PhD Diaries: February Recap

It’s the end of my second month as a Ph.D. Researcher and boy, this month was tough.

January ended with the doctoral training week which I discussed in my earlier post and my first Supervisory Meeting. I have got 3 amazing supervisors and I am required to meet with them formally once every month and produce a report of this meeting for the University’s log.

The meeting went well, I think. I left feeling enlightened but a bit panicked. After an hour of listening to two doctors and an Emeritus professor, all rich in perspectives, ideas and recommendations, all I could think was “When will I get this all figured out? Will I ever?”

Subsequently, my supervisor asked me to help with marking scripts on a course in my field. How could I say no? I was excited. She showed me how to do this using a rubric for standardisation. I thought to myself “Easy-peasy” but I wasn’t ready, in fact, I had no clue!

Marking scripts is hard work. You are trying to do right by God and man and trying to meet the deadline. International students whose first language is not English are the hardest to mark. I had coffee and didn’t leave my flat for days because the deadline was so close. I was slow, making sure I read everything. I marked in batches and sent them to my supervisor, and she gave me feedback and made recommendations which I incorporated in subsequent scripts.

My biggest challenge was softening the tone of my voice on paper in the feedback comments. My background in business and government probably makes me found strict on formal media. So apparently, I sound too harsh. Following this, I spent most of my time rephrasing and rephrasing and trying not to hurt students’ feelings. I swear, stuff that would be perfectly acceptable in a Nigerian context is considered harsh here. E.g. “You should have talked about XYZ” is harsh. I had to rephrase this as “It would be helpful if you XYZ”. Yep, this took most of my time.

Here in the UK, it’s like the teachers are reluctant to be direct with students or anything that might offend them the slightest. Perhaps it’s got to do with schools being more commercialized than ever. Students are clients or service users and the school ranking is influenced by how students rate the school. I swear students will be laughing and chattering in a lecture and a lecturer can’t do anything about it. I’m not suggesting lecturers flog students like back in the day but here you can’t even cold-call students to answer questions in class. That would be seen as picking on them or you being harsh. We ask why millennials feel so entitled, this is why. I just think it would be nice and is necessary for Universities to promote a sense of discipline and mutual respect in the classroom. But I digress.

By the time I was done marking, I was nauseated by my laptop. I didn’t even want to see the device, but I had only 24hours to prepare and submit a mandatory assignment: my research proposal. I was sleeping and proofreading at the same time while making international plans for Valentine’s day. The results of the proposal should be made available soon.

In summary, the first 2 weeks of February were a nightmare but on the bright side, I learned a new skill and will hopefully get paid for the work and it is a decent sum and Valentine’s day went pretty well. 😉 I got around to reading for my research in the last two weeks of the month but feel like the more I learn, the less I know about a lot of things, I don’t know if this even makes sense.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles, books and journals relevant to research and my research interest. These include:

I should do a review on these but I find that between school and work, I have time for very little else.
Tasks I’ve got to complete include:

  • Developing a concept map of my research interest. I am struggling with this
  • Narrowing down my research scope
  • Working towards my Literature review by reading more recent studies in my area of interest

Lessons Learnt:

  • Making is hard work
  • Read more Literature
  • Learn to reference
  • Maintaining relationships outside the Ph.D. is important

That’s all!

Do I sound Harsh? Are you a Ph.D. teaching? Marked any scripts yet? Any advice for me?
Let me know in the comments!
As always, thank you for reading!

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