In about less than a week I will officially be in my final year of my PhD. I’m soon to be one of those individuals that others will look upon either in awe or in pity, depending on the day. It’s crazy to think that this is my last year of my programme where, in many ways, I feel right back at the beginning. The confusion, the anxiety, that “what-am-I-suppose-to-be-doing” sort of feeling, but this time it’s more like “what-am-I-suppose-to-do-with-all-this” where “this” being everything that I’ve done up to this point.
I feel like I’ve change gear, where things have stepped up a notch, but unlike my first year, I feel like I’ve got more control over my research. In a very real sense, this year is where my academic training wheels are being taken off and I’m expected to start making the journey independently.
In comparison to my first year I had a lot of support both from my supervisors and the academic support staff. My first year focused more getting to used to the academic ropes available and making sense out of the idea(s) I had about research. The second year was spent learning about the hard reality of actually doing research and the unpredictability of working with humans. As a qualitative researcher there are so many unknowns that can come up that can be both challenging and rewarding at the same time. I had a better focus on what I needed to do to become a more effective researcher and had the space to explore different methodological considerations and theories. I had a lot of fun during my second year because I got to explore different facets of my research area.
And so here I am at the start of my third and final year of my PhD where I’m writing my thesis and “making a contribution to knowledge.” I actually stopped and thought about that and wondered what on earth that meant. If I thought about all the knowledge that I’ve used for my thesis, and then all the knowledge that I’ve yet to discover but yet still exists, and the fact that I still don’t quite know what to do with the knowledge I have – the task of making a contribution to knowledge just makes me more aware of how much I don’t know.
And I’m very comfortable with that fact. Going into this year I’ve got, essentially, all the “parts” of my research. What I’m looking forward to this year is really getting into the nitty gritty of my research and seeing how it all fits together and where it doesn’t. I figure if I don’t learn anything from this year I haven’t done the work properly. The thesis should be hard and should be an interesting challenge. Anything less would have been a waste of three years!