Calling yourself Dr.

So, my immediate question to myself upon reading my awesome email from the Grad School was this: when do I get to call myself Dr?

This is only important for the three months prior to calling yourself Dr when you’re desperate to get the degree conferred and the year or so after getting the Dr tag when you’re desperate to show it off. In my case, I need to know when I can call myself Dr so when I apply for loans, official documents, jobs, and other such nonsense people take me seriously. (As a 40-something-year-old woman, I am deeply distressed by the ongoing sexism inherent in our society which invariably determines that my husband’s sex, name and status is greater than my own, and that I have little to no legitimacy when buying a house or car, borrowing money or stating an opinion. Banks are particularly guilty of this sexism, as are car people. Cars and houses are about the most expensive assets/liabilities you will own and them that run the banks and car yards still seem to think I am unable to manage 1/ a car, 2/ a budget, 3/ signing stuff. I’m not sure my status will change very much given that as a woman I’m still a second class citizen, but I’m willing to give it a red hot go. Let’s see if anything changes. I know my DH is dying to call me his partner Dr O’B. He has even started calling me his partner and colleague when in polite company. I like this, because it raises my status from wife to academic, and we all know this is really important, amirite?!)

Also, and I think every Dr of Philosophy (and other) would agree with this, the doctoral journey is such a bloody hard one that the title is deserved in every way. But everyone else thinks the Dr title is a bit of a wank (everyone else who’s not working in academia tends not to appreciate the stupid amount of work that goes into getting this degree. Gardeners don’t get it. Chefs probably don’t get it. Certainly students don’t get it – they think it’s definitely a wank, but then they think everyone who is 5 years or more older than them is ancient and near death).

Aaanyway, so I think to myself, I’m sure there’s an answer somewhere about this. I’ll Google it. But before I Google it (or Bing it), I think to myself, I might just check and see if my alma mater says anything about it. I don’t really think they will, but hey, it’s worth checking at the source. So I get onto the Grad School website, and lo and behold, there it is, clearly a FAQ at the bottom of the thesis examination information: When can I be called a Dr?

The answer: If you are a PhD candidate you are able to use “Dr” once your degree has been conferred by the university.  The conferral process generally occurs within 10 days of receiving notification from the Graduate School that you have met degree requirements.

It’s still 2 weeks until I meet with my supervisors about my corrections (wot I have already done). I have a feeling they will sign off then and there as I meet this criteria:

Changes – Changes are required as indicated in examiners reports and are checked by the Chair of Examiners. Three (3) months are given for these changes to be made.

Then the thesis goes through this process:

If you are required to make changes to your thesis after its initial review, upload a copy of your corrected thesis to the university eSpace along with a list of the changes made. The Graduate School will forward these documents to your School/Institute for review by the Chair of Examiners, the Principal Advisor and the Postgraduate Coordinator. When the thesis has been reviewed and the revisions assessed as satisfactory, your School will forward a completed Recommendation to Confer Degree form to the Graduate School.

So, I will be able to make some further minor corrections to the thesis when I see my supervisors, but I’m not sure it will be wanted. I’ve already ticked off all the boxes and done the revisions. It’s made the thesis better.

This means that on the 2nd February or near to it I will upload the amended thesis, the list of corrections, and I’m pretty sure forms will be signed as quickly as humanly possible so that the School of Music can be rid of me once and for all.

So I think I will be able to call myself Dr sometime in March. That’s my forecast. The most peculiar thing about this process is that over the years I’ve had an ongoing nightmare: what if I die and my thesis is unfinished, or I lose all my data, or I lose all my words, or I’m on a plane crash and have to try and save my computer because it has all my data on it? These nightmares are real: they have happened to people I know. Well, maybe not the plane crash, but it’s possible.

Now I have worked out many ways to save my data short of printing it out, and about 10 people have copies of my thesis. I have a DropBox account which I LOVE, and flash drives are still good in a pinch. But now, I don’t care as much about saving my Very Important Work. It’s just not important enough. I’ve moved on. Which means, I guess, I deserve the Dr title very much.


I AM SO TIRED…and what is a Pomodoro?

I’ve nearly finished the dissertation. Half a discussion chapter to complete (20 pomodoros) and fix up the abstract (4 pomodoros). Rewrite the conclusion so it doesn’t suck (10 pomodoros). Add the figures and adjust the TOC (8 pomodoros). And I’m done. But do you think I want to even look at the thing? Nope. I can’t even bring myself to open the bloody document and do a couple of pomodoros to get me started. I just don’t want to do it. And I knew this would happen as soon as I started teaching again. Teaching just wipes me out, emotionally, intellectually, physically. I care about my kids and I want the best for them, so I spend a lot of time and energy on them. And I just can’t bring myself to work on the thesis. If I look at the amount of pomodoros I need to finish, it’s 21 hours. Half a week of full time work. Maybe the discussion chapter will take a tad longer than 20 pomodoros, but if I stick to the script…

Pomodoro, by the way, is a special term intended for developing better time management to improve work efficiency. 1 pomodoro can last as little as 15 minutes or as long as you like, but the trick is to take an actual stand-up break for 5 minutes in between work activities. So below is an approach quite useful for me during morning sessions:

1 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: 5 minutes

2 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: 5 minutes

3 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: 5 minutes

4 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: long break.

Pomodoros are useful blocks of time for those who work at computers and have ready access to internet and email. You don’t look at email or do anything other than the work you have set yourself for that 25 minutes, and then, during the 5 minute break, you get up off your chair and grab a cup of tea or do something physical. It’s a great way to achieve focus in an accessible and reasonably short block of time, therefore tricking your brain into thinking it’s super-easy to do just 25 minutes. But I can’t even bring myself to do 1 pomodoro on my thesis this week. Blah.

I am so tired. But the end is so close. SO close.

I looked over the literature review the other day and it holds up ok. Just need to finish that blasted discussion chapter. But that means deep thought. I’m incapable this week of deep thought. This month, this semester. Gah.

I keep looking for spare weeks in my diary where I’m not teaching 10 hours a day. I found two in late September. I’m only teaching or auditioning in the mornings. Good. This will get me through the rest of the thesis, provided I can just finish the discussion chapter.

And let me not start on the blessed administrivia and bureaucratic nightmare that is my place of study or coping with the continual roadblocks barring my way at the last minute.

Care factor? Nearly zero. Desperation to finish? Out of 100: ninety-nine. Deadline? November. Totally possible, except I have no time to work right now. It shows me how deep I go when I am in the throes of writing, and how much time and space I truly need in order to write. Charles Bukowski was a alcoholic bullshit artist with his poem that you don’t need time and space and light and air to write – if you really want to, you just write. Well, sure. If you like writing bullshit. And if your paid work consists of brainless stuff like cleaning where there’s lots of time for thinking.

Every few days I read a fabulous blog by Pat Thomson, called Patter. Her last blogpost could have been written just for me. I’m sure she’s looking over my shoulder cheering me on. Even if she’s not, her blogs eerily mirror my current trajectory. Thanks, Pat, for providing such great information to those desperate PhD students who are just a little sick of Jorge Cham’s PhD comics. Great for when you’re a full time science student, annoying when you’ve been writing your dissertation for too many years to count and the characters in the comics never age. Plus the comic is overwhelmingly US-centric and young grad-student. Therefore limited and not really relevant to an old chook like me.

One thing’s for certain: I’m desperate to write a bit of fiction in the next few years. Desperate. And also to get out in the sun. And do something other than this.

Thesis-baby is growing up. Sent her off to review-college.

On Friday I handed in my thesis for review. I am much closer than I thought to the end. In fact, I can see the end of the tunnel now. The light is there, shiny….

I’ve worked on my thesis all week including removing one of the research questions because, in the words of my supervisor, it is a rather circular question that is actually partly answered in the first two questions, and then part of it I can’t answer at all. So, take it out. Ok, quoth I. At this point, I’m not going to argue with the wisdom of someone who has done lots of these things. And I’m in need of an objective observer.

I wrote me an introduction on Wednesday and rearranged my discussion chapter. It’s looking better already. My friend (who got her PhD last year) texted me to ask what I was doing – nothing, quoth I, just sitting at home doing my thesis (and also looking at an old article that DH and I put on the back burner because I felt it was a bit too revealing and I needed time away from it. It was a good piece which I’ve sent to a friend for commentary prior to sending it to a journal). So I went into her work and we worked together. Just like old times. And it was great! Super productive and everything.

On Thursday I looked once again at my literature review and began to see a light where previously there was dark, dark swampy swamp. So on Friday I sat in my jimmy-jams and worked on the whole document, reading through each chapter and beginning to fix up bits that didn’t make sense.

And then I put it in one document. Yes, I’ve created a draft thesis. The whole thing. It’s 296 pages and some of it is substantially too long with not enough substantiation or in text citations. (I am a very wordy writer – could use some decent editing.) Other sections have no stuff at all. Including chapter 4, which is just a title. There is a ToC (table of contents). Whoa.

Now, of course, I’ve read it again. Blah. Sometimes I hate my writing. Other times I think it’s fantastic. Usually my writing is fantastic when I have to do it in a hurry. Guess what I’ll be doing in the next 2 months? Writing my thesis in a hurry.

And how did I feel, doing this? Well, DH was home when I sent it. I burst into tears. He laughed at me. He didn’t know why, but everyone cries when one waves the kid off to college. This felt like that – the beginning of the end of my thesis-baby.

And now I have no excuse to delay doing my personal tax.







It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Hysterical with exhaustion, my 44th birthday yesterday was celebrated at the end of a VERY long day, with wine and good food and my husband and daughter.

Like many folk who teach music for a living my work is peripatetic and sporadic, therefore like all good musicians I rarely say no to any job. So it is I’ve found myself teaching singing 4 full days a week this year from 8.30am – 7.00pm with only a 30 minute lunch break most days. I’m told the best thing to do is ask a busy person to do something because they will make time to do it, and so it was with me. Found myself on Wednesday teaching singing for 4 hours, then tutoring music history for 3, then teaching singing for another 3 hours, with only enough time to drive to each venue before starting afresh. In that time I managed to write 4 quite important emails, redraft an essay question for 1st year music students, have several discussions with colleagues, then go out to celebrate my birthday.

I was so tired I frankly got quite merry on 2 glasses of wine. Unlike me – I’m a complete lush normally.

So, at the end of a frankly exhausting week, reeling slightly under the weight of not quite enough sleep and too much 1-2-1 singing teaching, my lovely hubby is taking me away for the weekend to a country mountain retreat. I’m taking my computer. He promises me there is no wireless, but I’ve assured him I don’t need it: I’m doing a lit review, not checking email! But before I get to spend this much-needed time with hubby, I have to meet with my supervisor, who will no doubt look at my rather paltry attempts to write my literature and discussion chapters and laugh and point.

Oh, well. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

Just wrote my conclusion. How about that?!

The last few days have seen me struggling with my literature review, not because I’m bored witless or anything, no, not that, but because it’s HARRRRDDDD!

So, a couple of days ago, I decided to start my discussion and conclusion chapters because I needed a break from the hard stuff. And 3000 words later, I reckon the conclusion is nearly finished. That was surprisingly easy! I love being able to make motherhood statements about my work.

I’ve followed a basic structure that was recommended by DH, plus the advice in the book I’m reading to help get me over the line: “Completing your qualitative dissertation” by Bloomberg and Volpe, 2012, Sage Publishing.

I’ve started with a simple explanatory statement that seems to be at the beginning of every chapter and restated the research questions. Then under the header Summary of Findings I’ve blocked each of the research questions under teacher findings and student findings.

Then I’ve written a statement about future research directions and recommendations for music institutions.

Finally, I’ve made a big statement about the importance of the master/apprentice tradition but how it is transforming for the twenty-first century and added my own concluding statement about how my study has contributed to my transformation/ education as newbie tertiary singing teacher.

And there it is. My conclusion is kinda done. I just need to fix up the bit about the student and teacher findings because it’s all in my head at present, despite my findings being written down as narratives. Those narratives are LONG, man, and winding.

And my supervisor, years and years ago it seems, suggested that I create poems from my headers in the narrative chapters. This I’ve yet to do, but it seems a nicely creative activity after all the angst of the research components, and I can chuck these poems in for a bit of light relief at the beginning of the conclusion. Or maybe the end. Or maybe not at all.

But anyway, at least the ending’s mostly done. This also has helped me (once again) refine my thinking so that I can better articulate my big idea.

DH commented that one of his research assistants (the one we all hate because she is SO AMAZING at her job and so we slavishly copy all her best approaches) does the same thing prior to writing up the results. Hmm. Who would have thunk that writing the conclusion first would help refine the big picture?!

*And in a final note, who would have thought an uninterrupted few weeks for writing would have produced this much work? Oh, the irony.


Getting into the swing of it. Again. And again. Aaaand… again.

Holidays, or PhD? PhD, or holidays? That is the conundrum pendulum for today. It’s a Saturday, after all, and Thursday I actually did 5 solid hours of work, but the rest of my family are on their summer break and the siren wail of long walks by the ocean, chippies and glasses of vino beckon, and it’s hard to get motivated when everyone else is lounging about!

Friday I couldn’t work as I was packing the car, driving the children of step to the beach house, shopping, and cleaning the house. So I have a deficit of 5 hours to make up next week. I am determined to make the time up, because it’s marching on and I’m getting antsy again. And as usual, getting started is ALWAYS the hardest part of the PhD work. Once I’m in, it’s much easier to stay there.

I’m aiming for 5 solid hours of study/ reading / writing per day, during the week, and time off for good behaviour on the weekend. I realistically won’t get any more time than this, because even if I start at 8, there’s lunch and walks to be had, dinner to make and time to be spent with my kids. But next week will be 6 hours a day – nearly full time! Gosh! But this makes up for the hopeless November studying, when I only did the equivalent of one week’s study for the whole month.

On the plus side, no more Facebook means much less procrastination. It’s been super hard to do, and I was trembling as I deactivated it, but already I feel less jumpy and disconnected and I’ve managed to stay on task much longer. If people want to get in contact with me, they can call me. If they don’t have my phone number, it’s readily available on the www. If it’s that important.

I am writing this blog from the relative difficulty of my internet dongle – it only has 2gig per month available to me, so I have to be a little circumspect about how much I use. But this is the moment – when I am away – when it comes most in handy. Most of the time I’m connected through work or home, so the dongle just gathers dust in its case. Just as well I’ve paid for it anyway. Sort of.

So, December will be the month to finish draft one of the literature review, which is currently about 14,000 words along. Then January will be writing my discussion chapter and finishing the introduction. February will be to look through the whole draft once again and put it into one single document – something I’ve not yet attempted. I have yet to make sense of my methods chapter because I’m so far removed from this that I’ve forgotten what I did and how I did it! But it’s getting there, slowly.

One thing I have yet to do is try and find the gaps in my work – what have I missed? One of the areas not really investigated is the current opera and concert stage world – the business of opera and how we perceive it when developing our students for a career in this industry. There is little actual research available – mostly the current work is about transitions OUT of the profession, so I have to glean information from anecdotal information including news articles, opinion pieces, interviews with professional singers and the like. Luckily, some clever folk have published books on the subject (purely journalistic) but I can extrapolate some of the better information which should help me build a case.

So, even though I’ve not done any study today or yesterday, my brain is percolating along. Again.

Erm, let’s try that again: Hello, November and PhD land!

I’m now in the throes of finishing my teaching for the year, marking, and working on my PhD. The teaching thing has become a bete noir, as it always does at this time of year, but I’ve carved out several hours per day for PhD land.

Planning study time for me is truly difficult. Not sure why. It’s not like I don’t like studying, but I DO procrastinate. So my latest trick to try and get around this is to plan my study in 2-hour increments. That way I will stay off social media and email for those 2 hours, then take a walking break for between 30 minutes and 1 hour when I get up, eat, do some housework, then settle back to work again. If I can plan 3 lots of these per day then that’s an amazing work day for me. Even 2 lots is extremely productive. Last Friday was a very productive day and I found I stuck to my 2 hourly limits, even as the boundaries of the time line slipped a little.

Of course, I’m re-reading all my literature and finding great gaps, as I thought, so the frustration levels may be high as I reacquaint myself with knowledge I never knew I was missing.

On the plus side, I’ve been reading a lot about Cultural Psychology, and I’m loving this approach to how we think about being in the world, how we live and learn, adapt and thrive in a dynamic and changing environment. Favourite authors this week include Heine, Bruner, Rogoff, Bronfenbrenner (at least, his ecological model) and Cole. That’s enough for now though. Back to the grind!

A favourite quote today comes from Bruner: “learning and thinking are always situated in a cultural setting and always dependent on the utilization of cultural resources” (Bruner, 1996, p.4). Yes, yes they are. So now, as I have built my cultural resources on a rather unstable foundation of sandy procrastination, bye bye again!


This is my diary – no wonder I don’t study.

Thought this would be a good way to see just precisely what I do to waste time when I should be working on the PhD. Here’s a picture of my week:

Picture 1

So, there’s a lovely swathe of free time on Friday, right? Yes! I can do PhD work then. All my other time is literally 1-2-1 time with singing clients until quite late at night. My breaks are infrequent and my timetable is like this more than 28 weeks of the year, and this one doesn’t include my tutoring work. Plus I take audition workshops and panels in the holiday weeks.

Normally, too, I teach from 8.30am – 2.30pm on Tuesdays as well. So, time to do housework anyone? Nup. Time to take the dog for a walk? You see I’ve squeezed in a moment or two for that. Dinner? Stopped cooking. Breakfast? Yes, yes I can do that. And I was wondering why I have no time for PhD land. Or food shopping.

Now, you would think I have plenty of time during school holidays and summer to write, and so I do, but only during summer break. Winter is too busy with other work now. So let’s see where summer break gets me. November my uni teaching ceases. There may be marking to do – say, about 1 week’s worth. There are several catch-up lessons to plan – let’s say about 1 week’s worth. My private practice is still going until December. That means I have about 2 weeks in November where my teaching only reaches around 15 hours per week. So I legitimately have 50+ hours to study in November.

Then December hits. All bets are off. It’s holiday time and Xmas, and December is a wasted month – I’ve written about his before. So, January, right? Yay! January! One whole lovely month for study, yay! Let’s see if that happens this year – it should because I want to get the blasted thing finished, but time – well, it gets away from me.

Many kind people have suggested I get up super early and write for 2 hours in the morning. While I like this idea I am simply not a morning person. Although I reckon I could fit in an hour of reading then. So I might try this next week and see where it gets me. Because mapping out my day sure isn’t working. Giving myself small step goals isn’t working. I’m not sure what IS working. Perhaps looking at my ‘to-do’ scroll above my desk is helping. Well, yes it is. So off I go now, to try and do “Topic 1: Cultural Psychology”.

Bwahaha I am so funny!

Apologies to anyone who read my last post and thought I was serious about my PhD study plans on Wednesday and Friday.

I was yust yoking, folks. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I failed (yet again) to do any meaningful work on my literature review. Not from lack of trying, however. I DID manage to create a very pretty scroll outlining my topics:


Of course, as I was determining what was known and not known I realised there was plenty I still didn’t know about my research, never mind what the rest of the world doesn’t know about the work I am researching.

Worth doing the research to support my topic review? Hell, yes. Do I want to do the research? Hell, no. Am I lazy? No. Bored? A little. Does this part of the PhD feel rather like the homework I failed time and again to do when I was in secondary school? Why, yes, yes it does. Do I need a kick up the bum? Yes, yes I very much do. Am I procrastinating again? Yes, it looks like I am.

My last post promised to be assertive on time management and planning. This I clearly failed to achieve. But I will try, try and try again to plan this thing and do this thing. Because I am SICK TO DEATH OF THIS THING. So, this is what really happened on Wednesday:

10.10 arrive home from the gym, sweaty and hot. Put a load of washing on.

10.15 get out my Cultural Psychology books and open Michael Cole’s seminal 1996 publication “A Once and Future Discipline” (Belknap Press of Harvard Uni Press).

10.20 get mildly diverted by FB and email and just have to respond to a request for singing lessons.

10.40 play with the dog and decide to make a proper cooked breakfast. Shower and get dressed. Stack and turn on the dishwasher.

11.00 wash up remaining dishes and put on a load of washing.

11.30 get started on PhD after closing my internet browser. Look at a book on completing one’s PhD. Read the notes from last meeting about the literature review shape. Print out the current PhD literature review. Look up FB and email again. It’s a tic I can’t stop. Clearly I’m addicted.

12.30pm start to create the scroll of literature review – designed to hang on the wall and shame me into doing it. Write a few points down about how to shape the review, from a very good 2012 book called “Completing your qualitative dissertation” by Volpe and Bloomberg, Sage Publications. Get confused. Stop.

1.00pm hang clothes on the line. Remove dry clothes from line and fold. Clean house a bit. Read another bit of literature. Write several unsatisfactory lines about the history of Cultural Psychology and realise I don’t actually have to do that because it’s somewhat superfluous in an 80,000 word thesis, and besides, Cole has already done that for me.

2.00pm all over red rover – I have to teach.

Friday was a little better. While thinking and constructing ideas I often wander about the house cleaning and this is what I did, showering, dressing and eating before 8.30am and managing to start work by 9.00am. Nevertheless, I was coaxed into going shopping by my good friend and very bad influence Sharon from 1.00pm. Which is what I did – any excuse not to work is a good one, in my opinion.

So, I think for punishment and perhaps absolution (one can never really escape one’s Presbyterian past – guilt, flagellation and martyrdom run hand in hand) I will do some work this afternoon before taking the dog for a walk. And maybe on Sunday I’ll do the same.

I am SOOO funny. Ha ha bloody har.