Rest Breath & Live

I remember a PhD graduate saying “don’t forget to live while you do your PhD”.


Slide 9 of 50: <p>A man gives his shoes to a homeless woman in Rio de Janerio.</p>After a hugely stressful 2 weeks…while waiting for feedback for my final research proposal draft…

I took a weekend off.

Didn’t look at my PhD AT ALL 🙂

And last night, put myself to bed early.

I’m back at work today, but this gave me inspiration to remember the big picture – life is for living.  I hope to make a difference one day with my research, for the mean time, maybe I can make a difference anyway…hope this gives you as much as it did for me:

50 Photos That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity

there is light at the end of the tunnel

unless it’s a train coming…as my friend once said…

Image result for celebrate

I am pre-empting a positive outcome…as I see light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, lesson of the moment is: Weird ideas can really stuff me up!!

For some reason I had it in my head that I needed to finish my research proposal before I did my confirmation of candidature.  The confirmation happens in some universities, maybe not yours.  And although it would be highly beneficial to have the research proposal and ethics approval ready by your confirmation, if you have the proposal ready at least, and the submission for ethics approval pending…you can possibly still have your confirmation.

The main thing is to make sure you have a good quality proposal and ethics application as this will help with the confirmation and ethics approval.

So…until next time, when I hopefully have good news to share about my confirmation….onwards and upwards with draft 56 of my research proposal.  (Just kidding…probably draft 8 which isn’t toooo bad).

Research Proposal – the biggest speedbump

challenge comfort.jpg

Why am I still at the research proposal stage?  Draft #3million…

Not sure about you but in my case I had an initial research plan.  This was a few naive paragraphs about how I was going to take over the world.

Then the research proposal was massive document in contrast…that is supposed to be my actual blueprint for my mastermind.

That’s why I’m still here…

However..I noticed my supervisors were rather calm about me still not having a final version ready to go.  Until one of them said this was one of the biggest hurdles in the PhD journey.  The concept phase to actual blueprint is never easy.

It’s like a kid having an amazing idea to climb a tree, then actually figuring out how to climb the tree without falling out and breaking a leg is another thing altogether.

So – worry not if the research proposal takes ages and your grand plan of attack also morphs into several versions of the one alien.  Just keep your eyes on the mothership.

Research Proposal Structure –

Research Question (this was what got me the most and also changed heaps between  my research plan and research proposal):

P.S those of you who have been following my blog know I attempted to change my supervisory team a little while back. I am happy to report that it worked out well and my boss supervisor is getting along just fine with the new addition to my supervisory team.  If you know someone’s going to be of value to bring along with you on your PhD journey – always remember it’s your life and you should totally go for it (albeit in a really nice, polite way coz you’re probably going to bump into some of these academics if you pursue a career in this field)…




It’s a journey…


Read this today and it gave me encouragement to keep going with my research proposal…will visit this again when I’m writing my thesis 🙂 hahaha…

Scenario:  Preparing to do a high ropes obstacle course (where you’re doing an obstacle course in up in the trees with ropes supporting you to catch you if you fall)…

“This isn’t about finishing the course. This is about conquering your hesitancy, resistance and fear. These ropes holding you will only let you slightly drop if you miss the bar. Then they will catch, and you absolutely will not fall” 

Source: LYSA TERKEURST – “I have trust issues”


Progress over perfection…

Came across this gem just when I was wondering why it’s taking so long for me to finish this research proposal…

Progress over perfection is the key…this is a learning process and even professors have to put in drafts for review..and my supervisor reminded me that that’s what they are there for – to provide guidance and input on drafts so it doesn’t have to be perfect, nor are they expecting perfection, instead they should be working with you towards progress.

So, I’m going to continue making progress rather than try to get everything perfect and end up having no progress.

Progress over perfection

Procrastination…I’m drowning…


So..guess what I’m struggling with today?..Procrastination…from finishing the 1 millionth draft of my research proposal…ARGHHH who’s idea was it to do a Phd?

Yes, blogging right now is probably part of it too but it’s also keeping me sane by helping express my frustration.  Right, I didn’t buy that one either.

So would you believe how many hits come up when you google “how to deal with procrastination in a phd?”  Seems like we all have this problem.

Here’s what I found:

  • the first 5 sites were stupid – “I have that same problem too haha” type stupid….I WANT ANSWERS!!!
  • This was kinda good:  Avoiding Procrastination – 6 Ways to Save Your PhD
  • It sounds like the best thing to do is to get to know yourself and what works for you…I totally forgot about my 1 hour (work/write) on 1 hour off thing (browse the net…play cooking fever)…

Now that I only have less than an hour left to go before sundown (that’s when my brain dies)…I guess I’ll just make peace with today and try again another day.

I’m human and…I’m sure my supervisor would have thrown something at me by now if I was really really going to not make it as she’s kind telepathic.  Peace out!

Structuring my proposal – Theoretical Frameworks

It’s still not right…my research proposal.  Not only that…my method needs to be more robust…

So we’re back to the drawing board.

Rather than fitting my research around a theoretical framework, this article was really good in that it worked “backwards” and started from the research question and then fitted the theoretical framework around it (or maybe I was working backwards)…anyway…here it is…

And if PhDs were so easy…everyone would have one…I say as I download more apps to keep me motivated motivation


Phd Talk…I speak funny now…



Two thoughts today:

  1. Lots of Phd terminology I have to wrap my brain around…
  2. How do I make a dictionary…

Because, I had a melt moment where I was applying all this terminology and it was so different from the original terminology I had to remind myself when to cite…


Learnings for today:

  1. When to Cite Sources (source: Princeton University)

    You’ll discover that different academic disciplines have different rules and protocols concerning when and how to cite sources, a practice known as “citation.” For example, some disciplines use footnotes, whereas others use parenthetical in-text citations; some require complete bibliographic information on all works consulted, whereas others require only a list of “Works Cited.” As you decide on a concentration and begin advanced work in your department, you’ll need to learn the particular protocols for your discipline. Elsewhere on this website, you’ll find a brief sampling of commonly used citation styles.

    The five basic principles described below apply to all disciplines and should guide your own citation practice. Even more fundamental, however, is this general rule: when in doubt, cite. You’ll certainly never find yourself in trouble if you acknowledge a source when it’s not absolutely necessary; it’s always preferable to err on the side of caution and completeness. Better still, if you’re unsure about whether or not to cite a source, ask your professor or preceptor for guidance before submitting the paper or report.

    1. Quotation. Any verbatim use of a source, no matter how large or small the quotation, must be placed in quotation marks or, if longer than three lines, clearly indented beyond the regular margin. The quotation must be accompanied, either within the text or in a footnote, by a precise indication of the source, identifying the author, title, place and date of publication (where relevant), and page numbers. Even if you use only a short phrase, or even one key word, you must use quotation marks in order to set off the borrowed language from your own, and you must cite the source.

    2. Paraphrase. Paraphrase is a restatement of another person’s thoughts or ideas in your own words, using your own sentence structure. A paraphrase is normally about the same length as the original. Although you don’t need to use quotation marks when you paraphrase, you absolutely do need to cite the source, either in parentheses or in a footnote. If another author’s idea is particularly well put, quote it verbatim and use quotation marks to distinguish his or her words from your own. Paraphrase your source if you can restate the idea more clearly or simply, or if you want to place the idea in the flow of your own thoughts—though be sure to announce your source in your own text (“Albert Einstein believed that…”) and always include a citation. Paraphrasing does not relieve you of the responsibility to cite your source.

    3. Summary. Summary is a concise statement of another person’s thoughts or ideas in your own words. A summary is normally shorter than the original—a distillation of the source’s ideas. When summarizing other people’s ideas, arguments, or conclusions, you must cite your sources—for example, with a footnote at the end of each summary. Taking good notes while doing your research will help you keep straight which ideas belong to which author. Good note-taking habits are especially important when you’re reviewing a series of interpretations or ideas on your subject.

    4. Facts, Information, and Data. Often you’ll want to use facts or information to support your own argument. If the information is found exclusively in a particular source, you must clearly acknowledge that source. For example, if you use data from a scientific experiment conducted and reported by a researcher, you must cite your source, probably a scientific journal or a website. Or if you use a piece of information discovered by another scholar in the course of his or her own research, you must cite your source. But if the fact or information is generally known and accepted—for example, that Woodrow Wilson served as president of both Princeton University and the United States, or that Avogadro’s number is 6.02 x 1023—you do not need to cite a source. Note that facts are different from ideas: facts may not need to be cited, whereas ideas must always be cited. Deciding which facts or pieces of information require citation and which are common knowledge, and thus do not require citation, isn’t always easy. For example, finding the same fact or piece of information in multiple sources doesn’t necessarily mean that it counts as common knowledge. Your best course of action in such a case may be to cite the most credible or authoritative of the multiple sources. Refer to a later section of this website, “Not-So-Common-Knowledge,” for more discussion of how to determine what counts as common knowledge. But remember: when in doubt, cite.

    5. Supplementary Information. Occasionally, especially in a longer research paper, you may not be able to include all of the information or ideas from your research in the body of your own paper. In such cases, insert a note offering supplementary information rather than simply providing basic bibliographic information (author, title, place and date of publication, and page numbers). In such footnotes or endnotes, you might provide additional data to bolster your argument, or briefly present an alternative idea that you found in one of your sources, or even list two or three additional articles on some topic that your reader might find of interest. Such notes demonstrate the breadth and depth of your research, and permit you to include germane, but not essential, information or concepts without interrupting the flow of your own paper. Additional claims or analysis of your own that you want to include in your essay without distracting readers from the central line of argument may also appear in footnote form. In these cases, the footnote will not include a citation because the ideas or findings presented belong to you.

    In all of the cases above, the standards of academic integrity require both citing the source in the text of your essay and its incorporation into your bibliography. To be clear, it is not enough to simply list a source in your bibliography if it deserves explicit citation in the essay’s body. Failure to provide that citation may result in being charged with plagiarism.

    Sometimes, though rarely, a source merits inclusion in your bibliography even when it doesn’t merit a particular citation in your paper’s text. This most often occurs when a source plays a critical role in your understanding of your topic, but never lends a specific idea or piece of evidence to your essay’s argument. For example, imagine you’re writing a paper about totalitarian regimes, and your thinking about such regimes is heavily influenced by your reading of George Orwell’s 1984. Imagine further that nothing from the novel appears explicitly in your essay, and your strongest reference to the book is describing these regimes as “Orwellian” in passing. Here there would be no need to cite 1984 directly, but it would be appropriate to list it in your bibliography. As always, if you’re unsure about a particular case, err on the side of providing a citation and a bibliography entry.

    For international students, it’s especially important to review and understand the citation standards and expectations for institutions of higher learning in the United States. Students who have done their college preparation at schools in other countries may have learned research and paper-writing practices different from those at Princeton. For example, students from schools in East Asia may learn that copying directly from sources, without citation, is the proper way to write papers and do research. Students in France, preparing for the Baccalaureate examination, may be encouraged to memorize whole passages from secondary sources and copy them into papers and exam essays. Those cultural differences can sometimes lead to false assumptions about citation practices and expectations at Princeton. Again, you are responsible for reading and understanding the University’s academic regulations as defined and explained in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. You must ask for assistance from your professors or preceptors if you’re not sure.

    The Writing Center, located in Whitman College, is also a key resource for students wanting to learn more about proper note-taking and citation practices. To make an appointment, visit or drop in without an appointment Sunday through Thursday evenings.


  2. How to make a dictionary:  Maybe someone will have a really simple to use app to suggest, but I ended up using an index book…Have tried Microsoft Word and Excel but would LOVE an app where I can add the terms and flick them up on my phone or computer.

Ciao for now!!


Changing my PhD Supervisor…


So, the first year of my Phd was more about searching for lightbulbs in a sea of dark with my wonderful primary supervisor leading much of the way.

Now that I’ve grown a whole year older and wiser, and I should probably learn to walk on my own abit more…I am thinking about changing my supervisors.

Your supervisors can make of break you and your Phd.  It’s a balance of getting supervisory team with strengths that cover the whole range of your PhD.

Things I learnt making me want to change my supervisors:

  1. Your PhD is YOUR PhD.  It will be rare to find a supervisor that knows and loves your PhD topic in detail so don’t expect them to.  They should be able to at least help you meet all of your academic requirements (like the administration requirements and help you “learn” your way into a PhD).
  2. Is your supervisor helpful NOW and in your FUTURE?  Do they have networks and contacts to help you with your PhD content even if they don’t know the specifics of your topic?  Have they used their contacts and will they support your future career?  (Mine has mentored me through and helped me get my first teaching roles).
  3. If your supervisor isn’t meeting your needs, you need to tell them.  I’ve yet to meet one who was telepathic and can read your mind although mine is pretty amazing at it.

So after all that…why am I changing supervisors?

Thank goodness my primary supervisor is amazing and I’ll keep her.  Yay!

My other supervisors are not covering the full range of technical expertise and support that I require to get me through the next few years of my thesis.  Thankfully I have found a willing supervisor with those goods who is happy to take me on so now it’s time to see if I can replace one of my other supervisors….

I might make a deal too…as there is a recent PhD graduate who needs to start getting PhD candidates to supervise.  (We all have to start somewhere and I’m hoping karma comes back to me lol!!)

*TIP:  Academia is a tough world and supervisors have to rely on grants and funding and prove their worth through their workloads so forgive them if they don’t have the same amount of energy and love to give you constantly – tell them what you need and work something out with them that is reasonable.

*Secret tip:  Supervisors may give you a lot of attention in the first 12 months that you are with them after that, they do have other people to look after.  An option is to review your supervisory team every 12 months in time for the new year and where you and your Phd is headed.  Make adjustments as necessary balancing YOUR needs with UNDERSTANDING their time and energy limits and TALK honestly and openly with them to find a solution together.  This is how you can tell that they are a good supervisor – if they work it out with you and understand.

Found these helpful articles on the net from other people who have gone through supervisor team changes….

How one university facilitates supervisor changes

Strategies to change supervisors

The most important thing for a PhD – What they don’t tell you…

The most important thing with a PhD…from experience and I’ve gotten 100% agreement from all PhD’ers I’ve spoken to…


Take your time to find the right supervisor.

I was blessed enough to find my brilliant supervisor, I know so because other Phd candidates with very interesting supervisors have very interesting stories to compare with.

What makes her awesome:

  1. Understands my style and supervises to suit my style (if you’re someone who needs structure and frameworks, get a supervisor who can provide that for you, if you’re someone who prefers a more flexible / “when the lightbulb strikes, I’ll call you” type approach, make sure your supervisor can support you to still meet your deadlines and understand you at the same time.
  2. Well timed patience, understanding, nagging and management: linked to the point above, can they get outputs out of you without killing you?
  3. Reputable: Their reputation and networks are worth more than their pride or knowledge.  Can they put you in contact with the right people to support you or help you find what you need because PhD studies are very unique, no one supervisor can be an expert in every study.  Also…they can help you find a job this way hee hee…
  4. You like them.  Strange but true.  A PhD usually takes 3 to 4 years full time and up to infinity part-time (average 7 years).  Can you and your supervisor work well together for this long?

How to find them?

  1. Patience: It took me a year to find my supervisor.  I interviewed 4 professors and either they understood my topic but didn’t understand me or the other way around.
  2. Conferences:  You will find like minded people at conferences around your topic of interest.  Even if they are not a PhD themselves, you may still be able to get them on your supervisory team if they have the relevant proven experience and your primary supervisor has the academic credentials.  You can ask your university or organisation for their supervisory requirements.
  3. Interview them:  If you live outside of Facebook, the real-world usually requires you to choose who your friends are.  You wouldn’t “employ” a supervisor to guide you through one of the most stressful projects of your life without checking them out and spending some time with them first.