Well I have come to the end of the first 2 weeks of my PhD and I thought I would try and put on paper some of my thoughts about it. Have I enjoyed it? Yes. It is a great feeling being back at uni. A bit strange as I am walking around with lots of young undergrads who only a few months ago I was teaching myself. I have to try and shed the shackles of being a lecturer and get back into student mode for a while though of course life as a postgrad, especially a PhD student is quite different.
The key difference for me is the lack of any classes. As a pupil/student, and even do some degree as a lecturer, your life is normally structured around lessons/lectures. Not so for me. Doing a History PhD in the UK, compared with those in the US (See Robert’s topic on the course he is doing in his first year), is very loose and structured by yourself. I have no lessons to attend. I could if I felt I need them take research modules from various MA/MPhil courses but I have chosen not too as I already have a degree of training in this area having completed my MPhil. I am aware of research methods and how to investigate areas surrounding my topic. This does, however, leave me with the dilemma of organising my time, so far it is going ok but as I used to say to student “could do better.” I have planned out my week and I just need to stick to it but the first two weeks have been hectic with getting registered and settled. So far my week stands as, though of course this will have to change as I go through the course:
- Mondays – Writing; I have to write-up several articles stemming from my MPhil, write a few conference proposals, write a funding application
- Tuesdays – At uni using the library for the Official Histories etc. There is also a weekly seminar that is useful to attend in the evening
- Wednesdays – Reading and prep for the archives
- Thursdays – At the archives
- Fridays – Processing information from the archives and more reading
Despite having no lessons to attend the university is very keen to foster debate among its students and there is a seminar group led by one of my supervisor on certain Military History topics. For example, this Monday we are having a discussion on the ‘Cultural Approach to the History of War’. It is just a small group of us but a great chance to discuss ideas, and for me a chance to meet other research students.
As for research I have been to the National Archives twice now. I have managed to sort out Leigh-Mallory’s infantry record and I have found some useful bits on his work with the Tank Corps. I have also found a lovely piece written by him when he attended the RAF Staff College on his war experience. Considering the paucity of his papers this is an invaluable insight into his First World War career, though more on that later.
Of course I am reading as much as I can with plenty being done with regards to Leadership Theory. This is the one area where I needed guidance and I am lucky that one of my supervisors is an expert in this area and can guide me in the right direction. I have yet to decide what and how much of theory I am going to use but I am certain that I am not writing a straight biography. It needs more structure and analysis, especially given his notoriety and the lack of papers.
I did have some fun with registering at uni. I started last Monday but my registration paperwork was not ready until Tuesday but even then I could not register until the Wednesday as they had not activated my computer login, ah the joy of a world controlled by the computer! It was sorted in the end but a bit of an unnecessary distraction.
As you can see I am getting there and enjoying every minute. I have got bits to do but I like I bit of pressure and side projects, hence using Mondays for writing as I need to be doing something other than just researching Leigh-Mallory. This is a good point and well worth remembering. Do not be worried or afraid or researching/writing about something extra. It keeps the mind fertile and responsive. I have also started reading fiction again for the first time in a few years. Working full-time and doing my MPhil meant I had little time for that but I am determined to do it now. It is good for the soul and hopefully reading fiction may improve my writing style i.e. liven it up a bit and not let it be a dry text.