So last week, I had the most amazing levels of productivity.  I still have no idea where that came from, but I’m thankful that it did, so I’m trying not to over-think it.  Then on Sunday, I fell over while ice skating, hurt my knee, and have been a little bit pained and grumpy ever since.

ice fall But this sitting still lark does have its benefits, it turns out:  plenty of time to sit and doodle ideas for the structure of the thesis.  And I’ve come up with something quite novel: a PhD timeline. I’ve done this for two reasons.  Firstly, I get very frightened at times about how quickly this is all going, and that I JUST HAVEN’T DONE ENOUGH!  And secondly, I’m trying to construct the thesis as some kind of narrative, so I thought it would be useful to write it all down in a chronological order to see how the story evolved. I’ve taken each of the three years, and I’ve divided my PhD experience up into various elements: university life, literature, methodology, empirical, personal life, and ‘other’.  I had to have an ‘other’ column, because I really do struggle with categorising everything neatly! This has been a fantastically happy exercise.  Quite apart from helping me to reflect on what I’ve got up to, and order it for the thesis, it’s made me see just how much work really has been accomplished.

And not just work, either – things like changing university halfway through the process, or the bit where I broke my foot, or discovering the Research Exchange, or finding my way through the ethics maze.  And then the literature column has been a revelation – looking at that, I can’t quite believe how many things I’ve looked at in the course of the research.  And the methodology column shows me clearly how my thinking has evolved over time… So, has anyone else tried something like this?  It’s sort of a very condensed research diary, I suppose, almost like a bullet point exercise: this is where I started, these are the things that happened along the way, this is what I learned, and this is where I am now. My favourite thing is that there’s a nice blank bit on the sheet, which represents the final six months of my PhD life.  I wonder how much more I can cram in?  Or should I stop now, and just scrawl the word ‘WRITING’ across the whole thing?!

This post was originally published on the PhD Life in 2013.

To find out more about Bernie please follow her blog The Travels of Doctor B