As this will be my last post of 2020, I’d like to first congratulate anyone reading this for making it through this abnormally long but also somehow simultaneously short year. It feels like just yesterday I was celebrating the return of toilet paper to Tesco but it’s been approximately 100 years since I saw Parasite in the cinema (ah cinemas, remember those?).
It seems that month two of my PhD was also affected by this time distortion as I feel like I have little evidence that I have done any work last month compared to the first month of my PhD where I got huge amounts done. I think this highlights one of the strange things about transitioning from an undergraduate or master’s student into a PhD student which is that the project that I am working on is so much larger than anything else I’ve done in academia before. My brain and expectations need to adjust to the fact that I will be doing slower, self-directed work towards much larger goals and so the progress that I’ve made is much less concrete than being able to submit an essay or finishing all of my end of year exams. Also, as I’ve been working from home and sitting at the same desk for two months straight now, all the journal articles I’ve read, discussions I’ve had and online events I’ve attend do seem to have merged into one large academic blur.
Looking at my calendar desperately to figure out what I’ve done over the past few weeks so that I could write this blog post, I can see that my calendar has actually been rather full of all sorts of online meetings and events with universities and organisations from all over the UK (and a couple of international ones). The seminars and conferences outside of my university probably wouldn’t have been available to me if it weren’t for lockdown. As a result, I’ve learned so much about the research being conducted outside of my own university and the work being done by organisations and charities that I wouldn’t have otherwise been aware of (and my reading list has grown so much longer as a result). Taking a step back, I know that there’s many things that I’ve learned this month that have influenced how I’ve been approaching my research and will approach it over the next 2.83 years. If you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend setting up an academic Twitter account, which has been the main way I find out about these events. You can also find out about upcoming events on the dementia research website. Take advantage of this weird time that we’re living in as you never know when an online presentation from an expert researcher in a different country is going to give you an idea for a whole new chapter of your PhD thesis.
So, to all the other temporally confused students and academics out there, keep up the good work, keep in mind that converting a 20,000-word master’s thesis into a 6,000 words journal article might be more than a month’s job, happy holidays and remember that time is an illusion 😊
P.S. If my supervisors are reading this, I was just kidding and I have totally done loads of work this month and the journal article is SO close to being done but, uh, no you can’t see it.
Bethany McLoughlin is a first year PhD student at the University of Warwick. Her research focuses on investigating the effectiveness of support groups for carers of people with dementia. Compare the effectiveness and accessibility of online and face-to-face support groups and to explore the pros and cons of each approach. Beth has adapted her research to these changing times and is also interested to learn about the influence of COVID-19 on support groups, and whether online support groups have been effective way of decreasing social isolation in carers during the pandemic. Beth will be sharing her research, study and personal journey in a monthly blog for Dementia Researcher.