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Eight weeks to go

Form completed and submitted, indicating my intention to submit my thesis at the beginning of January!

If all had gone according to plan, I would now have a reasonably complete thesis draft which would need a certain amount of tinkering and correcting.

But things do not go according to plan!

I am sitting here with lots of versions of draft chapters, rough notes and supervisors’ suggestions . Somehow in the next 8 weeks this chaotic mess has to be sorted out into an orderly and scholarly presentation, correctly formatted, proof-read, printed and soft bound and submitted to the university!

Bit by bit I am realising how much of this journey is psychological as much as intellectual. Yesterday, I got comments back on some of my work. The covering email was complimentary while indicating there were omissions that I needed to address, but that these were not major problems. As I sat there reading the comments, it struck me that what was minor to my supervisor felt like mountains to me. On reflection, I recognised that from my supervisor’s perspective, with her frame of reference, the suggestions were indeed minor. However, from my perspective and frame of reference, they are anything but minor. I further realised that central to my difficulty – and probably to my more general difficulties in getting this thesis finished – is how I identify myself in relation to the philosophical constructs of academia. I guess I am talking about epistemology and ontology, but I still haven’t got a real grasp on what those words mean, let alone how to apply them to myself.

Part of the deal of undertaking a doctorate is agreeing to play by the rules of the doctoral process and that process is essentially a fairly lengthy apprenticeship, or enculturation into an academic club.  That club is made up of tribes according to discipline and philosophical tradition. During the period of apprenticeship, part of the task is sorting out which tribe one is seeking to be part of. For most people, this seems to be relatively straightforward, however for me, it has presented major challenges as I do not comfortably identify either with either a single discipline or with any particular philosophical tradition – in fact, I am not at all clear what the differences are between structuralism, neo-liberalism, interpretivism, post-modernism, etc, etc.

Part of my lack of clarity relates to my academic background. Many of this ‘isms’ were simply not around when I was an undergraduate  40 years ago and I haven’t really caught up on what is what and why it matters. Secondly, but as importantly, throughout my professional life, I have gathered ideas from different places and melded them together to use as tools for dealing with situations and problems. Years ago, when running various workshops, I used to speak of having a rucksack of tools and techniques and understandings and experiences which could be used as appropriate in different circumstances. I have always crossed boundaries, pillaging good ideas which I could use elsewhere. My approach to academia is similar, if I see an idea which resonates, I grab it and apply it. However, this eclecticism which has served me well in other settings is proving a difficulty in this one!

I really do believe there should be scope for square pegs in round holes in academia as elsewhere. I do not see or understand the need to declare allegiance to a specific tribe. The challenge of completing my thesis is one of how do I play the game, remain true to my own ideals, and demonstrate my understanding of the application of academic ideas and principles.

Guess the next 8 weeks are going to be interesting!

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