On participating in the research community
In the course of these two weeks I have taken (and have been trying to be) a small part in this research community in three main events. So I think it’s time for me to reflect my views on my participation and of course what I learn from them.
The first event was when I took part as a participant in one of my colleagues’ focus group. It was an interesting session because the researcher used an interesting method (using pictures taken by the participants as stimuli to elicit ideas on the topic) and I could see that she had worked hard to come up with the procedure she used during the focus group. In addition I found the topic (non-native English accent) interesting as it is related to me personally as a non-native speaker living in this British English speaking country and professionally as it takes an intercultural perspective to look at the phenomena.
The second event was attending a conference called “PhD Today” with the theme “What does it mean to do a PhD today?” (My supervisor once asked me to give a definition of what PhD means to me and I spontaneously replied “self-torturing”! It was not a smart response but it is a major part of it, really!) By the way that’s not what I intended to say here. At the conference I presented my poster about my pilot study (the same one that I presented at the Methods fair). Even though I didn’t win (an iPad) I had an opportunity to talk not only about what I have done but also the development of my thinking and experiences as a novice researcher. I also had the other role at the conference as an audience of talks and presentations. To be honest, I couldn’t relate with some of the talks as they focused on funding and how the British government supports doctoral programs and students. However, some of them were inspiring, for instance when Prof. Aneez Esmail said we had to put aside the feeling of our inadequacies because before we could sit in that theatre (as PhDers), we had been judged so many times, and we’d better ask ourselves “What are we good for?” I also learned from the presentations of many PhD students (including one of my dear friends). I think they were brave and smart presenting their difficult topics to non-expert audience in different styles. I told myself I will be like them shortly.
Lastly, I have been trying to participate as a speaker at an event called “the Interdisciplinary Symposium.” My abstract was rejected because I did not make the interdisciplinary element explicit. However, the committee gave me a second chance to resubmit it. So, I turned to my supervisor this time and found out what the mistakes were. Mistake number one, I did not make it clear in the title how my abstract is ‘interdisciplinary’. Mistake number two, I did not make it clear in the abstract how my presentation is ‘interdisciplinary’. And finally, mistake number three, I did not consult with my supervisor before submitting the abstract! Actually, we have to seriously take the theme of the conference into account and write what we want to do to fit with such theme. From our discussion, the loudest message I learned from my supervisor regarding the abstract submission in any conference is that we don’t have to only talk about what we did (i.e. to report the research findings–boring) but we can step outside of our comfort zone and look at our work from a different angle! Nobody has told me that before so I was always wondering how eminent researchers have different things to say in different events. I have resubmitted my abstract and I’m still waiting to hear back from them. (Finger crossed)
For me so far, doing a PhD, whatever your definition is, is not a lonely business. I’m happy that I can be a tiny part (and to support my peers and to be supported by them) in this and wider research community because it offers so much opportunities for me to learn and grow.