Draft thesis went to supervisors about ten days ago and received comments/suggestions/advice from one. I don’t really expect to hear from other until end of next week – hang it all, it is the holidays!
I’ve got a list of things I need to do before I can submit thesis. Most are fairly minor, like decoupling EndNote and making a few minor amendments to my bibliography that I can’t do while still using EndNote.
The only challenging bit still to do is getting my Conclusions into shape – and I’m struggling with that! Spent a fair bit of yesterday afternoon throwing my rattle out of my pram, not helped by those closest to me – and who have PhDs – trying to tell me the conclusions are the easy bit and a place to ‘big up’ what I’ve done. All that’s doing is making me question whether I have actually done anything that I can claim in any way contributes to knowledge.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the doctoral journey so far and I’ve learned a lot about myself and other stuff, but have I actually done anything which I can claim adds to knowledge? I’m not so sure. In fact, I feel that any claim I make will be sheer arrogance. The question is whether that is my old friend ‘imposter syndrome’ popping its head above the parapet again, or am I making a realistic and honest assessment of what I have achieved, or not achieved, over the past four years?
I know that with a bit of effort, I can make the minor changes to my draft conclusions that are needed and add a few more paragraphs in order to have a thesis fit to submit. I am also unsure whether I want to. Part of me feels I owe it to my husband, my advisers, my friends – all those folk who have put up with me over the past months as I’ve disappeared into my mental cave – to finish what I have started. Another part of me feels that it would be so much easier to walk away now before I make an even bigger fool of myself and really do show myself to be the fraud I am. If I had the time, now would be good for a couple of days away from the desk, but deadlines loom and I’ve either got to get the job done, or forget it, and I want whatever decision I make to be a positive one, not an act of sabotage.
I have learned stuff that I do consider useful and valuable. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a room in a church hall talking to two women. All three of us have sons on the autism spectrum. Mine is now adult and living pretty independently while studying for a foundation degree. Their sons are both in the middle years of primary school and one has a younger son, who may also be on the spectrum. We were chatting about a meeting one of them had been involved in at school and she was talking about the difficulty of getting school personnel to accept her son was not the same as other kids – yes, they accepted the diagnosis and had put some strategies in place, but the expectation was that the boy would then become like the others. We got to talking about difference, accepting difference and the role of schools in normalising and socialising children – OK, those were not the words we were using, but they were the ideas, and they were ideas that were coming directly out of my research findings. The other woman was a teacher as well as a parent and talked about how her perceptions of children with special needs had changed as a result of her own experience, but she also experienced difficulties relating to professionals when talking about her son. The conversation moved to how a knowledgeable parent can be perceived as a threat by a less knowledgeable practitioner – effectively we had moved on to Bourdieu and cultural capital and the field of struggle…
Yes, I have learned things that help me to understand the dynamic of what is happening in some situations where parents struggle, and parents and practitioners end up fighting each other. I can apply that knowledge directly in my support role – and the ideas I share resonate with the parents I share them with. The question is whether or not that knowledge, those insights, actually count as contributing to knowledge in the way academia understands knowledge? Is completing and submitting my thesis the way to share that knowledge and those insights, or is now the time to walk away and seek a different way of disseminating what I have learned – or maybe I can do both.
Whatever I decide, I need to decide quickly!