As the day draws nearer when I start my PhD at the University of Dundee, I am keen to focus on what I should do now to hit the ground running. I have been doing lots of reading. Whilst I feel I have made some progress I find myself, time and again, wondering whether I have really understood what I have read. I find this a demoralising process at times and I need to find some strategies for getting myself out of this unproductive state of mind. After all, it is inevitable that I will meet challenging ideas on a regular basis – particularly during the time when I am working on my literature review. Someone said to me that learning is more about osmosis than absorption.   Knowledge creeps in rather than being mopped up like a sponge.

So these are the ideas I have to keep me focused, positive and making progress!

Writing this Critical Research Journal

At the moment I flit from one piece of reading to another not fully understanding them. I try to persevere and eventually I find something I can understand, relate to my practice or my thinking and then write a blog. I find the blog a useful focus for making notes on my reading and over time it will become a resource for me to refer to as I start to write my thesis. I try to pick out some key points and quotations from all my reading so I have a starting point from which I can read in more detail if it turns out to be important in my work.

Daily Writing

I believe that I need to commit to writing for at least an hour every day. This forces me to focus on the reading and hopefully gives me a positive outcome to my daily endeavours. A leading journalist with the Guardian Newspaper once told me that writers need to write every day without fail – any layoff means time will be spent getting back into the groove. Holidays, he said, can be hell from that point of view.

Mind Maps

I have committed to putting together a mind map of the key approaches and thinking currently related to my PhD. I plan to use this as a starting point for my early conversations with my supervisors. The mind map will become a key piece of evidence in charting the progress of my thinking as I journey through my PhD. I will produce a revised version at key milestones. I am also planning to learn more about Papineau’s Tree that is an interesting approach to literature review based on the core terms within different layers of a discipline as they develop over time.

Weekly Photographic Practice

I intend to take photographic images on a regular basis and plan to write one blog showing my work in progress for the week. This provides a useful diary of progress as my work develops and changes.

Talking to other Students and Researchers

I have a tendency to be solitary and dwell on the negatives of any situation. I think talking to other students and researchers on a regular basis will help me keep positive. Sometimes just knowing that others are struggling too, or hearing about ways they motivate themselves will be helpful. I plan to schedule regular catch-ups with other students via MS Teams as appropriate.

Positives of the Week

In my working career, I used to hold a meeting with senior colleagues on a Friday afternoon to record the positives of the week. Sometimes they were difficult to come by but the intention is to leave every working week behind on a positive note.

One Day Off

I plan to have one day off from my PhD work each week to relax and recharge.


Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Skip to content