I could have interviewed teachers and policymakers to map the power relations and their intentions. I could have conducted a survey on Britishness. They want us to believe in it. They speak a governing discourse. The existence of a research question was important throughout my study. I kept a notebook and took it with me to the library every day.
On a page with a yellow flag sticking out, there was the question — and under it the sub-questions — that I wanted to answer in my PhD study.
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The major challenge of undertaking a theoretical study is that it requires a different mode of enquiry. It feels like writing a literature review, one that lasts for three to four years. It could feel like you are on a small boat in an immense ocean of knowledge and can easily be carried away. After spending a day with books or reading on your laptop, you feel you have achieved nothing.
It is overwhelming, and that is why it is important to keep going back to that page with a yellow flag and your research question. It keeps you focused. My notebook also contained a log of what I read.
The interdisciplinary nature of my research meant that I would be better off if I read materials in areas outside education such as international relations and geography and make creative connections among concepts. However, as you might imagine, one could easily get lost in exploring unfamiliar concepts say, in my case, risk and pre-emption in relation to nation and borders. To better keep track of my progress, I wrote down on my notebook the names of the books and articles that I read, and I arranged the articles downloaded to my computer by month. Since we, as researchers, may not see the impact of our work as quickly as others, this is a good strategy to remind ourselves of what we have achieved and learnt.
Alongside the log, I also drew mind maps to link up articles and concepts, which helped me see new connections between concepts and disciplines.
This is particularly the case for theoretical studies as there is no empirical data such as interviews. Postgraduate Study Fair, London. Postgraduate Study Fair, Manchester. PhD Applications. Choosing a PhD. PhD Challenges. Studying in Europe. Studying in America. Studying in Asia. Studying in Australasia.
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