Today I had my first 6 monthly review. This is known as the RD4 review and its aim is to determine the official topic of the thesis. For me, my research was a set proposal but this did not mean that I could copy of what my supervisor had written, not at all. My task was to write a 5 page proposal about the research I was doing and include the literature behind it, research questions and aims, methods and a plan of action for the research itself. My review also aimed to make sure that I was attending appropriate training and to ensure that I feel my supervision is good, which I do.
One thing I had struggled with in the proposal was the literature. It took me a while to get this right. I purposely left this part until last knowing I had yet to research what was needed but when it was time to write, the writing did not happen. I huffed and puffed, read some more and could not fathom what I should write. Then one day, it hit me. My supervisor and I had written a ‘research phrase’ to explain what the research was all about a while back and this is what I used to structure my literature. I basically took each section and split it into what I thought a reviewer (or my panel chair) would want to know. This approach seemed to work and my supervisor thought so too. More importantly it meant that the part I had struggled with was no longer a struggle anymore.
The rest of the proposal was not as hard, but it did need a tweak here and there. I planned out the next three years of my life (which scared me a little) and I was able to see how the whole thing was going to work. Hurrah!
I was very worried about the review, not worried in the sense that I would fail, but more worried as I did not really know what was to come. Yes I had spoken to all of my office about what its purpose and had a lovely little chat this morning to one of our lecturers (who reassured me quite well, probably unknowingly), but for me, I never know what happens until I experience it. Today I did.
My review involved my panel chair (an external staff member who is there to manage the whole thing and be the one who deal with issues if any arise), myself and my director of studies. My second supervisor managed to avoid the short meeting as he had been called away to a meeting in Glasgow last minute – he’s a very busy professor you know!
My panel chair asked me a few questions to clarify things. This involved what a definition of innovation was and what I meant by a ‘framework’. These were not as easy as you would think but it was good to clarify what I meant. My panel chair also discussed some of the proposed methodology, analyses and most importantly, the outputs and contributions of the research to practice and knowledge.
For me, this meeting clarified EVERYTHING I have been working towards the last five / six months and everyone agreed that the first six months of the planning stages are the hardest. What I agreed with most was the statement that things weave in and out and don’t really seem clear until the RD4 proposal is produced. This was exactly right for me.
So for anyone who is going to be having their first review soon, some things do stand out:
- Your panel are not there to trip you up, they are there to help clarify what on earth you will be doing.
- Prepare your documents properly. A nicely set out and well prepared document means that you can refer to it when you are asked questions (like I did).
- Don’t freak out. I was really nervous and my nerves went the moment I stepped into my supervisor’s office. Nerves are normal for me and I often find they disappear.
- Remember: it’s all part of the process so if improvements need to be made then so be it. Make improvements and move forward.
So in terms of my next steps, what am I going to be doing? I will be finishing off my literature review and looking a lot more into the Innovation side of thigs. After all, a good proportion of my research will be exploring how innovation skills are developed and influenced by organisational contexts so I need to know what it is and why it is important. I will be reviewing my current work on defining workplace learning (type and strategies) and exploring the UK and European initiatives available in workplace learning. I will then be moving onto methods. This may be a bumpy road as I will be exploring the philosophies behind research and also philosophies behind knowledge. For my next review, I also need to know more of my methods and what I am going to be doing (step by step). I will be working closer with my supervisory team to help plan this out and begin approaching how I can recruit organisations to take part in my research.
As well as that, I will be analysing some preliminary data. I will be looking at data from the UK Labour Force Survey, the Workplace Employee Relations Survey and six of the most recent editions of The Employment Surveys Dataset to explore relationships between training and skills. This may be a challenge as I will need to statistically analyse the data in order to determine any relationships. I am hoping that the analyses will then set the grounds for my future case studies and highlight some important areas of research for me to incorporate in my case studies.
So anyway, it’s going to be a busy time. I won’t put a lot of detail about my whole research in this blog post, mainly as I want to talk about this as I progress. I will, however, blog about my training attendance, events, conferences and milestones in my research planning, development and empirical work so that I can share my thoughts and feelings on how I get on.
I feel more like a research student now!