PhD

Part-time studying but full-time thinking

The more I think about it, the more I am happy that undertaking a part-time PhD was the right thing for me. It seems counter intuitive as I often get frustrated at having to juggle a full-time job, work on my thesis and life in general. That being said, when I think about the progress I’ve made over my first year, I don’t feel like I am far behind where I would be full-time. I think the main reason for this is that although I have limited time to devote to reading, researching and academic admin tasks, something carries on beyond this time and that is the difficult part – the thinking. I think that this is nicely explained with a quote from Weber’s Science as a vocation:

Ideas occur to us when they please, not when it pleases us. The best ideas do indeed occur to one’s mind in the way in which Ihering describes it: when smoking a cigar on the sofa; or as Helmholtz states of himself with scientific exactitude: when taking a walk on a slowly ascending street; or in a similar way. In any case, ideas come when we do not expect them, and not when we are brooding and searching at our desks. Yet ideas would certainly not come to mind had we not brooded at our desks and searched for answers with passionate devotion.

This seems to be perfectly applicable to the shift from ‘studying time’ to ‘work time’. Often it is in the midst of my day job, or during my drive to work that the things I have been struggling with suddenly make sense. This is also something that needs to be capitalised upon as often these thoughts go and fast as they come. For this, Evernote has been a life saver, acting as a multimedia notepad that is with me 24/7. Sometimes, I write a note by hand and capture it with my phone’s camera, sometimes I do the same with a document and other times I type direct into it. This mental scrapbook, however, is what I believe has been the key to moving forward in my thinking even when I’m not technically working on my PhD project.

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3 thoughts on “Part-time studying but full-time thinking

  1. This is a great point. I’ve also found, over the course of my PhD studies, that working less than full-time on it actually increases my productivity, because I’m forced to prioritize and get stuff done instead of messing around.

  2. Hi Jon,

    Thanks very much for your blog, sounds like you have read my mind! Like you I’m studying p/t for my PhD. Juggling the different roles of worker, student and life, I’m afraid I have been dropping the balls a little too frequently lately but you are right, each aspect of life energises the others.

    It is the thinking time that is so important. That shift from worktime to studytime, you can hear the gears crunching sometimes. Evernote is an indispensible tool. I use Dragon dictation and voice memos for those ideas that come to you when you are least expecting them.

    I found your blog via a Bourdieu group, I’m also studying sociology.

    All the best, Alan

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