PhD

Re-writing the map: Questioning where I was actually going

Having recently been made a job offer for January, I have made the decision that starting a PhD at the same time would not be the most sensible decision. In working through various options, however, I have also come to a realisation that the proposal i had ended up with in some ways had moved from the real issues that were important to me. It took a good chat over a coffee earlier in the week to realise that this had happened and has resulted in lots of exploring, thinking and mind mapping to try to get to the heart of the problem.

Firstly, I would still dearly love to conduct the research I had proposed but maybe the timing and circumstances aren’t right at the moment. I was planning to look at how parents negotiate the ideas of risk in their parenting decisions with a specific interest in how they construct notions of risk. This came out of my own personal experience during a number of jobs working with young people where I was subject to CRB checks no less than 6 times in 24 months, reflecting on this showed me that all this actually flagged up was past arrests and was not an indicator of future risk and yet was used as a guarantee of safety in effect. The issue with this research will always be rooted in what it seeks to explore; issues that do not commonly get talked about. This makes opening those dialogues a lengthy process which would involve high levels of trust and acceptance from the parents involved before any data could begin to be collected. As a full time project it would have been doable but as a part time one, I fear it could never be realised in quite the same way. If there was the possibly of full-time funding it might be viable but this has put me in a position to consider exactly why i wanted to do a doctorate and what i’m trying to get out of it as the likelihood of being able to undertake one full-time is becoming less likely and less compatible with my current circumstances.

It is interesting how in just talking through your past and plans for the future, you often begin to reveal some motivations that were previously hidden to you. It was through my conversation with Katy Vigurs that the lightbulb moment happened. I hadn’t necessarily noticed it before but all my ideas and interests lead back in some way to education and most specifically the impact of policy changes on various aspects. Another key theme was the fact that my ideas involved participatory work and were interested in engagement with some forms of public not only as participants but as, for want of a better words beneficiaries of the findings. Once I’d worked out why I wanted to embark on a doctorate, I felt I needed to get all my interests down on paper.

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The actual topics and interests were disparate in some ways, but linked in others however these common themes linked them, I also keep coming back to the recurring idea that whatever research I do must have a visual element. Maybe this is my background as an artist, but the power of the image within the sociological is extremely important and something I would not want to exclude from my own work.

Whilst this thinking and these exercises did not necessarily give me an answer, they have refocused my mind on what is important to me which might help me re-consider where i go from here.

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3 thoughts on “Re-writing the map: Questioning where I was actually going

  1. Hi Jon, Thanks for sharing this – I know a lot of people struggle to find a focus for their PhD and I’m sure it’ll be helpful to them to read your experiences. I really liked your idea around how parents negotiate risk but the main thing is that you find something you’re able to stay fascinated by for the many years it takes to complete a part-time PhD…

  2. Hi Jon, it was reading this yesterday that made me examine what I am currently doing and write about it. I am just coming in to my 3rd year and at the point where I need to decide whats next. Like you I have ideas that link and some not so much, but want to continue using visual methods. With a family to support and no pot of gold I will most probably be part time aswell. Im afraid I have no advice but would like to thankyou for writing this, it certainly helped me clarify a few things that had been on my mind and helped me move forward. Nic

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