A blog for students funded by a cross institutional scheme through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to train a new generation of skilled researchers. Offering postgraduate studentships and training across the full range of the AHRC’s disciplines. All views are those of students and are not necessarily those of the NWCDTP.
Talking with other PhD researchers recently, what struck me was how many were obtaining unexpected outcomes from their research. It’s in the nature of exploration that you find things you didn’t know were there. Most times the discovery is a cause for celebration, a Eureka moment even.
Though not always. For some, the early expectation that their work would hold significance is sometimes dashed as the experiments they undertake give results that are not in line with their theorizations. If science researchers, their results may still be valid scientifically – in that they better delineate the apparent cul de sac at the end of that particular research road – yet the sense of disappointment can be palpable. It’s an admirable humility that allows acceptance of such an outcome.
Unexpected new paths
Among artist-researchers, I’ve found the art envisaged and the art generated from PhD exploration can be different – sometimes in type, sometimes in volume: like researching Dadai-ism and, by whatever twists of discovery, investigation or articulation, ending up generating works that are closer to Realist: an unexpected but – driven by the logic of the research and the evidence – necessary switch.
All That Glisters
For myself, I’ve found that dealing with the ideas generated from my primary research (crime fiction) has meant creating a series of mini-experiments in the form of short stories and flash fiction. They’ve allowed me to isolate particular elements and play around with them. Some of these mini experiments don’t go anywhere; others walk so fast I can’t keep up. I find myself in the latter circumstances having to make a decision: do I keep going on this new path or return to the original question? I’m sure many PhDs are given up when the newly discovered yet unexpected path shines far more brightly than the journey they plotted in their original PhD proposal.
Some of my Eureka! Moments:
An experiment involving grammar to better develop affect had strange and unusual results.
Chancing upon a way to destabilise texts using a model from some post-structuralist shenanigans.
A relatively obscure point of English criminal law opening up a wide zone of investigation.
Some of my Doh! moments
Abandoning an attempt at compression. I found the exposition necessary to make the text comprehensible to a reader rendered the compression attempted impossible.
Trashing three months of a literary experimental sally –approx 15,000 words – when it patently didn’t work.
There have been others – too many to list!
Author: Pete Kalu