The PhD Thesis. The most labour-intensive doorstop imaginable.

It seems rather presumptuous of me to give advice on blogging. I am hardly a power-blogging Pulitzer-prize winning writer and journalist. No-one describes me as a ‘commentator’, my posts don’t go viral, my number of twitter followers is not quite up there with Stephen Fry, by a factor of about er… forty five thousand. But that’s not why I do this, and that’s not why I’ve been blogging for Sociology Lens for well over a year now.  There’s a lot to be said about blogging and how it can both complement and supplement the ‘day-job’ of being a PhD student. more...

Then and now
When I was a kid growing up on council estate in Gloucester, I couldn’t have imagined I would end up doing PhD research in Ecuador. Getting here hasn’t been easy!


I know I have a great deal of privilege. I am a white, thirty-something, well-educated, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied man from Britain. Life is relatively easy for me, and I am well aware of it. But I am also a working class PhD candidate, and academia is one of the few places in which I have ever felt like a minority. People like to think that anyone can make it in the academic world; that it is a meritocracy in which the brightest and best get the support and funding that they deserve, but to be blunt, this is a fantasy.

Academia, despite the efforts of many well-meaning organisations and individuals, is still an elitist institution. We who have entered the industry from a less privileged class position experience both undergraduate and postgraduate study in a very different way to those who arrived here via the predestined path; a path that is open to those who live in a world where it is ‘normal’ to get a PhD, or even to go to university at all. Rather than giving advice, this post identifies some of the underlying causes of the underrepresentation of working class people in postgraduate study. I will try, though, to reflect upon some of the things I have learnt (both about myself and about my chosen ‘career’) while starting out as a working class academic, and I will make a few suggestions that others in a similar position might find useful. more...

Source: "https://openclipart.org/download/173434/interview.svg"
Source: “https://openclipart.org/download/173434/interview.svg”

 

A couple of weeks ago, in my Social Issues in Qualitative Methodology course, I was assigned to give a presentation on the “technologies of interviewing.” At first, I was told by older cohort members that I was lucky because I had the easiest topic: “Just do the history of the recorder.” As I googled the topic, thinking that it would then be some cool history and development I found that my predecessors had just done a timeline of photos of how the recorder has changed over time. How boring! Who would want to sit through a 20 minute lecture, slide after slide, talking about the recorder, especially when we’re supposed to be talking about the social issues involved in qualitative methods?

My advice to you, graduate students, today is to avoid this typical pitfall in your methods classes (as both student and instructor): revamp your lessons so they can be of some actual use! Below I offer an example of how I revamped this “simple and easy topic” to something that students can actually use and learn from.

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Around this time last year, I had finally received that life-altering email that had prompted numerous hits of the refresh button by the minute: an acceptance into a doctoral program. At first it was all cheers of joys and phone calls to distant family members and facebook statuses with one-off triple-digit number of likes. As April turned into May turned into June; however, and August was clearly in the horizon, a lot of the thrill started to be replaced by a crippling fear.

Much like anyone who had ever been in this place before, I began self-diagnosing an early case of Imposter syndrome. No way I was ready for this! The selection committee had obviously made a mistake! Even now I get that feeling fairly often, however, somehow I am nearing the end of my first year and I survived! I didn’t fail statistics or get escorted off the campus compounds by security, mirroring a particularly mortifying nightmare. I am still here and I plan to be until I have that Ph.D degree, even if there is a tiny voice in the back of my head asking me if I deserve to be. I am doing well. The hard part is the beginning because it comes with the most variances of uncertainties and insecurities. The hardest bit is over and the rest may resemble a roller-coaster ride more than a walk in the park, but I am all buckled up.

Here are some tips that helped me not only survive but cherish my first year of graduate school. I hope it will help those of you worried about starting out this fall. more...

Photo by: Lori Stamm, http://www.clickigotcha.com/ used with expressed permission of photographer
Photo by: Lori Stamm, http://www.clickigotcha.com/ used with expressed permission of photographer

I am a traditional parent and I began my parenting journey while in graduate school.  I am traditional in that boring two-parent household, two incomes, one dog, two children and a whole mess of bills, kind of way.  What makes us interesting however is how we partner in our parenting and household maintenance.  I know, I know – what’s new or progressive about being partners, isn’t that more of the same old style?  Not quite.  I’m serious when I say we are parenting as equals and it mattered A LOT to my work/life balance while earning a PhD.

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Class

(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AStudenti_ULBS.jpg)

 

For many (Queer) scholars of color (Queer is in parentheses because not all scholars of color identify somewhere on the Queer spectrum), including myself, attending graduate school is an enormous milestone. In my family, I am the first to attend college, let alone a graduate program. It was weird growing up, and to know that no one in your family could help you with your homework. When I was in 8th grade, I helped my cousin with her 12th grade math homework, so she could graduate high school. Although I knew my family would provide moral support, the support I actually needed would not come from them. I went through my undergraduate career without any role models with whom I could identify. Majority of the professors who provided me with opportunities, believed in me, and/or provided what support they could, were, majority, cisgender white women. I am thankful for all the opportunities and countless references these professors have provided for me. Statistically, I knew the amount of (Queer) scholars of color in graduate programs would be minimal: but, I had no idea about the trifling amount of support, or community, I would find in my graduate program. more...

Graduate Student Advice Month

http://www.phdcomics.com/
http://www.phdcomics.com/

Last year at a conference I was talking to one of my mentors about how it felt to be in the final year of a PhD. She asked me if I was in a relationship with anyone, and I said I wasn’t. Her reply summed it up:

“That’s probably for the best.” more...

Source: Shit Academics Say Twitter @AcademicsSay
Source: Shit Academics Say Twitter @AcademicsSay

When I’m not busy working on my classwork, thesis or on Sociology Lens posts, I serve as the inaugural Managing Editor for the new American Sociological Association’s Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities’ journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, published by Sage. In this capacity, I am responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the journal including author inquiries and managing our submission portal. Being in this position gives me an insider position to the black box of publishing a manuscript. First, I will explain the manuscript publication process, and then I will conclude with my “Managing Editor’s list of do’s and don’ts when publishing.” more...

Graduate Student Advice Month

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The view from my favourite coffee shop in Anyang, South Korea – where I plotted my escape to UK academia.

When you’re partway through something, it rarely occurs to you to stop and remember how you got there in the first place. I’m around a year-and-a-half into my PhD programme now, and as part of Sociology Lens’ graduate advice month, I thought I’d write up some tips on how to apply for a PhD. Doing so has made me recall exactly how I got here in the first place, and it all started, like so very few stories do, in a coffee shop in a suburb of Seoul…

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 Graduate Student Advice Month

Picture from: www.toothpastefordinner.com

 

Nobody really knows what is like to do a PhD until they do one. I am half way through mine and I still only half know what it is like to do one very specific PhD: my own. Everyone’s experience is unique to their own research topic, their own field site and their own personality, but many of the challenges, pressures and anxieties we encounter are more similar than we realise. We all seem to spend most of our time oscillating between contradictory emotions (hope and despair, enthusiasm and exhaustion, excitement and frustration), hoping that eventually all of this turmoil might (miraculously) become something worthy of calling a thesis.

I wouldn’t really call the following five things ‘advice’, and they are by no means a description of how I have been approaching my own research so far. At best, they are a few things that I now know I need to keep reminding myself of, and that other researchers might be able to identify with. more...