The Learning curve, the action plan post-March supervisory meeting was to produce 6,000 words in two subject areas of my thesis, Psychological Contract, and Psychological Resilience. I had learned a significant lesson from my last blog post titled “Despondent with Square Shoulders”. I realised through frustration that I am not going to be able to multi-task successful completion of the professional doctorate. This would be a complete contradiction as that’s exactly what a professional doctorate is; it’s doing your day job and attaining a professional doctorate simultaneously. According to Zhang and Yeung (2012), multi-task learning is “a learning paradigm which seeks to improve the generalisation performance of a learning task with the help of some other related tasks”. I agree in principle with this simple statement, but look what this statement really looks like in reality;
Put another way, Richard Caruana (1997) states, “multitask learning is an approach to inductive transfer that improves generalisation by using the domain information contained in the training signals of related tasks as an inductive bias. It does this by learning tasks in parallel while using a shared representation”. Again I agree in principle. However multi-task learning still has to be focused. From January to end March 2018 I had implemented the “do a little often” suggested by Grace Poulter (Senior Lecturer in Academic Writing ) which I still continued to use with regards to reading. However, when building the literature review, I required large blocks of time to focus on what I had read and applied this reading to my understanding of how and why it had found a place in my literature review and ultimately a place in my doctoral thesis.
Post my supervisory feedback in March I knew I needed to find a different way of building my literature review. I found a paper calendar, a discarded Christmas present and began to identify potential spaces/gaps/opportunities to allow larger study blocks to be created. It was a selfish act on my behalf which required some family discussion. Thankfully I had buy-in due to the fact that I had been a nightmare to live with and not having me around was, as my family stated “better for everyone”. After about a week of finding these blocks of time, I could feel the quality of my understanding and my production of content building. The periods of concentrated energy and commitment to my literature review was now building my web of knowledge. These threads of information from one author to another, one theory, concept and construct to another supported my understanding of the subjects in context.
I initially submitted a draft of 3,000 words to Grace Poulter (Senior Lecturer in Academic Writing ) gave feedback on c50% of my work, her feedback gave me the confidence to carry on and I submitted my draft of 6,000 words on the 3rd of May and by the 10th of May my supervisory team, Director of Studies – Afroditi Dalakoura, David McGuire agreed I was progressing.
I left the meeting with clear action deliverables for the 21st of June (our next meeting)
- Edit and update sections as per feedback from the supervisory team and expand on theory within the two sections of the work.
- Produce a further 4,000 words more on the existing subject areas
- Send updated work to the supervisory team by 18th of June for reading in advance.
- Next supervisory meeting 21st June
Due to exam marking, work and family commitments I will actually only have three weeks to deliver my next draft. However, I do feel I have established a positive and proactive methodology of the study and aim to remain centered and calm during this study period. Next update will be posted on 21st of June.
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Thanks Eileen for another practical and inspirational insight into your experiences around the development of your lit. review.
What stands out for me is your description of how you developed it – far from a linear process.The same could apply to any other section of your thesis, I’m guessing.
The final lit. review section may be presented in a logical, step-by-step way, but this is not how it is produced.
It makes me wonder if developing the ability to produce work at Doctoral degree level is partly about understanding this non-linearity around processea, through making the kind of mistakes you outline here in your article; i.e., changing from a doing a little a lot to larger blocks of time.
Despite the fact that there is no one size fits all aproach to effective Doctoral degree-level writing, managing to cope with the unexpected disriptions to a, seemingly linear plan is key to getting this work done. So, for me, it’s a case of embracing the messiness that come with such disturbances; i.e. leveraging the linear : non-linear social practices of implementng your thesis strategy. In others words, getting the thesis done is embracing life’s madness, and realising that we are never really in control.
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