Yesterday, it was officially the first day of the new academic year. This means that I am officially a third year PhD student now, though I have been in a third year student mood since the beginning of September. Surprisingly, the third year has brought about more ambition and motivation to start working towards completing my PhD and other writing plans.
Although it is very difficult to summarise my second year in one blog post, I will do my best to touch on the key milestones for me.
- Fieldwork: In the UK, PhD students are generally required to collect their data in their second year. I was very lucky to conduct my fieldwork at my previous university. It was a refreshing experience to talk to first-year undergraduate students about both their academic writing practices and undergraduate student life in general. I often found myself giving advice, such as “join student societies”, and “make the most of your time as an undergraduate student”. Apart from data collection, I was honoured to be a guest lecturer in two graduate-level courses on corpus linguistics. It was also very nice to see my lecturers, MA thesis advisors, and friends again.
- Working with a cultural institution: During my second year, I was a researcher in residence at the Museum of Transport in Manchester (If you live in Manchester, the Museum of Transport is definitely well worth a visit!). Our project (I and Isabelle Bowen worked together) involved developing educational resources in accordance with the key attainment targets of the curriculum for the Key Stage 1 and 2 levels. This project took my mind off the PhD routine, and I really enjoyed being a part of it. I also had a sense of accomplishment as the project outputs will prove useful for schoolchildren and teachers, and it is a great feeling to contribute to the local community.
- Writing together: I participated in quite a few Shut up and Write events in which PhD students get together in a room and do 25-minute writing sessions, separated by short breaks. I was very productive in these events as I often wrote more than I would have done alone. I probably like the power of community-led action and community of spirit! For my third year, I have already signed up for most of the sessions, and I will be leading one of the sessions in October.
- Fluctuation in motivation levels: My motivation levels fluctuated a lot during my second year, but that is often regarded as normal during the PhD journey. When I had low motivation, I tried to use reverse brainstorming, which is a useful technique that I learned in one of the research training sessions. This technique led to self-discovery, and I became fully aware of the factors that caused low motivation. Through reverse brainstorming, I have been more successful in nurturing motivation.
- Conferences: I presented my ongoing research at two major conferences in 2015: The Eighth International Conference on Corpus Linguistics (#CL2015) and BAAL Annual Meeting (#BAAL2015). I was fortunate enough to receive a postgraduate bursary from Lancaster University for CL2015, and I received conference funding from my own university for BAAL2015. I greatly benefited from these two conferences in many ways, including valuable feedback and input for my own research, meeting other researchers, keeping up-to-date with recent research, etc.
There are, of course, lots of other things that need to be written; however, I just wanted to provide a snapshot of my second year. For my third year, my three main priorities are to write my thesis, develop my quantitative research skills, and learn programming languages (Python and R). I have been progressing well with Python which is much easier than R for me, but I am on a slow learning curve for R (There is a great blog post on learning R written by one of my PhD colleagues. I have been following similar steps, too). At CL2015, many researchers emphasised the importance of programming in corpus linguistics research. Overall, programming skills are very likely to become more important in academia.
Additionally, inspired by one of my friends doing a PhD on mindfulness and intercultural communication, I get interested in mindfulness, and I have signed up for Qigong course offered at The University of Manchester! Hopefully, this combination will help me survive my third year of PhD…
Lastly, I would like to wish everyone a healthy, happy and successful new semester! 🙂