Jumping into a PhD…

Why do a PhD?

It has been suggested that keeping a regular journal of research and thoughts about a PhD can be a useful tool – both for writing and consolidating information into a format that is not directly related to the research and output itself.

One of the first questions asked of people doing a PhD is – WHY? Why put yourself through years of stress, worry and strain. Why do you think it’s important to do this?

Well, the why needs to start with the where. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? My vision of Erin in 5 years is quite simple. I see myself heading towards final phase of my PhD, working as a professional genealogist and managing both as well as I can. I see myself writing more regularly for magazines and doing more talks and vlogging.

A PhD will help solidify my expertise in a single area of English History and will allow me to broaden my public speaking topics and vlogging topics from generic genealogical subjects to more specific subjects of asylum history and life of individuals in such institutions during the 1800s.

I feel my MSc has taught me a lot about how to approach independent research, as well as my own research and working methods – strengths and weaknesses. I need to ensure I am disciplined enough to continue working regularly and not leave things to the last minute.

So, here I go. Jumping into the world of the PhD. I’m reading every book that I can find about doing research projects, PhDs, writing theses and improving research methods. I want to be prepared and organised. But, is there such a thing as over-preparation? Can a researcher focus too much on the format of their research and project, when they could (and should) be doing the actual research?

This is me. They even got my hair right.

I’ll admit I’m a bit lost. I know what I need to do (the final output – a thesis). I know what I want to do (the topic). I theoretically know how to do it (get off my arse and read, read, read). But what I don’t know is how to begin. What is the very first step to take? Which article or book to I first read to prepare my literature review? Do I read and keep adding to the list of things to read as I go along, or do I go through all bibliographies in sources I’ve found, keep adding to the list and then go through everything once I have it all? How will I know if I have it all? When is enough? How much is too much?

I guess the important questions to ask are: Am I overthinking all this? Should I just get off my proverbial arse and start somewhere?

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