I’m nearly halfway through a PhD. Or at least, halfway through the period in which I receive financial reimbursement for my time. Hopefully the two are highly correlated.
It seems appropriate to pause and reflect on the progress made. The PhD process is certainly not a linear one. The early days involve a lot of thrashing around in a sea of literature, trying to figure out which way the shore is. At some point, however, a sense of orientation is achieved and the journey to dry land can begin. Sometimes you get into a rhythm; other times there are choppy waters to contend with and a lot of energy goes into expelling the water that’s gone up your nose. Ok, enough of the ‘all at sea’ analogy…
Apart from being a
valuable essential resource when it comes to writing up, having some kind of PhD notebook is an excellent way of tracking the progression in your thinking – the questions that you’ve posed and the answers you’ve started to find. A friend who started at the same time as me said she realised she’d made progress when she could confidently talk to new collaborators about her current work. The learning curve can be subtle and hard to detect close up, so it’s worth taking a step back now and again to self evaluate.
Though I am very conscious that I still have a lot to achieve, I do feel like I’ve come a long way since the start of this process. Maybe it’s because I recently went to my first conference. Maybe it’s the fact that soon I hope I’ll be writing my first paper. But really I think it’s the fact that I now understand pretty much every reference in this video, thanks to my methods-heavy project.
You have to take the positive encouragement where you find it.