Literature Review and Confirmation: Preparing for Milestones

Over the last few weeks I have been busily writing and preparing for PhD Milestones, as well as starting back at work. It has been very busy! It is times like this when my PhD is clearly not just ‘my’ study, it is something my whole family and extended network are supporting, and in a very real way, working towards too. Thank you to everyone on my ‘team’!

When writing both the lit review and confirmation paperwork I found it difficult at first to hone all the ideas and supporting reading I have done in the last year, into one document. This troubled me, as I knew the ideas I was putting forward had come from great books, papers and sources. I went through my folder (with only a handful of printed articles) and combed through my far more extensive Mendeley data base. I went decidedly ‘non-paperless’ and bought post-it notes to help make sense of key ideas, references and quotes (thanks BB for this strategy), sticking them on a wall into a huge concept map. This concept map helped to form the first of what will be a continual editing process for the next few years of my (soon to be part time) PhD study.  Below is a panorama of the ‘wall’ in progress. I was able to take each key idea and write the sections far more comprehensively than the first attempt. panorama phd wall 2I am more determined to keep clearer notes to organise my reading and references. Mendeley will allow this, I just need to be more consistent. The ‘import to mendeley’ plugin for my browser often doesn’t transfer the authors of blogs/websites, and I now know I need to put these in straight away, as it is too time consuming to amend these records while writing. As I write more and more of my thesis, I am sure I will get more streamlined in the process of storing my references in a style that works for me.

This week I am continuing to prepare for my Confirmation Presentation, and at this stage I am more excited than nervous. Writing the confirmation paperwork has further consolidated my study focus, and what I hope to contribute from the research. Again, planning for and working towards these milestones can’t be easily done in a short space of time. My advice to those starting on the journey is to be aware from the beginning where these milestones fall and plan towards them, don’t avoid them. Even though I have been writing outlines towards this since November last year, I still feel like I could have developed the paperwork further if I had ‘more time’. Perhaps this is the lesson…working within a time frame is in itself a discipline that we need to embrace instead of lament. What do you think? How do you work to deadlines?

Until next week

Fiona T






2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Isabel
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 05:10:04

    I’m standing at the brink of my PhD and am planning how to organise my references. I also used the card-system you used but instead of using new paper sticky-notes I went to a local estate agent (they print TONS of paper each time prices change) and collected cartloads of recycled A4 pages. I then use the paper cutter to cut them into squares (about 6 from 1 A4) and write on the back. Makes me feel slightly better about the paper I’m using. My husband is putting up a steel sheet and I’m using magnets to ‘pin’ the little squares to the wall making the concept maps as you spoke of above,
    I find it quite difficult searching for the HOW of doing a PhD – not the lit review or data management part, but the nitty-gritty actual physical processes – like keeping track of references. If you come across more useful handy ideas, please post them! Would love to learn how others did theirs!



    • Fiona T
      Apr 26, 2013 @ 15:42:59

      Re-using paper is a good idea, and I like the magnets! I have my eye on a whiteboard that is about to need a new home…I think it will work well for me too. Thanks for your comment Isabel, good luck with the writing!



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