I spent the last two days of last week at a Introduction to Qualitative Interviews short course which was run by the Department of General Practice at Melbourne University. It was a welcome break from what is currently my daily slog of
attempting to writing up my literature review.
To assist my literature review I have been reading a lot of academic ‘self-help’ books: How to write a dissertation in fifteen minutes a day (!!), Becoming an academic writer, and How to write a better thesis. As well as this, the graduate research student group in my department have started a weekly thesis writing circle, facilitated by writing guru, which I have so far found incredibly useful – both from a writing perspective but also peer support… (soon I may even start writing! 😉 ).
One of the major messages coming through to me – which has been enormously helpful – in both the books and the Thesis Writing Circle is along the lines of ‘write in order to clarify thoughts’. Which I like because it challenges my long held (and quite stupid) belief that I must do all reading and write sentences which are delivered in beautifully perfect formed constructions. (Why this is such a long-held and stubborn thought is the subject for another time, dear reader….)
One of the reasons I have been struggling in the shift from industry to research is that I haven’t had to ‘do’ research since (quantitative-based) undergraduate degree (many years ago now). And although I have co-authored a few articles and completed a coursework masters, I massively underestimated the challenges in doing so. I feel like I’m playing the ‘poor victim’ when I admit this, but then, it is what it is…
Which means that the 2 day course was a great way to get an overview of the qualitative field – and helped prompt some critical questions about fundamental things in my research design. However, equally important was the chance to meet and chat with other phd students from different faculties who are at similar stages as me. It helped because I got to understand that their challenges were similar to mine and to bounce ideas about my research on to people who had absolutely no vested interest and no desire or need to judge (whoohoo!).
The course this week seemed to back up this blog post by the wonderful Pat Thompson on the importance of talking to develop writing. Specifically, (and I particularly like), ‘talking as a deliberate and deliberative way of unpacking the muddle in your head’. This has certainly occured a few times in my supervision meetings, but almost by accident. Maybe I haven’t really understood the real meaning and potential of supervision meetings – seeing it only as an increasingly stressful ‘are you on track’ check in.
So, here’s to more writing…and more talk! 🙂