Better late than never?

Originally posted 12th Dec 2013

Two months and elven days in, and I’m finally starting my first (ever) blog. I still don’t properly understand what a ‘blog’ is and what it’s supposed to do, but here I am.

It was recommended that we find ways of talking to other people, networking, and essentially staying sane over the next three years of the PhD. So for anyone who will follow this blog, I’ll be talking about my experiences as I work my way through my thesis, the challenges and the opportunities, my own research and so on and so forth. Maybe it’ll help those who are also new PhD students, or who plan on undertaking this endeavour sometime in the near future. If nothing else it’ll give me something to track my mind.

The title of this blog is quite appropriate I think. ‘Method and Madness’ are essentially the two components that make up the successful PhD experience, or so I’ve deduced thus far. Some people would have you think that you start with one, and end with the other. But I’m still a newbie, so that remains to be seen.
It also tells you a bit about my research. I am a historian, and get far too excited over the history of psychiatry and insanity. Hence my thesis: ‘The Marginalized Civilian Lunatic: Scottish Psychiatry in the Great War, c.1914-1930s’…or something along those lines. I won’t go into great detail here – but looking at something other than the shell-shocked, the rank and file Tommy and the Officer as psychological casualties has me endlessly curious. But we’ll talk more about that later. At great length. Sorry.

Maybe then, I should start this blog with what I expect from a PhD and what I expect it to be like. But, honestly I don’t know. If any of you have experienced a research student induction day, you’ll be aware of the plethora of warnings you hear about the hardships, motivation, loneliness (they’re quite fond of the latter at my host institution), so I think you can be forgiven for thinking that it’s going to be three years of abject misery. But, so far, it’s not. To be fair, I still feel a bit ‘up in the air’ in that some days I’m quite focused, and others I have no idea what to do (which given that I’m at the very start of my studies, I think shouldn’t really happen. This is the stage to be bursting with ideas, right?). Mostly though, I feel quite relaxed and optimistic about the whole thing. Though after reading a few of these types of blogs, I’m starting to think this is just the blissfully ignorant stage before I realise what a PhD actually is.

Although there is the ‘Research Student Guilt’ to contend with – and yes that deserved to be capitalised. You know, that feeling where you realise that eventhough you’ve worked unfathomably hard to get here, you’re still a lucky sod to have this opportunity. Maybe more so for humanities than the hard sciences in my opinion. You get to read things you find intensely interesting. You get to disappear into the archives (remember, historian) all the time. Your time is flexible to an extent as long as you commit to a certain number of hours. Live in a house with the full-time employed and this point gets driven home to you a lot. And I’m getting funded to do this? Mad.

Well I think that’ll do for now. As I said before, this blog won’t be all about my personal experiences over the next three years. I hope to use it as a sounding board for my research and my writing too, and anything else I feel like really.

So until next time.


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