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Joanne - PhD experience
Name: Joanne
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: Publishing
Year of graduation: 2002
Date of Interview: 18/06/2008

Now Playing: Joanne - PhD experience
Joanne reflects on the challenges of completing her PhD.

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What was your PhD experience like?

It was, it was quite, I found it quite hard, but partly that was because my supervisor left where I was doing my PhD and went to America, at the end of my first year. He was supervising me from America and I was, I wanted to do the PhD with him and he was a large part of the reason I wanted to do it. But I think at that point I should have found a supervisor in Britain or found a new supervisor because it's quite difficult to manage and I think I would've appreciated, I was probably someone that needed quite sort of hands-on sort of supervision. I did have, I then had two supervisors, but maybe it didn't kind of  work so well. A lot of my PhD was very much in the school of my supervisor you know. It was coming from a particular way of doing history that was very much sort of, he was very much immersed in and very keen and sort of pushing forward. So maybe the other supervisor I had wasn't right. But I didn't think of it in a kind of – you know if I was doing it again I would think a bit in a much more career way. I would and I think I would have made that decision to have someone else supervise me and I know other people who had different supervisors throughout their time. I think that would have been more helpful. So it was kind of difficult because of that and I found it like, I found the sort of, I think I was quite nervous of it in terms of just getting on and writing it. What I really loved about it was the research and the writing of it but I was almost, I didn't have the kind of confidence really to, it was that sort of, it was getting over that mental block of 'I can write a PhD'. You know it very much felt like this kind of huge 80,000 word massive contribution to knowledge thing, sort of weighing over me and when I broke it down it was ok but I would, that sort of mentally, it was quite difficult to get over that mental block. 

I came from a family where I was the first person to go to university so nope, no, none of my, neither of my parents had the sort of experience of this so and I'd always been the clever one and I'd always done really well at school and stuff. With something like my MA where it's very structured and very tightly packed into a year, you know, I really relished that, you know you were achieving all the time, you know you've got to do an essay by the end of you know the course and things like that. But with the PhD you've got kind of four years and it was kind of more difficult I suppose to motivate myself through that and keep the self-belief and keep the belief in the topic, 'is this something that makes any sense at all, is it worth doing'? And I still go over in my head, 'well what was I trying to do in my PhD'? You know, and you always tell a different story about what your PhD was about, whenever anyone asks you as well – which is quite interesting. So, yeah, I found, you know I actually at the end of the day I could do it and got through my viva with only minor corrections and it was all fine but it was that mental block of yeah, can I, am I a person that can do a PhD? And am I clever enough to do this? And I suppose that I would know now that it's not about those things really. Well, it's just not, I just think you know – to question whether you're clever enough to do it is just completely, is very self-defeating. It's almost a kind of arrogance in a way, to sort of, 'I'm not good enough for this', to do this is just another way of saying 'I'm so fantastic of course I can do this in my sleep', its too indulgent you know, you've just got to get on and write it which (laughter).Well I appreciate it now that when my authors are stuck I can, I can sympathise with that and it makes it quite difficult sometimes because you're trying to get these books in but I know what that's like and I know that's very difficult sometimes to let go or to get on with it.

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