The necessity of collegiality?

In order for you to understand where I’m coming from with this post, you need to understand a few things about me:

  • I currently rent in two locations, one with my partner (home) and one is a temporary home (caravan park two-three nights a week);
  • I am easily distracted by people around me;
  • I am usually quite happy to sit alone and work; and
  • I am a perfectionist (and not the good kind) – when I think that I won’t be able to do a good enough job at something, I won’t do it and I will stress about it. This means that I worry about the task, but never get anything done, as I don’t think it will meet the standards expected. This means that when I find a time and a place where I am productive, then I need to make good use of it.


For my PhD I am being most productive at the library and at my temporary home. When I am at either home, I will sit and study all day, all of a sudden realising that the day has whizzed by and I need to go do some exercise. I also really enjoy sitting outside and studying, rather than being inside a room and missing daylight. I have also found the university library to be a location where I will sit all day and work. I posit that the library and my temporary home are such a good places to study as I do not know anyone around me or do not have anyone around to distract me. At the library or at home, I pop my noise-cancelling headphones on and read/edit/write without distraction.


When I am in the PhD study room, I have people around me that I am starting to get to know. I quite like these people, would like to develop a working relationship with them (especially since we will be going into careers in academia together and may work together on projects in the future), and see the benefits of a collegial workplace, however I feel that there is an expectation to bond, to discuss projects, to share experiences, to talk… None of these are ‘bad’, in fact most people would find that sharing experiences and bonding will make the PhD journey better. I am in the first few months of my PhD and have put myself on a tight schedule – I have work, I have travel between homes, I want to have a social life. When I am in the PhD study room, I need to dedicate myself to my studies, otherwise I am losing time in other parts of my life.

Maybe when I am in a different place with my studies I will have a different point of view on this.


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Am I doing the right thing? Choosing my research question

I am one month into my PhD and as a perfectionist I need to remind myself that doing a PhD is a learning process. I often feel like I should know how to do research already, isn’t that why they accepted me into the program? I had to prove that I was capable of doing research to get in …

I had my first meeting with my supervisors recently and discovered that my research goals were too broad. Now I know that this is common to most PhD students, we get into research because we are passionate about a topic and want to change/understand a topic. My first feeling was that of disappointment, I thought I was on the right track, I thought that I was going to impress my supervisors with my plan and show them how amazing I was… I have to say that my supervisors were not negative about what I had done, and most of the meeting was spent discussing what options I had for methodologies and how to whittle down my research topic and I came away with a plan of how to proceed. So my disappointment was mostly that I had had this belief that my research was going to be the answer to what I believe is an issue that needs to be changed (see Does my PhD have to change the world? on the Thesis Whisperer), and post-meeting I realised that I was only going to be able to research one age group, in one sport, in one location, not for all sports around Australia.

The first thing I did was debrief with a friend who has their PhD, so they know what the process is about. This friend told me that I need to relax and remember that if I’ve gone down the wrong path that it is not wasted time, but that I have learned something; they said that if people “did” research the right way every time that there would be nothing left to research – cancer would already be cured, because the researchers would have chosen the “right” research from the first time.

So after debriefing with my friend, which made me feel better, the next thing I did was head to the library and seek out books on these new methodologies that I was not as knowledgeable about. I plan to read up on methodologies and try talking about my research with as many people as I can to see what I’m most passionate about, what I can achieve in the PhD time, and what is interesting to other people.

I know it is common for new PhD students to struggle to find the right research topic and that my issue is not new, but being the person that I am, I wonder how to try make sure that I am going in the right direction.

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Conferences, networking and PhD decisions

Conference presentation

Next Friday I will be doing my very first conference presentation! I am presenting at the Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies (ANZALS) conference in Melbourne.

This is the first time that I will be standing up in front of other academics and presenting my research. As the date draws closer I am starting to feel nervous. I am yet to submit my research as a journal article (although that is pretty close to submission), so this is a big test for how my research is received in the sport management academic community.

I am also looking forward to seeing what a conference is like and networking with people who have been around longer than I in the field. I am sure that I will learn a lot by attending a number of different presentations at the conference.

Networking and PhD decisions

Whilst I am primarily going to Melbourne for the ANZALS conference, I have organised a couple of meetings with industry to try decide on a tighter PhD research topic and see whether what I want to study fits with their research agendas. I have heard both positive and negative information to working with industry for my PhD, and am unsure which way will suit me best.

Negative: I understand that when working with industry I may not have as much flexibility if the topic needs to be altered and I may not have as much control over my research.

Positive: I realise the importance of developing strong bonds with industry, so that my research can have practical applications and real-world impact. Industry-led research can also provide links and introductions to associations who may be more willing to become involved in the research with a well-known name behind the research.

I have a little bit longer to work on my PhD preparation, I don’t need to start until February next year. I am currently working hard on finishing a couple of research projects before Christmas. Before starting I plan to do a bit more reading on the different theories that may be relevant to my studies, as whichever I choose will need to be defended and I will need to justify why I did not choose another theory.


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3MT (Honours) Competition at ECU

Edith Cowan University gave the Honours students the opportunity to participate in the 3MT competition, without having to compete against the PhD students.

I was lucky enough to be voted through to the ECU finals, as one of two Faculty representatives.

The ECU finals were held on the 13 September 2013 and I came third place of the Honours students. The video is on YouTube along with the other two winners of the Honours competition and all of the 3MT finalists.

I found the whole process to be quite difficult, and even though I had finished my research and written up my thesis by the time the competition was upon us, I still had difficulty putting my research into only a few minutes.

I would like to thank ECU for giving me the opportunity to try the 3MT in a safe(r) environment, although it was still quite daunting to stand up and present to judges, ECU staff and PhD students.

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15 October 2013 · 9:58 AM

Dealing with my Impostor Syndrome

Impostor MaskTHAT feeling… That horrible feeling that there is only a limited time until people realise that you don’t know what they thought you did, or expect you to… That soon people will uncover that you are not qualified or smart enough to be in the position that you are. As many people have previously identified, often in academia (and life) people feel like impostors in their studies or jobs. I don’t need to talk much about it, as there is so much info out there about the impostor syndrome. See related articles at end of post for more reading.

The impostor syndrome is something that is brought up in PhD training sessions I have attended that have been run by the university and, if you are lucky enough to have someone that you are comfortable enough to share the feeling with when you have it, is discussed between people in academia. We know that lots of people are affected by it, but different people deal with it in different ways.

I know that my personality can at times tend towards the negative and so for me, if not kept in check, the imposter syndrome can cause me to stop working effectively, as I second-guess all my work. For me, the “fake it until you make it – just be confident and soon you will feel confident” mantra just does not work for me. If I don’t feel confident, I don’t know how to pretend to be confident. There are a number of other things that people have discussed in overcoming your impostor syndrome, such as looking at your fears, analysing your success, keeping your sense of humor, and taking risks. For me, these things seem so implausible as options to change how I feel, because of how I feel. I need actions and external cues to help me stay on track.

So I have come up with a few ways of dealing with my impostor syndrome. These are just things that work for me and I would love to hear how other people work through the dark days. Sharing ideas and helping others see they are not alone is one of the aims of my blog, so feel free to leave me a comment, or if you are a bit shy, to email me.

1. Motivational posters – I have done a google search and come up with a few slogans, quotes and images that are motivational for me. I have these surrounding me at work and home; I have them set up on my computer background, my screen saver and around my office space. My favourite ones tend to come from Dr Seuss!

2. Getting feedback from others – Now, often I don’t believe what people say to me, about me, or about my work, but it does make me feel better about myself to have it in front of me when I’m second-guessing my work. The feeling will be dependent on the respect and relationship I have with the person. Just the other day, someone who I see as a mentor and who has done so much for me both professionally and personally in the last year, sent me an email responding to some good news. Her words made me glow. On a day when I wasn’t feeling effective, these words picked me up.
“Well done Holly, I’m so pleased with your professional development and focus towards your academic career”.
I know that having those words and reading them when I am having a bad day in the future will, at the very least, promote renewed effort, if not confidence in my ability to carry on.

3. Avoiding Procrastination and Perfectionism – I am a perfectionist. Mostly, I think this is a positive for my chosen career, however there are times when it can cause crippling lack of progress. Sometimes I can spend hours reading and editing a paragraph, trying to get it perfect. At the other end of the scale, there are times when I will do anything I possibly can to avoid starting something, because I have no confidence that I CAN actually do it. So I put it off until I can find the confidence to start. In both of these instances, I need to be very strict with myself. I do allow myself time to try improve on something, but I am working on drawing a line of when to stop working and ask for help. When I notice that I am procrastinating from working on something, I try to break it down into smaller tasks, so that it is less overwhelming. I have also tried just starting on it, and my confidence grows as I see something appearing.

These are the ways that I deal with my impostor syndrome. Please let me know when you feel it, and how you deal with it when it comes.

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Getting a PhD with a scholarship..

how-to-applyAs those of you who have started reading my blog know, I plan on beginning a PhD next year. As scholarships and PhD positions seem to be quite competitive, I am spending a bit of time trying to make my application stand out from others.

To aid my application for PhD I am taking the second half of 2013 to work as a research consultant and research assistant. This semester I am doing work that will help my skills as a researcher, which will aid my application for PhD and hopefully to get a scholarship, and help me to be successful at doing my PhD.

I have given myself a few things to do this semester and I’ll hopefully be able to write about those experiences too. I have decided that there are three things that I need to work on to develop my application – research experience, publishing and industry engagement


It was important that I got some paid work, and I was lucky enough that the ECU School of Business required some research assistant help. I am working approximately two days a week as a Project Manager/Research Assistant on a major combined food experience project. This research project is a combination of seven sub-projects, which will culminate in a survey covering food shopping, food choice, preparation and consumption of food. This project is giving me the opportunity to work with a number of academic staff, in fields from recreation through to economics, and allows me insight into a wide range of project types.

Another research project that I am working on is looking at gaining an understanding of sport participation and recreation. This project is with David Russell and the “Rippa Sports” Consultancy Company, working with the Department of Sport and Recreation and five state sporting associations in Western Australia to understand how sports can create an environment where recreational participants are welcomed. So far the project has had a focus group with association representatives to understand how they can engage ‘sport recreators’ and what the benefits would be to the sport and to the individual. The second stage is a survey of current sport association members and a similar survey of sport recreators who are not engaged with the associations. Reports will be completed for the Department of Sport and Recreation and for each of the state sporting associations.


Having work published is key to academia, and having some work published will show my desire to conduct research and my ability to write for academic journals and that I can conduct research that withstands peer review.

I am working on getting my Honours project published. This is currently at the stage where my supervisors get to do their, hopefully final, work with me as an Honours student.

The first Phase of the Sport recreators project, the workshop, has been completed and results written. I have started the journal write-up of this piece of work.


The plan is for the sport recreators work to be finished and all reports submitted by the end of this year. This work will show my ability to work with industry businesses and that I can write reports that have ‘real-world’ meaning.

I hope that with the three above areas covered I will be able to move into my PhD smoothly (and hopefully with a scholarship), with proven ability to work at the required level and with some small measure of success to start me on my way.

Hello to the beginning of my academic career!

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Research to start research – The confusion of finding a PhD Supervisor

slider-search-for-a-supervisorRecently I have started getting organised to start my PhD in 2014. I have decided that there are a few things that require my attention in order to start off positively.

The supervisor-student relationship is very important to the success of a PhD, so firstly, I need to find supervisors who I ‘click’ with; supervisors who will be around to support me when I need it, who challenge me to keep going when I feel like an impostor, who are knowledgeable in my field, and who will direct (teach) me. Added to this, I want to attend a university that is supportive of PhD students, where I have the opportunity to lecture and tutor; where I can advance my experience in teaching, the other part of being an academic. Finally, I am debating how important the location is. I want to be around friends, and that begins limiting the locations that I am willing to move, as I have only lived in three states of Australia.

My research of potential supervisors has begun with a check through of the people I referenced in my Honours thesis. There are not that many in Australia. I then looked further and researched on the internet which Australian universities offer Sport Management degrees and therefore may have academics who research and teach in my field.

I am talking to academics, in particular my Honours supervisors, who can recommend particular people who they have met at conferences. This gives me some direct feedback on personalities, which relates directly to how I might interact with them. My Honours supervisors know me and can tell me what potential supervisors might be like as supervisors.

The next step is actually contacting potential supervisors. I have been reading blogs and information online about what to do and what not to do. This is quite a scary step for me, as I am extremely concerned about my choice. I am choosing people who I will be working with for the next three years. I am stressed about making the right decision and making the right impression.

I would love advice from people about what to look for, what their experiences have been like and, from current academics, what you are looking for – what would impress you.

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my research!

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