better understanding of myself, my weaknesses and my strengths.

So, now I’m back in the recruitment phase. I’m conducting my first interview with my first participant later this week, and I’m hoping I’ll have at least one more participant by this time next week.  With any luck, this will be the beginning of a more noticeably productive part of the PhD process – one with more tangible results that will make me feel I’m making real progress because I think I know enough about how not to do things for the time being.

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