Hi, Hilary Term

Following my last post, in mid-December, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve been buried in marking since then. Rest assured, things aren’t quite that bad. The marking was done, the feedback was sent, the course ended. There was something about Christmas, and then it was term time all over again except this time I have 4 students to tutor one-to-one and the DPhil finishing post is hurtling ever closer. There is also a graduate progression assessment which required chapter outlines, a schedule to completion and a chapter extract. Later this term, I’ll be interviewed as part of that process. I am trying very hard not to freak out about this.

I have a new ‘Research Assistant’ (as Nadine Muller calls academic pets). Vita is a rather naughty 4 month old kitten who likes to chase laser pointers and either sit on my laptop or on me. So far, her outputs are not REFable. Her other interests include playing ‘Game for Cats’ on the iPad (seriously) and watching television.

The internet doesn’t have enough photos of cats sleeping.


I promise not to post more photos like this, honest.

This term, I’m also continuing my work for Great Writers Inspire, although this time with a focus on impact. To that end, there will be regular posts from Oxford graduate students on that blog – covering everything from Mary Wollstonecraft, the incumbent US poet laureate, Tagore and Leonard Woolf and more.

I have made a February resolution to blog more often here, since it seems a shame to have become so lax towards the end of the DPhil process. More anon.


Transfer of status: the result

Word has finally arrived back from my transfer of status viva, sorry interview. Despite my worries for the last few weeks I have passed which means I won’t have to resubmit my materials and I can happily continue with my research and i can officially call myself a DPhil candidate, rather than a Probationary Research Student (but no one calls themselves that anyway…).

This is obviously good news and I’m really relieved that my research is on track. The notification I received by email didn’t include the assessors report – I’m waiting on that coming by post – and I’ll be interested to see more detailed feedback.

In the spirit of The Plath Diaries, I’ve decided to be quite honest about my experience since the purpose of this blog is to reflect the ups and downs of the thesis journey. To that end, I’ll be honest and say that I am a little surprised that I’ve passed since I didn’t feel the interview went as well as it could have done. I was confident that the materials I handed in were of a fairly good standard – and after I’d handed them in I picked them apart so I could preempt any reservations and defend them. However, in the interview I felt a little at sea.

Part of this may have been down to nerves, although I’m not a nervous person in any other arena. The date was a difficult one for me since it was the anniversary of a recent family death, and while I didn’t think that would effect me it definitely did on the day. Aside from these things, some of the assessors’s questions were long and involved – so by the time it came to respond I felt a little confused at to what exactly they wanted me to get down to. I didn’t feel at any point that the wheels were truly coming off, but I also didn’t feel I was breezing through. Worst of all, I didn’t much feel like I’d impressed or done my research justice.

If I had the chance to do it again, I would have batted back the questions that weren’t totally clear and asked for more clarification, instead of attempting to answer and not delivering exactly. This is hopefully a valuable skill for the confirmation of status assessment, and ultimately the final viva.

I obviously didn’t do as badly as I thought too – so perhaps this is also a message about mental attitude too, which is incredibly important when doing solitary research.

Onwards and upwards.

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