Northumbria University, my place of research, has a meticulous process for its PhD students to follow. For better or worse, there are monthly meetings to be held, all to be logged and documented online. Actually, to me it is very useful. My recent monthly progress review was ‘in session’ last week, and it was a particularly good one too. I mean good in the sense of useful, helpful – it almost had a little bit of milestone feeling to it. A(nother) hurdle jumped, and taken.
The discussion I had with my supervisors at the meeting, made me think as well as provided some stepping stones to me. The regular reader of this blog might have noticed my hesitation to put pen to paper for the literature review (the elephant). I have started scribbling, but I know (much to the distress of my Principal Supervisor) I am nowhere near a presentable output. I am wrestling. And there is a reason for my hesitation… everything still feels so interconnected. I do want to unpick my brain a bit first, as many different things strand together: literature review (and the bigger subject areas within), finding your knowledge gap, as well as understanding concepts and methodologies, seeking the ‘right’ (big) question or your elevator pitch or title… nothing can really be done in isolation without affecting the overall researching process.
Well, I had to say, again, to my supervisors, that I am not there yet. I am aware of the elephant.
I am inching closer, and I am happy with my progression and happy with where I am on personal level and organisational scale – it generally is a good place, but I am not there yet. As a consequence we started talking more conceptually! Now, that’s the right plain (not plane) to be on. Suddenly, I felt more at ease, and even a little bit inspired (which is a great output from a monthly meeting). And as a result to prove it, here’s my most recent conceptualisation of what I am trying to do:
Cycling and the school run in two cities: investigating the effect of policy on transport space and its resultant use
Thanks to Oskar, Mikkel and Andreas, who I met at the Cycling and Society Symposium in Manchester this year, for making me aware of Ole B Jensen’s framework (all presentations now available here, thanks to Gabi and Graham). With a bit of imagination my latest ramblings comfortably sit with Ole B Jensen’s Staging Mobilities (you can see him talking about the concepts and thoughts behind Staging Mobilities, on vimeo, here):
And perhaps fairly nicely, if you squint your eyes a little, it fits in with Social Practice Theory too:
As for the elephant and my Struggle with it – I am attempting to break it down into mangeable steps… and have committed my poor brain to come up with a contents structure if nothing else. By Friday. And as it’s Saturday today – yes, I did it. Kind of. Wrestling the elephant continues.