Thanks to Jane Davis for the title of this blog post.
Some months back I blogged about the positive effect of taking time to step back from my thesis writing and engage in reflection. Due to personal circumstances, I have been officially taking a break from my DPhil since early May. In reality, it has been a very positive time in that I was able to take permission to step back and think more clearly about what I was doing and how I was doing it and what my argument really was. It also gave me space to do some general reading, not necessarily connected directly to the area of my research.
One of the concepts I planned to use in my thesis was social capital. I had some understanding of what it was about from a range of different sources, but took the opportunity to dig a bit deeper. One of the results of this digging was an encounter with Bourdieu. I had come across Bourdieu previously in some of the articles I had read around learning and education, but had not actually explored his work in any greater depth. However, given the space I had during the summer, I looked up a few articles relating to him and social capital and found myself reading about fields. This had me hooked as I immediately saw parallels between some of what Bourdieu had written about field theory and some of what I understood about systems thinking. It was also clear that not only were his ideas about a field of struggle relevant to me – after all my thesis is about exploring the struggle/fight metaphor – but I would actually relate to ideas about power and agency and even hysteresis.
There was a light bulb moment when I began to realise that I now had the theoretical framework I had been seeking. OK, I arrived at it in a back to front way and it almost emerged out of my data analysis and my thoughts on how to present my findings, but nevertheless here was a bundle of concepts that taken together provided a way of making sense of what I wanted to say. Apart from wondering why I had never come across Bourdieu before, and why nobody had ever suggested I look at what he had to say – everybody I knew seemed to be raving about Foucault when it came to power – I was one very happy research student.
So, for the past month, despite the fact I am officially on a break, I’ve been writing and editing bits of my thesis using the insights gained from my recent reading. I realised it was starting to get an order and a shape it hadn’t got before, but only today did I suddenly realise that I am very close to having a coherent draft. OK there is still a lot of work to do, but all the chapters are there, I know what belongs in each chapter and many of them are written and ready for editing. What isn’t written is outlined. I can see the chunks that need to be completed and I know what they will say.
I’m not setting any deadlines at the moment, but I’m in a good place right now having realised the draft has tapped me on the shoulder and smiled at me.