Archive | March, 2013

Thinking about conferences

22 Mar

I’ve had a good week for feedback, so feeling more reassured that I’m on the right track.

My RD1 was accepted by the Uni (that’s my research proposal outlining what I’m doing) so I guess I’m now officially a researcher at MMU! I also had some good feedback on my Lit Review from my supervisor. I went to the Lit Review workshop on Monday where I picked up some tips on how to improve it, and it also helped reassure me that I’m following a good structure and including most of what is needed in a good review.

I was hoping to attend a conference or two this year. So far though I’m just looking at things at MMU and maybe I need to try and get out into the wider world! I’m a bit shy with public speaking, but I was told in my induction that it’s acceptable for first years to just attend as a delegate, or possibly do a poster. Later on I will be expected to present papers. Hopefully my confidence will grow when I have a better idea of what my research is actually all about, and then I will want to share it with people.

So… I’m putting together an abstract for a poster at the Institute of Humanites and Social Science Research (ISSHR in future- this is the institute that funds me) student symposium in May. I was told to present a chapter of my research, but I have been a bit confused because I’ve only really done my introduction chapter so far. Is it ok to present an introduction at a conference? It would cover what my research is all about, how it expands from the relevant literature, and what method I decided to use to best meet the aims. I’m going to have to get some advice on this.

In June I’m doing a 10 minute talk at the History department student conference, which hopefully will be pretty informal and friendly. I’m hoping that preparing just 10 minutes will ease me into future conferences. I was asked today if I would be interested in giving a 45 minute paper as part of the History seminar series in March 2014. I feel so honoured to be asked, but I know this will turn to wobblies nearer the time when I actually prepare for it! I must sign up for some presentation skills workshops for next year.

I was also thinking to attend the Manchester Centre for Regional History conference this June, as this is the department I’m based in with my PhD but I haven’t really explored it yet and been properly involved. The theme is ‘unofficial histories’, which sounds interesting, but I couldn’t quite see how to fit my research into it to submit a paper. I’ve seen a few interesting-sounding conferences around, but need to think which ones are right for my research and will benefit me the most.

I’ve also seen that the Museums Association Conference is in Liverpool this year, so it would be a shame not to go. I attended a few years back when it was in Manchester (I was doing my MA Museum Studies at the time) and I really enjoyed it.

So next year a definite goal is to submit a paper for a conference, and really get myself out there!

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A method for writing my method

10 Mar

I handed in my draft Literature Review to my supervisor this week, which is a huge relief to me. Hopefully I will get some comments back about it soon, then I can tidy it up. I still have lots of books I want to read, but I feel that I’ve covered most of my essential texts. I will keep reading throughout my PhD and will keep adding to my review if I need to. For now I’m just happy that I’ve handed something in and now I can focus on something else for a few weeks.

So my next challenge is my method section. I will say what I’m going to research in my introduction and Lit Review, so now I need to say HOW I’m going to do it. This is going to be another challenge because although I will have used different methods in my old Uni work, I’ve never written a proper ‘method’ section.

I’m going to start by having a bit of a brainstorm.

My main aim is to create a meaningful and useful account of the collection from aquisition to death of the collector. Therefore, I know I want to use the cultural biography method as a way of mapping this and structuring my research. Cultural biography is a way of showing that objects have lifecycles depending on changes in their status. I can use it to show the changing meanings of the objects as they move into new uses and ownership, and come together to form a collection.

My research evidence is going to come from reading lots of primary accounts, mainly diaries, so I need a method that will get me the information I need from these sources. This is going to be a form of discourse analysis. I started having a read of the diaries over New Year so I have a general idea of their content. I need to decide now exactly what information I want to take from them. I can assess themes such as power and dominance, or record events such as exchanges with other peoples, or look for sentiments such as the expression of feelings towards objects.

When I know what I’m looking for, then I can work out how to read and record this information. At the moment I’m thinking I can do this with some sort of colour coding, which means I might be collect quantitative as well as qualitative results.

I asked my supervisor to give me a rough timeline of how she sees my first year as I felt that I was working on one thing with no idea of the bigger picture and what would come next. So the plan is to spend a month now (hopefully less?) on my method, then to draft my first introductory chapter to include the shaped-up Lit review, then to start going with my primary research around July. So July is ahead of me beckoning me on, and I can’t wait to get there!

Guilt and Graft

3 Mar

I’ve been neglecting my blog lately, for which I’m feeling a large amount of guilt. I’ve had an eye infection on and off (but mostly on) for a few weeks, and I can finally look at a computer again without saying ‘ouch’.

I’ve been trying to keep up with my reading, and the past few days I’ve been trying to type up my latest notes into my Lit Review. I need a few days of editing now and then I can hand in to my supervisor for her to critique.

I still have so much to read, but I think I’ve come a long way and am quite pleased. I have to take a step back from it sometimes and feel happy with my progress, or risk letting my Lit Review rage and frustration bubble over and make me throw my dummy out of the pram. I am really not cut out for Lit Review- I want to research! But the sooner I get on with it, the sooner it’ll all be over.

I had a nice walk around the estate at Tatton yesterday in the sunshine, taking in the scenery and sheer scale of the place. Even though I work and research at Tatton, it’s still my favourite place to go explore and gather my thoughts, and I hope it stays that way! I’m looking forward to Spring and lambing season. In the Mansion, theres only a few more weeks of winter clean before we open to the public.

I have a few interesting things lined up this week. On Tuesday I’m going to a workshop at Tatton Park to find out more about servants histories. A research programme has been running there for a few months called ‘hidden histories’, and the volunteers are starting to reveal their findings. On Wednesday I’m going to a lunchtime talk at Manchester Museum about female collectors.

So here’s to continuing the hard graft, and losing some of the guilt