It’s a dichotomous existence being a part time student which I’ve only really just noticed. Or at least it is for me. Last semester I was in the thick of things at work and academically; with regularly scheduled classes to attend and my usually busy work week keeping to the two halves of my life in balance. Now, academically, I’m on my own and in the midst of my literature review whilst the rest of my life carries on at the same pace. It is funny to think that when I applied for the course my boss gave me the not unreasonable speech about not letting my studies impinge on my day job and yet when you find yourself preparing for a meeting at 9.30pm because you’ve not have the time to do it during the day there’s no counter voice saying “you shouldn’t be letting work impinge on your study time”.
For the uninitiated the literature review is forage through as much writing as you can find on the subject you want to research with the aim of determining where the gaps in the knowledge are … so that you can fill them! The thing is that you’re largely on your own. What fazed me at first was where to start? I’ve always read books you might consider academic texts (part of the reason for me doing the MRes was that I would probably be reading the books anyway so why not make a degree out of it?) but there many parts that I have not paid much attention to before. All of a sudden I’m finding myself intently studying the bibliography and references trying to find the common threads of argument through the tangle of academic writing. I find I am now much more militant about referencing than I used to be specifically because I am at the sharp end of having to follow them.
I’m enjoying the flexibility of research though; if you plan ahead you would be surprised how much you can squeeze out of an evening whilst still doing other stuff that needs to be done. As the sememster progresses I will need more dedicated time to complete the writing though. I am most envious of my full time colleagues! I think the biggest problem I struggle with though is the sense of isolation; my supervisors are great and my partner is extremely supportive (tea, cake and apple pie are provided constantly) but sometimes you’re just on your own. There’s no real getting past that sometimes. I remember Sally Horrocks talking last semester about PhD study and the reasons for doing it. The thing that really stuck in my mind is that you’ve got to have a personal attachment to what you’re doing. When you do feel a bit alone it will be that attachment that keeps you going.
Well; that and cake.