Things I wish I had known before I started my EdD
1. Your ego will take a serious bruising
Discovering new ways of seeing a topic you’re passionate about and learning more about yourself in the process is beautiful. However, as they say, beauty is pain. Studying really is a process of highs and lows; feeling as though you’re really onto something one day and then utterly lost the next. I’ve been reassured that this is all part of the journey and that you have to go through periods of doubt to find confidence in your research later on. If you’re looking for a pat on the back, then EdD studies aren’t for you, but if you’re ready to really push yourself then it is very rewarding.
2. It’s not a race – find your space
Getting things done well and getting things done quickly are very different things when it comes to doctoral study. One of the biggest challenges has been finding space and time to process our thinking. Rather than being able to put assignments to the last minute as I did as a foolhardy undergraduate, assignments take a long time and you need the space to process your thoughts. The pandemic has ruined my thought process as I used to have more ideas on the train to Nottingham then I did in the months between my visits. I would strongly recommend finding a space where you feel you can get away from the regular stresses of everyday life. If I'm going to be able to do this well someone else will have to hold the baby, somebody else will have to pick up the slack and weekend plans will have to wait. This doesn't have to be all of the time, but it has to be some of the time and some of the time regularly.
3. Grades aren’t important
I think it says a lot about our education system that the first time I’ve handed in a piece of work and not cared about the grade as much as the feedback was my last assignment. At 31 years old handing in my third EdD assignment, I’ve realised that I am pleased with the work I’ve completed as it represents where I am currently as a researcher, not because I think it will get a certain grade. Most EdD courses are pass/fail and so as long as your staying on the course is not in jeopardy, focus on the feedback not the score to your earlier assignments.
4. Your relationship with your tutor is VERY important
I’ve heard some horror stories from friends whose supervisors have dodged them, been unsupportive and in some instances downright cruel. The relationship between you and your tutor is very important – find someone you feel you feel you can be honest with. I turned down a place at a ‘better’ university to work with a tutor I knew was invested in my work and my development. Some people think I’m mad, but it was the best decision I’ve made. I’m taking some time off studying during my maternity leave/adjusting to teaching with a baby and my tutor has been a real source of support through this process.
5. Talk to anyone who will listen
Bore people at parties about what you’re studying. Talking about your research is incredibly important as it helps you to articulate what it is you’re researching and why it is important. Guilt trip people who love you into proofreading your work. I'm currently in the process of working through my friends, find them dinner or lunch as a bride for listening to where I am with my current thinking. It's a nice way to catch up with friends and also means that you have a sounding board. The people you talk to you don't have to be educationalists or experts in your field they just have to be submitting who is willing to listen . In fact, it's very helpful if they are not experts in your field as it forces you to explain your ideas clearly and succinctly to get intelligent but uninformed audience. This proves helpful when writing your introductions and conclusions.
6. Not a lot of people will want to listen!
To you, it is the most amazing thing, but to your friends and family it might not seem as exciting. Whilst this can be disheartening at times, especially when its tough and those close to you seem to think that you’re mad. In the end, this is all ok! Not everyone is as passionate about your research as you are, many people around you may not have been to university or value further study. This is ok, we’d be boring if we were all the same.
7. The passive voice needs to go
‘It could be argued…’ ‘one might say that’… these phrases need to get in the bin. Once you reach doctoral level you need to remove the passive voice from your language. This is difficult as when we are taught to write at school and as an undergraduate, this is how we are encouraged to write. Perhaps it’s a British this, or gender norms, but it just feels more comfortable to be a bit vanilla. The sooner you snap out of this, the better. Once you’ve read enough and developed enough as a researcher, writing assertively can be very fun and therapeutic!