Current Position: PhD Student, Department of War Studies, King’s College London
How much research time is built into my job:
As a PhD student at a UK university, my ‘job’ effectively was largely research time. In fact, there was the distinct impression that doing other things- such as teaching- had to be carefully considered in light of how that would affect research time.
If the next REF were held tomorrow, I would:
Not be returned, for many reasons.
I work on:
My PhD thesis examines how the Royal Navy was defined from 1660-1749, and argues that the combination of definitions in statute and in ‘conventions’ created an effective ‘Westminster Model’ constitution. I’m really interested in studying the development process of individual institutions, and understanding their development over longer periods of time. I do stray quite a bit however, and I’m also really interested in musicology and the history of music, the history of food and cooking, history of fashion and other topics. I hope that I’ll be able to do more research in these fields in the future.
I actually began my university career in Computer Science, rather than history. I had applied to CompSci because I enjoyed creating computer games with my friends, but I didn’t realize until third year of my undergrad that what I actually enjoyed was the world creation and design aspects, both of which I can satisfy through historical research and writing. I have recently realized however that there is so much potential in taking various types of sources, and putting them in online databases. I would love to further explore how the Royal Navy’s many documents and types and sources can be made available to researchers digitally, and finding out what kind of analyses and things those researchers can do. I’m actually more interested in the creation of the tools, databases and websites than I am in specifying a research question that would justify the funding to create those tools.
Tools I use to Plan My Research:
Quite frankly, the only tool that I really used in the past was writing out my plans in emails, Twitter, Facebook posts or the quarterly departmentally-required planning forms. I guess it was an attempt to state things in public so I could hold myself to them.
I have realized how poor this approach is, and I’ve recently acquired some tools to help with future research and planning. For example, I’m now using Mendeley to organize my research, so that I can plan for future acquisition of journal articles and online sources. I’m looking into something to use that is like ‘Evernote’. I am also currently researching apps/software for tracking my personal library, so that I can better organize my research in hardcopy books. I am also going back to basics and creating to-do lists.
I have also used the new remote document ordering tools various archives have on their websites/catalogues, under the reasoning that if I order the documents a few days in advance, I have to go into the archives to do the research. I did find this useful because it did allow me to having several volumes already ready for me and allowed me to look through the catalogues at home, and to minimize non-research time at the archives.
My approach to planning/planning philosophy is:
Under Development. I often set goals for myself, and then get quite frustrated when I don’t meet them, or even manage them adequately. I am working on developing an approach that is flexible so that if I need to spend time unpicking and redoing things, I have the time to do so. So far, this approach will take the form of identifying big goals, and then defining the sub-processes that need to occur and planning for them first and foremost. This new philosophy will also be able to accommodate forms of productivity that aren’t ‘word count’ or ‘photos taken’ or similar.
My routine is:
Changing. I work part time at a book store, which occupies my weekends. Theoretically, this left most of the week free for doing research. Until recently this time was occupied with rewriting my PhD thesis for resubmission, and many other tasks. In the new year, I will be allotting 4-6 hours a week for doing new research for new projects. Some of this will involve going to archives. To start, it will involve me properly cataloguing and investigating the research I have already done. For example, I have several Gigabytes of archival photos in a folder named ‘To Be Sorted’. I am hoping that once I’ve moved from my current employment to a full-time position, I’ll be able to dedicate an evening a week for new research. The reality is that so many of the documents I’ll need for immediately future projects are already in my possession (if not read), or are available online. This should help with the creation of a research routine.
I think I am organized/disorganized/other (please specify):
In many ways, badly disorganized in that I hardly make the deadlines that I set for myself. Also, I often duplicate work because I forget that I’ve already looked at a volume or downloaded an article. I am working on both of these.
I would like to improve my….
My organization, my identification of and planning for sub-processes, and my process of allocating appropriate time and importance to the various projects I’m involved with.
My best piece of planning advice is:
Remember that sometimes, you have to say to no to doing research, or becoming involved in a project because you just don’t have time in the foreseeable future.