I am sitting here on a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon inside and I am typing instead of enjoying the sun. Of course you all know by now that this because of the current Covid-19 situation which means we are restricted in when/where we can go outside. However I do have the benefit of a sunshine hit balcony that I can sit on when the weather is lovely like today. Before I go and enjoy the sun, I thought I would are some thoughts of the current situation, my situation and what my post-PhD life looks like.
As you know, I passed my PhD viva in December 2019 and since then, my minor corrections have been accepted. Before the UK went into lockdown I was able to formally submit my hard-bound copy of my thesis (in the picture you can see) so that this can be added to the library collection and as an online copy in due course. I will find out in May whether the Research Degrees Committee accept the recommendations of my examiners (i.e. that I have passed my PhD) and the formal awarding of my PhD certificate will then follow. Since submitting my final PhD, I have been continuing to work as a government statistician and enjoying what I do, so nothing has really changed there. It has been rather strange focusing all of my attention on one thing that is not my PhD, and then being able to rest at the weekend. In this respect, I have been getting my social life back (as much as I can at the moment).
In a previous blog post, I also mentioned some post-PhD writing that I was intending to do. To provide an update on this is important because it tells the world that my PhD has not immediately stopped upon completion. Instead, my work has started expanding in the academic and non-academic domain. I have now formalised my Policy Briefing Paper that I was writing for SDS. This was a requirement for my funding as it helps SDS see the output of my research and then do some work on how they can apply the findings to practice. However, my work with SDS has officially come to an end now and I will only be following this up should there be any questions on my work.
Secondly, my work on my post-submission journal articles is ongoing. I have been able to (very slowly) write a draft of my main journal article draft for submission and this has focused on the development of the innovative work behaviour framework created from my PhD. The second article will focus more on the contribution of information literacy and information behaviours to innovative work behaviour development, and this is a draft in progress right now. My writing of the second article is a priority for when I have some down time on a weekend and feel comfortable in getting some work done.
It is also probably not a surprise that another consequence of the Covid-19 outbreak is that my graduation ceremony has officially been cancelled. It was scheduled to take place on July 1st this year so instead of being awarded my PhD whilst walking on stage, I will be awarded my PhD as I ‘graduate’ in absentia. This means that I will not be able to celebrate with my friends and family at my formal ceremony in July, but the hope is that this can then take place in the autumn graduation ceremony celebrations later this year. Instead, in accordance with university regulations, the Chancellor will formally and legally confer the awards in absentia so that our certificates can then be produced. At this point, I will have officially been awarded my PhD, but I am a little gutted to be honest… I had only just bought my graduation dress at the beginning of March not knowing that I would not be needing to wear it on July 1st, and that it will now sit in my wardrobe for a few more months.
I don’t think anyone expected the Covid-19 situation to be so world-wide and severe, and that life would be turned upside down, but it has. Students should not expect to be able to operate perfectly during these unusual times and should also try and focus on their own health and wellbeing too. I am finding that I can focus for only short lengths of time in one go, so that’s what I am doing (obviously this is not on my PhD but you get the drift). And I would advise PhD students to just do what you can. There is absolutely no expectation that you will be able to work for a full 8 hour working day at home, and you should not expect yourself to be able to do this either. Instead, doing work at a time that suits you is probably a good approach right now, and making sure you have plenty of breaks in between. One thing I would advise is to make a list of priority tasks that need doing, and then split these up into smaller parts. In that way, you can assess the progress made, no matter how small or large the progress steps are and know that you are making some progress. I also understand that some PhD students have absolutely no energy or will to work right now, and this could be due to worry with funding, impact on data collection, completion dates and everything associated with the above. This is also fine. At times like this taking a break is often welcomed and potentially what you need. My only piece of advice is to make sure you communicate with those who supervise you and let them know what’s going on. I would hope that supervisors and those in a role of support would welcome the update and they will be able to help to cheer you on and talk through your concerns when you don’t feel like you can work.