School holidays = PhD study bliss

The title is a misnomer. I’m not actually on holidays. But my afternoon teaching has stopped for the school holidays and while I’m still working at Uni, I’m usually home in time to do some afternoon study.

So I’ve started to look once more at a few things. Such as my Methods chapter. And my Conclusion. Both of which are Not Quite Right. I’ve had fun rewriting them over the last couple of days and it’s easy to see how close I am to actually getting this thing submitted, because they are nearly ready for re-reading by my supervisor.

I’m still dodging round the misery that is my Literature Review. As I said to DH, I don’t have a good Big Picture plan, so the lit review remains awfully sparse and horrible. I was reading in Research Design by Creswell (2014) about how to create a concept map, and I did one of those AGES ago, but I might have another go to see if I can’t get this literature under control.

I’ve missed the ease and joy of doing this type of work. My brain has definitely switched onto PhD study mode and I feel eager to get home and write after I’ve finished teaching for the day. Curiously, the relatively mild amount of teaching I do at Uni when my studio is closed for holidays seems to be completely manageable in terms of brain power. That being said, I have completely given up on keeping the house clean. There are others who can do that. I’ve apologised and will get back to housework in August, once I’ve submitted. There are always areas that I have to abandon in order to finish this work! Besides, I have to beat my sister, who only began her PhD 2.5 years ago. I began mine in 2009. Time to pull out the stops and get a wriggle on, and put a Dr next to my name.

At present I’m studying up to 4 hours a day. Feels good. 3 weeks of this and my literature might actually start to look like something.


My article was accepted!!!

Today, a little happy dance. For my article to an “A” grade music education research journal has been accepted!

I had been hiding from doing the revisions, mainly because I didn’t know where to start. It was when the assistant editor wrote a very polite third email – 6 months after the second – asking whether I was actually going to resubmit that I sat down to make sense of the comments.

In the end, it was a fairly easy revision process. The reviewers were very kind. They weren’t savage. They wanted the article to be published but one reviewer in particular saw that the article lacked structural clarity. So I created a table of revisions. My revised article was much, much better. The writing was clearer, the structure more sound, and even the way I explained and analysed my research was better articulated.

In the end, a blind peer-reviewed process is an excellent way to ensure a quality product. The process has made me much more aware of how I write for these types of journals. Tragically, it’s much easier for me to analyse the work of others than create my own. Damn you, musicology brain. Where’s composing brain when you want it?

And as I was doing the last set of revisions for the editor this morning, I even fixed the references. Not being a fan of EndNote, I keep all my references in a big reference list stored in the cloud (Dropbox, I love you). But they’re not always accurately cited, and sometimes journals want Chicago or something hideous like Harvard or MLA. Still, it’s not hard to fix, and doesn’t take all that long. I think my old fashioned approach is still better than buggy EndNote.

By the time I get my PhD I should have 10 publications to quality journals and publishing houses. A good start. So happy happy dance today!

Fraudulence is the new black.

Feeling like a fraud today – reading the wonderful work of two narrative inquirers and the extraordinary efforts they made in their methods chapters, I’m feeling as if I can’t even string two words together and not only because I’ve seriously underestimated the number of references required in this chapter. It’s hard to write a methods chapter when one has approximately 2 articles at one’s disposal and one book. Mea culpa, of course. But worse, my capacity to write like a researcher has become rather crapola. Used to be able to do it – not any more.

Normally I like process work such as what Methods chapters offer, but in this case I’m hating it.

Rather glum, and have just discovered DH is coming home to quietly die with some gastric ailment. Looks like no dinner date for us tonight!


Finding the inspiration or losing the will.

A friend of mine has, she felt, finished her thesis. At 91,000 words, she thinks she might be done. Not only do I have serious pangs of envy that she has “finished”, I envy her ability to just get on and “do it”. Obviously, nattering about in a blog like this ensures that of course I will NOT get on and do it, so I’d better get started before I lose the will. My dear friend R has kindly offered to BRING me the Stake Case Study Research book from the home library in QLD, which is definitely going above and beyond the call of good friendship. (She is also coming to the UK for this study trip, just in case anyone was wondering why a friend would offer to hop on a plane and bring a book here all the way from Australia.)

Some minor irritations today: I hate underfloor heating – it takes ages to warm up and cool down, and now the temperature which was too high is now too low. Can’t work the bloody machine and the instructions are worse than useless because they provide only half the information one needs. And I hate hate hate the new Gmail compose experience. They are trying to make email more like informal text, but actually, I use email more like letters. They formalise things and one needs the whole page for this. Gmail need to get a grip and realise that email is basically for formal letter writing and not to mess with something that was working just fine, thank you very much.

I’m having a gripe morning. Sorry. Back to work.


Today is the start of a new beginning (or ending)

Saw my supervisor yesterday and we concocted a great plan to have me submitting my PhD by the end of the year, possibly earlier. I have 61,000 pretty decent words already written. It was a great meeting and I realised I’m closer to the end than I thought. I have promised 16 hours part-time study a week, but given that my narratives are done, the remaining should be bog standard. (So my DH tells me!)

I have three mostly completed narrative chapters to send out to my participants; I have half a literature review (10000 words down) and I have half a Methods chapter (5000 words down). I have a completed autoethnography and I had begun thinking about my discussion chapter before I gave up that idea in disgust, so at least I’m starting to get a handle on my key themes and findings.

This month I’ve promised to send my supervisor my Methods chapter draft 2; to send out my narratives, and to find out when my Thesis Review is due.

I also have to revise my RSME article (that old one) and finish the Springer book. It’s a big month, given my work commitments and playing with the dog.

But today is the start of the end. This is the final year of my PhD, and I have a deadline. Time to get on with it.



Christmas is coming and so is my deadline!

It has been almost a month since I last published my blog – not that anyone reads the researchy bits anyway, but there you go. Apologies. So the last three weeks have been about trying to do another draft of another Narrative Chapter for my thesis and not quite getting there. Luckily I’ve one I wrote back six months or so, so at least I have something to be going on with. I’ve been trying to finish my transcripts and they are the most boring things of all, and it is those elements of my research that have slowed me down the most. I have to sit in the kitchen to do them because the noise in my study is just a little too high for comfortable transcription and then I have to concentrate! This is the most boring bit of all. Transcription, let’s face it, is crap work.

So hubby and I recently went to another conference in Perth, Australia. It was the Power of Music Conference and it was a really enjoyable conference. Something for everyone and there were few sessions missed. We missed the last day completely, but I find these things so tiring and the keynotes didn’t appeal to me that morning. Both hubby and I delivered our papers on the first day, and then I spent a good deal of time ensuring people like Profs Gary McPherson and Jane Davidson know who I am and that I am referencing their research in mine… Particulary the lit review; I am seeing the parallels in their work that have resonances in my own. This could be important in future. My paper was on emotion in singing teaching and learning, so I might be able to weave this into my thesis somehow. I think it’s important, but I don’t want to revisit old ground if it transpires that my emotion paper needs to be divided into other elements, like the learning and teaching relationship, that sort of thing.

So, timelines for December – January: submit all three draft narrative chapters to my supervisor, then submit draft chapters to her for my lit review and my methods chapter. All by the end of January.

Then, in February, I’d like to revisit my literature entirely, and begin to formulate my discussion/conclusions chapter.

Once I have submitted my drafts to her I will feel a lot better about where I am at. But it’s hard to focus, once again, on my work. I need to sing and I’ve not done any meaningful thinking today.

What I HAVE done, of course, is send out my CV to the two main tertiary institutions in the state that have advertised for casual tutoring/lecturing for 2012. I desperately need about 6 hours work a week (or, in other parlance, $100 an hour for 13 weeks) and I don’t care if it’s singing teaching or lecturing or tutoring. As long as I get something! And since none of it starts until March, I should be fine for my thesis, as most of it should be drafted by then anyway, if plans go as they ought.

So, today was a reporting and planning exercise. Sorry folks, no meaningful dialogue today, but I’m starting to move on the ideas front a bit. And that’s a good thing.

Oh! And we bought the children their Xmas gifts already, and I’m nearly done with the other family members. So it’s all looking good for Xmas.


My case-studies are so different!

Well, here’s a thing. Not that I didn’t expect this, but I am finding that my cases are all intrinsically completely different. And this is a challenge. Why? Because the first case I looked at was quite easy to delineate the areas to analyse, and there is plenty there within the particular transcripts I’ve selected that will contribute to the narrative and the discussion chapter.

In the current case there is so much else to look at other than episodes, that I am wondering how I am to create a narrative out of my data. Which parts do I analyse? What do I analyse? This case is very difficult.

There is so much struggle in this second case. I worry about how I might sensitively represent the issues surrounding this case that, at heart, spring from a problematic student, in a regional town. I need to talk about the repetition of the learning elements, that the teacher patiently refers to again and again and again, throughout the semester. I need to talk about the student’s “incapacity” to learn and develop and what may be contributing to this incapacity. I need to talk about some of the different approaches the teachers employs to try and help the student’s understanding. I perhaps need to talk about why the student was admitted in the first instance. Because all of these contribute to a frustrating semester for both teacher and student.

It’s so different to the other case, where the student’s understanding was quick, intuitive and impressive, and where a continual dialogue about understanding concepts was evident between teacher and student. Do I have issues with the current teacher’s approach? I have to think about this. I suspect the teacher has worked so hard with the student already, and I notice that in the last few lessons some voice building and specific, targeted exercises were attempted that showed good feedback from the teacher and a deeply impressive show of patience. I am aware that my own feelings about this case study are compounded by my attitudes toward the student (basically, get with the program kiddo and do some bloody work, use your noggin, think, do some research, practise, and stop wasting everyone’s time). I am heartened by comments made by the student that refers to an open, collegial relationship with the teacher, but the struggle the teacher has with this student: is it worth it? Is the student motivated enough to try, to practise consistently, and to not be so darn afraid? Has the teacher tried to use other pedagogical approaches? Has the teacher openly said that if the student does not have the music learnt by week 3 that there will be no lesson until all the notes and words are memorised? I think I would have. This is more about me, though, and not the teacher. Maybe the teacher has already tried this approach. Maybe the teacher has found that the best way for this student is the current way. Luckily, these are questions I can ask the teacher AND the student, because I have yet to organise my final interviews.

Something I intend to do this week.

I love my research participants! In a good way, not an icky way.

I am having a great day today. For the last two weeks I have been transcribing the interviews of my participants and I must confess to absolutely loving the funny, interesting, curious people they are. I am loving listening to them speak, reliving the interview, as it were, while typing as fast as I can, and enjoying the interplay of interviewer, interviewee, the laughter. I laugh with the recording as I enjoy the interview for the second time. I am loving the intelligence of my participants, their diverse views on life, and their forthright opinions about their work. It’s such a pleasure, such fun. I have to be careful that I don’t enjoy the interviews so much that I lose researcher objectivity (doesn’t exist, anyway), or at least, ensuring I stand one step back from the process, trying not to get involved with their experiences to the extent that they mirror my own. If I do allow this to happen, my study may be less rich for it. These people are kindred spirits, in a way, and I am so grateful to them for sharing their stories with me, and for being part of this research study. They are so generous!

Mind you, I’m feeling a little bit blurty and excitable today as I can feel my study taking shape, in small incremental steps. This is a big turning point for me, where I can see what I want to achieve by the end, even if I’m not quite sure what is yet to come out of my data.

Building works

Right outside my office a building has been torn down: the old and completely revolting engineering offices at UQ. It could be noisier. Luckily, we can’t actually open the window, and the sound is not TOO penetrating. Today I arrived at work (just for a change I actually went IN to uni) before 8.30 am, a very good idea as my new and shiny MAC computer has now arrived. Although I can’t access it, as it does not currently recognise my password. Here I am, sitting at my smaller although equally gorgeous MACBOOK PRO and unable to get inside the new baby. Its 21 inch screen is pleading with me to be used. And I’m getting a crick in the neck. And now I can’t find my wireless keyboard, so I’ll have to sit at my MACBOOK PRO getting a crick in the neck until the IT boys come and fix the access issue.