Heather Brown – ‘Learning to Appreciate the Colloquia: First Year Confirmation’

Heather Brown is a current PhD candidate at Deakin University and a member of the Contemporary Histories Research Group. Heather writes a monthly journal for this website sharing anecdotes about her experiences; this month Heather writes about the preparation for colloquia:

‘Learning to Appreciate the Colloquia: First Year Confirmation’

“December has been a full month. Aside from Christmas and all the festive celebrations, I been drafting the revisions for my first article entitled ‘Fictional Power and Control and the Reality of Abusive Behaviour’ for the Journal of Gender Studies. With the first phase of revisions complete, I can now concentrate on the colloquia.

I have to admit, as is often the case with dealing with an unknown, the colloquia fills me with a sense of trepidation, not least because of the amount of work involved. However, I am learning to appreciate its purpose, and its role in helping me grow as a fledgling researcher.

I have asked myself: ‘why has this been so hard to write?’ If I am honest, it has been difficult because being able to state succinctly the aim, purpose, significance and originality of my project based on my research thus far has forced me to see weaknesses in my work. On the one hand, this is not pleasant to discover. On the other, it is an honest appraisal of my research as I move forward. This can only be a good thing. In hindsight, I now realise how I might have planned differently last year – having said that, not having known what I now know, means that I probably couldn’t have planned it differently! Although the weaknesses in the work cause me concern, they are not insurmountable, and I am reminded that this too, is part of the learning process, and will help me in possible future projects.

In times of doubt I am grateful for my supervisory team, especially my principal, Dr. Cassandra Atherton. She is my ‘go-to’ person when I get stuck, or disheartened. I appreciate her wisdom, experience and ability to bounce back my ideas and help me re-focus. I can’t stress how important it is to be able to feel that I can email her at any time and ask a seemingly obvious question. I had been told at the beginning of this course that a PhD can be a lonely journey, in the sense that few people understand how much work is involved, let alone the research question!  As an off-campus student who is interstate, I feel at times even more removed from academic life. The colloquia, then, is a great chance to be able to share with other experienced scholars in the field of literature my ideas and what I have achieved so far. So, while the document is still taking shape, and I’m a bit nervous about it, I’m also a little excited as well.”


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