Me in the Chocolate Factory – A Reflection on my Research Training

Dear all,

It has been one month and two days of me being in Manchester but I feel that I have been here much longer.  Loads of things happening and a lot more things to do.

I would like to share a bit of my feeling and experience in my research trainings.

Being in the research training modules gives me a mixed of feelings –excitement, curiosity, overwhelm, depression, surprise, and relief.  This is like a feeling of being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. A lot of yummy, eye catching, and fascinating, tempting chocolate around that may divert me from my focus. All seems interesting. But again, I keep on telling myself…focus…focus…

What are most useful?

–          Critical reading and writing training

There are many interesting ways of using literature in our research. Surprise! But, the challenge is how we can really apply this to our context and focus.

–          Knowledge on various approaches to research

Again,  the challenge is how to relate to our own focus and context.

–          Knowledge on variety of data generation methods (both qualitative and quantitative) – What surprise me is that there are actually plenty of alternative methods (“Only your imagination that can limit you to the number of methods you can use”- that is what one of our unit tutor said) and we can actually develop our very own method to generate our data (I never knew that before :D).

Why I was overwhelmed?

“Be curious, but selective”

I remember what my supervisor says. Many interesting things may come up, and really do come up, but I believe that there is a really broad range of choice. So again I am telling myself…focus focus focus….

Everyone in the class brought about really interesting ideas which sometimes make me shout (in my heart :D)

“Aha! That seems sensible!”

“Aha! Interesting!”

“Ow, wonder if I could do that myself”

Honestly, at times I feel that those ideas sounds really really interesting that it almost affects me to divert my pathway to another direction (at times my thinking bubble says: Mmm probably I could do research on how the students who are new to English are included in the CLIL class. What if I do that?).

But again, I have to find out what I really want to do, and to relate all the important and interesting bit of knowledge to strengthen my focus (which I am still struggling to find :D)

I remember two of my colleagues comment on our facebook group:

A: Why don’t you just do the topic half of the class is doing.

B: Don’t try to convert me.

A: I am just trying to help 🙁


Everyone seems to do a good job. Oh God! What have I done so far.

I thought it was only me feeling this, but actually when I talked to my friends I knew that most of them feel the same way (relief :D) and it even has a scientific name “Impostor Syndrome” (I knew it from one of the academic training topics offered) I tried to attend but it was fully booked :(.  If it has a scientific name, then it is OK to feel so :D.

Making the most of my time

Building Collegiality and Networking (Critical friendship)

Being among friends who care is one really important matter in this time of struggle. Luckily, my colleagues are really supportive. We sometimes spend 2-3 hours in the study room (or sometimes in the café) to chat (still about our life as a year 1 PhD and our focus) or more seriously to critically interrogate each other’s focus. In this activity, I do feel challenged sometimes, especially when one of my friends asks me questions about my area that I have not explored as much, or come up with a surprising comment like: “Why? Why are you interested in that matter? Nothing new about it? I remember having been taught in English whole my life. What is CLIL anyway? Why do you find it interesting?” (She is from a country where English is their Academic Language but not their first language)…..then an interesting and challenging discussion went on.….

I personally do feel that this kind of activity is really useful and fruitful. It helps us to think aloud of what we want to do, and to compare our context to theirs.

-Attending the Academic Writing Sessions

Really interesting and helpful I think.

-Having a one to one Academic Writing tutorials (Which I still plan to do)

Reading and Reading and Reading (Hope I can do more and more)


Talking to my supervisors and unit tutors for suggestions and to see  if I have moved toward  the right direction.

That is what I feel and experience so far :D.




  • Khwan: Ow, remember our bit of discussion about metaphor in the writing workshop last Tuesday…..Btw, time flies…7 weeks to go to the submission date…and the presentations are next week….tick tock tick tock…

  • Thank you Richard…have just been posted 🙂

  • Richard Fay

    No problem

  • Thank you very much for the 4 Cs Richard :-). It sums up wonderfully the expectation for our 1st year, which is very helpful for us, as most of us are still confused and put a bigger portion of our mind on our PhD focus and topic (me too at first), and get caught right there. We want to go past two islands in one row – an Indonesian equivalent of the proverb ‘killing two birds with one stone’ :-). From what I understand from our discussions, some of us aims that these assignments are ways to pilot our PhD topic, not the methodologies. Now, I realise that this is all about research methods. Btw, may I post your 4 Cs in our facebook group? Thank you…..

  • Richard Fay

    The main thing is to be(come) 1) ‘curious’ about methodological possibilities, 2) ‘creative’ in exploring how they might be used in your thinking and proposed study, and hereby be(come) increasingly 3) ‘confident’ and 4) ‘competent’ in your researcher thinking, decision-making and practice. I call these The Four Cs. 🙂 They sum up what I see as the main objectives of Year 1 of a research degree.

  • Hi Fitri! I love the metaphor too. You are a real writer and I do feel exactly the same. There seem to be too many methods for me to choose from , participant photography, diary, sociograms, etc. but the question is to which degree am I confident in using them in my assignments now?

  • Hi Eljee..Happy that you like it ^_^ …yes I do agree that the first year is really frustrating but is definitely very useful as well …The road to the chocolate 🙂

  • Fitri this is a great post! Thanks for sharing. I love the Willy Wonka metaphor. When reading this I was nodding in agreement with a lot of what you wrote – the first year of the PhD is like that. A mess. It was a frustrating yet really useful time when I was trying to understand what it was that I was actually interested in. You’d think you know but you don’t – and that’s ok. The more you learn about your area the more you think “No, I’m not really into that. Or that. But I am thinking about this. And this, I think. Let’s see…” Nowadays I’m more like “No way I’m using that. Or that. But definitely this because of this…” We all get there, and you will too. With chocolate.