Archive for October, 2015

Getting there? Probably a re-hash of stories expressing the hope of eventually getting close to finishing


A ‘funny story’ I have been telling for a few years now is that my father has been making the same joke for a few years. (In fact, if I was more diligent, I could probably have a look at this blog and give you links to other mentions instead of rewriting it here.) When I am asked at Christmas time family gatherings how much longer I have, he says that at least I am consistent in my replies; it is always another year. Another year, for years and years. In other words, it has been so long that not only can the same joke continue to be made, but I can keep telling the story about this same joke being pulled out year after year. I can even keep writing about continuing to tell this story.

When I was doing my fieldwork, sometimes people would tell me about other people they knew who did PhDs. Usually they would remark on the length of time it took. To my interlocutors, nearly three year or close to four years was a remarkably long time. These time frames also seemed remarkable to me, and many of my friends in anthropology departments, but because they were short. In Australia, PhD programs are funded for it to take you three or maybe three-and-a-half years. However, PhDs in my area rarely follow the sort of gantt chart anybody approving funding, ethics clearance or candidature milestones might approve. A tangent I often offer if I mention these fieldwork conversations is that it seems like information systems is the field you want to be in for a less-than-three-year PhD (although I do know a very experienced researcher in a health field who finished hers early).

I do not feel guilty. Enrolling in a PhD was something I felt was a selfish thing to do. In my field and not being particularly interest in what is usually accepted as ‘applied research’, I do not feel particularly special when it comes to having angst over taking resources from the state, supervisors, fieldwork interlocutors and supportive people in my life. All the material support, time and care was never going to be turned towards much other than my own amusement. Oh, maybe there will also be a piece of paper at the end of it and the opportunity to tick a different box on forms. I have read that believing that the piece of paper matters is an indicator of being more likely to complete. Separately, I have been told that faking it until you make it works in personal relationships. Maybe if I act like I care, results will follow?

Sometimes PhDs are drawn out because of children or career opportunities. That has not really been the case for me, but I have at times taken leave to be present for other people and I have certainly done some paid (and unpaid) work along the way in interesting fields. Nearly all of these opportunities to be there for others or make quirky career choices have been enabled by the nature of PhD candidature.

Often a PhD outlasts a relationship and a computer. While the first happened years ago now, the computer purchased during candidature specifically with my PhD in mind only died the other month. When I lost my computer, and had to live without it for a few weeks, I did suffer heart break. It feels like it is time to finish.

However, there is always so much to do. Even before I can wait for the response from supervisors who have never read the whole thing in order, there is the not-so-small issue of all those references lost over years of edits.