DPhil Diaries Nine: Turning Over a New Leaf

Happy New Year! The beginning of a new decade feels as good a time as any to get back into the swing of blogging and return to posting here regularly.

The past few months have been a busy whirlwind of college life but amongst it I've been trying to begin actually writing my PhD thesis. The result has been that I've spent a lot of time staring at a blank page, unsure of where to start or how to dive in to the biggest piece of writing I've ever done. The thought of writing blog posts alongside it only doubled the number of empty white screens I was looking at, with cursors blinking, expecting words.

Everyone I've spoken to has said that writing the thesis is fine once you get going - and I firmly believe it will be - yet finding that starting point has for me been really daunting. I have a plan that I'm happy with and I've done at least a section of research for every chapter. Yet every time I started to write, I soon ran out of steam and had no idea where I was going.

Eventually I met with my supervisor (something I should have done sooner) and we found somewhere that I could start. Going against the wise advice of Maria von Trapp, I've now started at the end, with my last chapter as this seems to be giving the whole plan a direction of where I'm heading.

So now I'm making baby steps of progress, slowly filling the pages with words. Far more than in anything I've written before the writing process is revealing to me what I don't know; the gaps in my knowledge. I have piles of primary research to propel me along, yet little holes repeatedly crop up, provoking me to read secondary studies around my subject.

The most recent of these little segues led me to reading about the history of the village hall: a concept I hadn't realised post-dated the First World War. It wasn't really until the development of rural community spaces in the 1920s that the village hall, both as a space and a term, really came to the fore. For myself, writing a First World War history, this wasn't something that I had really ever had to consider before, yet it has become relevant to understanding the rural role of the YMCA at the end of the war.

So, while I realise this isn't the most exciting 'DPhil Diaries' update I could have written, I also felt that I owed it both to myself and this blog project to write an update of where I'm at and the slow progress I've been making. Others have said that PhD progress is made in waves and lulls and this certainly feels true. I just hope that with a new year and soon a new term, a new wave of progress will hit, one which I hope I can ride for as long as possible.

In the meantime, I've got a few interesting articles to post here in the coming weeks. I'm still really loving my PhD (despite the writing struggles) and have this term had the great fun of learning to row alongside my work. Be sure to follow me over on twitter @KathrynWW1, where I'm planning to get back into sharing regular tidbits of my research.


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