Archive for the ‘PhD Diary’ Category

PhD Diary: Andy Sargent

19 April 2010

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]. Read more

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PhD Diary: Anastasia Dukova, TCD

15 March 2010

Contributed by Anastasia Dukova, TCD.

Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? For me it’s is certainly more of a vocation than a job – I think a little inspiration is needed to begin, and to carry on.

In 20 words or less tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Really to follow untold stories and themes and to present them in a way that is relevant and useful today.

Anastasia’s Diary: Pursuing a PhD has opened doors to me to all the archives and repositories I could find good reason to visit. The prospect of endless records and the sense of excitement that I just might be the very first person to look at them since their compilation still is incredible.

Although I am Russian, and studied history in Canada, I felt a strong draw to study Irish history. I was introduced to Irish history when I studied British history at university in Toronto. I was always drawn to the subjects least familiar to me. Irish history was as strange to me as the sound of Gaelic language, which I made a go at as well, although it is hard to believe that now!

My first year in Dublin lead me realize how much there was to read that was of interest to me, and of relevance to my subject. I spent most of my time ‘catching up’ on Irish historiography. After lots of reading, I came to thinking of my subject in relation to other countries and cities, and so I came up with a comparative model. To ensure I cover as many aspects of my research as widely as I can, I chose to travel to Queensland, Australia (the University of Queensland, Brisbane, where I undertook my research is the photo above)  and so search the archives that are oceans apart, quite literally. Read more

PhD Diary: Colm Flynn, TCD

15 February 2010

Contributed by Colm Flynn, TCD

Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation?: I have distinct memories of a celestial voice imploring me to share my historical insights with the world… so, vocation then, I suppose. Also, jobs pay so it’s not one of those.

In 20 words or less tell us why you decided to do a PhD: I dearly want to live in an Ivory Tower (I also enjoy my topic and the challenge the research presents).

Colm’s Diary: Writing a PhD is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman – sometimes you wish you were writing a different PhD. It’s the nature of the beast (you may have noted that we’ve now moved on from the beautiful woman analogy) that, no matter how interesting your topic of research, there will be occasions where one’s academic drive and vim deserts one. My answer to the ubiquitous question, ‘you there, what is you PhD in exactly?’, usually elicits a very positive and interested response. Upon discovering that I work on 12th century crusader artillery most people display what seems like genuine interest and have follow up questions even though they might be vague or Lord of the Rings related. It seems, however, despite my proud ownership of a topic that breeds such interest (and I do own it, so back off), it is impossible to complete four or so years (three and a half with any luck) without several of those weeks – the ones wherein one single-handedly doubles the number of hits on the Guardian’s website, the paucity of articles on Medieval artillery in that particular newspaper notwithstanding.

The further I progress into my research the more convinced I am that there are two principle challenges to the completion of a PhD Read more

PhD Diary: Gerry Sutton, UCC

11 January 2010

Contributed by Gerry Sutton, UCC

Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation?
What a question. My PhD was certainly not job in the conventional sense but it was hard work to motivate oneself. Passion and the burning desire to answer the questions and goals I set myself kept me going.

In 20 words or less tell us why you decided to do a PhD? To answer the seemingly unanswerable!

Gerry’s Diary: What a slog! Working full time and researching has been intense to say the least. My thesis has definitely been a labour of love that was born out of a small kernel of interest in the workings of landlord and tenant. Now, I’m attempting the impossible- justifying landlords actions!

Getting into the libraries and archives is my escape. I love to get my head buried in books and records for hours on end, often ignoring the protestations of my hunger pangs. Read more

PhD Diary: Justin Dolan Stover, Trinity College Dublin

21 December 2009

Contributed by Justin Dolan Stover

Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? Both.   If it were only a vocation the lack of funding and stability wouldn’t bother me.  If it were only a job I couldn’t sustain my motivation to work.  Having aspects of both keeps me driven and satisfied.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Being an academic historian is the most difficult profession I could think of; a PhD was the first step.

Justin’s diary: I have several times over the past calendar month attempted to clear my mind, sit and write a diary entry which would illustrate the experiences of an American studying in Ireland.  Numerous mental obstacles emerged, however, which prevented me from doing so.  Allow me to mention just one:  the annual experience of registering with immigration.  Last year my wife and I queued for many hours, waiting with others in the cold and rain, to present ourselves, our documents and €150 each, to legally remain in Ireland.  The ordeal lasted 13 hours.  This year we shaved that down to 7 hours.  I rose at 4am to join the queue and secure our place.  Arriving at Burgh Quay at 4.30am, I was eighth in line.  My wife joined me when the offices opened at 9am as she is four months pregnant and in need of a toilet every 45 minutes or so. Read more

PhD Diary: Léan Ní Chléirigh

16 November 2009

Contributed by Léan Ní Chléirigh of Trinity College Dublin

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? I’m not sure it’s either, I love it but to call it a vocation implies that somehow my PhD will make a difference and unless your a medieval ethnographer (and maybe even if you are) it won’t.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? I genuinely can’t remember, I thought I might be good at it…

Léan’s diary: I have just started my fourth year of research and have had to take stock of what I have done with the last three years of my life, which took about five minutes. I am one of those poor souls whose PhD morphed dramatically in the beginning of third year and as a result some of my first two years’ work became redundant and I was left with only 15,000 words to my name. I know now that it was for the best but I cried for a month when it happened (Oversharing? Anyone who tells you they haven’t cried over their PhD is lying or has no soul). Read more

PhD Diary: Eamon Darcy

19 October 2009

Contributed by Eamon Darcy of Trinity College Dublin

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? It starts as a hobby that slowly consumes one’s life. The last year of my research has been incredibly strange. I left a pub one night as I had finally broken through a cloud of theory that overshadowed the last two chapters of my thesis. The jeers of “it must be love love love” still ring in my ears.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Money, fame, rock and roll. Need I go on?

Eamon’s Diary: Setting: Graduate Studies Office, after four years of solid research and writing. The time had finally come – submission. “You’ll receive a letter in due course detailing …”, I couldn’t focus, didn’t care, didn’t want to know. Read more

PhD Diary: Laura Kelly

21 September 2009

Contributed by Laura Kelly, NUI Galway.

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? Vocation, definitely. Not wanting to sound like a complete nerd, but it’s too enjoyable to be classed as a job.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD: It seemed like a fun thing to do and the natural next step after my masters.

Laura’s Diary: Being in the second year of my PhD, I haven’t yet reached the scary, panic-ridden stages of third year which I am told await me. In first year, I felt like I was trying to find my feet; looking at the literature and doing some research while tentatively trying to network with people at conferences. Second year is a strange in-between stage: on one hand, you feel more confident about your work as chapters begin to take shape, but on the other, there is a constant fear of “am I doing enough?” combined with the regular self-imposed guilt-trips when you spend an hour on Facebook that could possibly have been spent writing ground-breaking new scholarship…or not.

A typical week is difficult to surmise and this is what makes doing a PhD very different to a job. Read More

PhD Diary: Gráinne McEvoy

17 August 2009

Contributed by Gráinne McEvoy

Irish_passportDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? Like medicine and the holy orders, it’s a vocation. As evidenced by the on-call hours, the modest income, and the conviction that no other job is nearly as important.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? In the most positive sense possible, and without a shred of irony, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.

Gráinne’s Diary: I fully agree with Tomás Irish in the last PhD Diary who wrote that he views doing a PhD as a vocation but tries to treat it as a job. Indeed, I have to dispense with modesty and commend myself for generally sticking to a nine to five routine, even if my workload too often requires an additional seven to eleven nightshift. For some reason, though, and despite the fact that my family and close friends are immeasurably supportive and proud of what I have chosen to do, I still feel the need to prove to my non-academic loved ones that while my career choice may appear self-indulgent and airy-fairy, I still have a routine and responsibilities just like a real grown-up. I repeat ad nauseam that I have teaching responsibilities, I don’t watch daytime TV, and I work at a desk in a grey cubicle complete with hand lotion and pictures of my nieces and nephews. Before you advise me against protesting too much, I should point out that I am a sort of academic emigrant; I’m pursuing a doctoral degree in Boston. Read More

PhD Diary: Tomás Irish

20 July 2009

Contributed by Tomás Irish

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation?

It’s a vocation  which I try to treat like a job.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD:

I’ll try to do so in one hyphenated word: self-indulgence.

Tomás’s Diary:

A PhD is a bit like a chugger; it’s always there, and it is occasionally very annoying. There is no escape. You can put in your eight or nine hours a day and still find it tugging at your sleeve when you go to bed. There are – amazingly – times when I do not want to think about history or anything even tangentially linked to it. Unlike in many jobs (I suspect), there is no real ‘off’ switch when it comes to academic work; not in the evenings, not at the weekends. This was – for me – probably the single most difficult thing to get to grips with. If you spend all of your day thinking about a very specific period and aspect of history, it tends to get stuck in your brain. This can be an irritant when all you want to do is watch Masterchef. Read More