It’s March. The summer holidays have come and gone. I’m back at my desk, scrolling through a thirty page journal article that has words in it like ‘phenomenological’ and ‘hermeneutic’, thinking it’s no wonder nobody ever reads this stuff.
But here I am, starting a research project that will one day become a thesis that nobody will ever read, because for one reason or another, I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to university life (just ask my dad who thinks PhD stands for ‘Permanently home Daughter’).
Right now I’m testing the waters, seeing what other people have done and, perhaps more importantly, what they haven’t done. In the process, I’m trying to find inspiration for a research idea that’s achievable, that does something useful, and above all, that lights a spark of curiosity inside me.
Earlier this week I sat in on a presentation given by a PhD student from my faculty. The presentation followed a format that researchers everywhere are trained to repeat: these are my questions, this is what I’ve done, and here’s what I’ve found. And while this made for a very interesting presentation, what I really wanted to know is what drew the student to their project in the first place. I wanted to ask: Why do you care about this project, and what makes this enough of a reason for you to be standing here today having done all this work and not something else?
Because being a researcher isn’t easy. And even if you’ve designed the most exciting or fulfilling or personally meaningful project, it doesn’t take long before you become caught up in the rigmarole of ethics procedures, and the messiness of doing fieldwork, and then the difficult, draining work of writing. As everything piles up, the passion weakens and that spark fades, and you end up just wanting the whole thing to be over with.
But I’m not going to let this happen. I’m writing this post to serve as a reminder to me, for whenever the going gets tough, not to forget why I’m doing this, what I’m here to learn more about, and the reasons why I care.