Davie Ford is studying full-time for a PhD with us here at Chester. His research focusses on how non-religious people approach and interpret the Bible, and is centred on fieldwork conducted with a group of working men. We asked if he would give us an insight into his working week, and he kindly agreed.
Well, there may not actually be such a thing as a ‘normal’ week for a research student, but we all find the rhythm to which we work best. As a full-time PhD student who’s married and has two young children, this is what my rhythm looks like.
Monday: In the ‘office’ (i.e. the post-grad study centre) for nine. It is a good place to work having plenty of desks, lockers, a meeting room and an all-important coffee machine. After a quick chat with Salma and Tari (Clinical Science PhD students) I get to work. I’m due to meet my supervisory team on Thursday and we had agreed that I would email them an essay reflecting on the fieldwork I’d just completed. I draft the essay, go for a swim and then redraft it. It’s emailed off and I’m home in time for tea.
Tuesday: Every Tuesday I play at being a Dad. My wife is at work, so I take our daughter to school and spend the rest of the day with our one year old son. He sleeps over lunchtime and I spend that time planning a presentation of my research for a group of clergy.
Wednesday: Back in Uni today. I begin to collate a list of the main journals, books and articles which deal with the sociology of sacred texts (a new subject with which my research engages). Later, I go to the TRS research seminar. The first part considers “What is doctoralness?” and is a strangely encouraging presentation. Then there are four research papers. These are pretty varied and the content is not acutely relevant to my own research. However, it is good to see how others structure their arguments or present their findings because that’s the stage I’m at. Equally interesting is the way in which each research paper is critiqued in this setting.
Thursday: Having drawn up a list of required texts yesterday, it feels like I spend the bulk of today in the library pulling books and starting to undertake a survey of the literature. In the afternoon I have my supervisory meeting, which goes well. We discuss the fieldwork and agree to meet in a month’s time when I’ll present the survey of literature that I’m now working on.
Friday: In order to remember what was decided, I begin my day by writing notes on yesterday’s meeting. The rest of the day I spend reading/skimming through books, although a swim and a chat with Robert (a business studies PhD student) about his research provide welcome breaks.
So that’s a snapshot of my weekday rhythm: typically nine to five with focused times of concentration/work and scheduled outlets for distraction. It wouldn’t suit everybody, but it seems to work for me.