Contributed by Andy Sargent, NUI Galway
Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? Originally the reason for starting my PhD was mainly due to a personal interest in my subject. Now, nearly three years on, my PhD has become a job – a job that needs to be completed!
In 20 words or less tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Great encouragement from my supervisor was one of the original factors.
Andy’s PhD Diary: I am at the writing up stage and I never expected it to be so difficult. As probably many PhD students find, a PhD cannot be written like all of those degree level essays which we used to rattle off in a day or two, putting it all together is a nightmare. A work-life balance needs to be found but life seems to always get in the way. I am eternally jealous of all those who have no children or partners to juggle studying around! [Note to self: will have to ensure that partner and children do not read this].
As you have probably gathered by now I am undergoing the PhD stress that comes and goes throughout the three years (or longer). I am doing my best to control it but every so often the urge to shout in our quiet PhD room (a very swish new one in Galway) seems overwhelming; quite how no-one has had a major nervous breakdown whilst studying for a PhD seems like a miracle. Of course, I haven’t done any research on this – there could well be several raving ex-PhD students out there. I should probably insert some disclaimer about mental health in general, and my lack of knowledge about it, but I am not going to do so.
The best that I can say is that we are all in the same boat. All PhDs are difficult otherwise there would be little point in doing them. History PhDs, however, seem to be a little harder due to the necessity of primary research. The farther back you go the harder the sources are to acquire, read and transcribe. Personally, I research early modern England and Ireland. The sources for this are notoriously widespread and can take years to put together – a couple (at least) of trips to the archives in England, and I don’t mean just Kew Gardens, are going to be required before you can start anything. At least my archival research is complete (I hope). My advice to any new PhD student is to study something more modern, where the sources are more readily available – research the recent history of your institution or something like that. [My cunning plan to reduce the people researching in my area and thus to reduce competition for jobs is working, EVIL LAUGH].
As for myself I am busily writing up, basically all of the time. I now have no friends and even less of a social life. If you are in a similar position you know what I am talking about. If you are not stressed out, and have met every deadline you set yourself (and set out in your progress reports), then I am extremely jealous of you. At least I managed to distract myself and write this diary. Here is my motivational bit for PhD students – stop being distracted, get back to work! Imagine how you will feel when it’s over; for me the end is in sight – somewhere.
Andy’s provisional PhD title is “The Last Charge of the Red Bull: the Dacres and Governance of Tudor Borderlands.”