The life and times of a PhD student

Fern Gillon, who is working with CYCJ as part of her research into diverting young people from crime, shares what it’s like to embark on a PhD in this funny and honest blog.

Where to start? I have every book titled, “how to…PhD/Postgrad study” but week one and two have still been a bit of a whirlwind.  I must admit I find myself asking how I’ve got to this stage considering I wanted to leave school in fourth year to become a tattoo artist (something I will pursue in retirement!).

I asked my head of department for a reference, in which he described my time at uni as having “exit velocity”. Every time I read it I envisaged my wee face being catapulted across university campus, [into] mountains of books and dissertations. I went to university interested and intrigued; however, the more knowledge I accumulated the more I questioned what to do with it – that is until I undertook my first research project. In a class called ‘Community Links’, the module leader told us cheerfully: ‘by the end you’ll know if you love or hate research’. I undertook qualitative research with young people on their opinions and experiences of stop and search. I loved it, got the bug and wanted to know how you could do this ‘for real’. Research made sense, it linked all the random information I had been gathering by reading and observing and gave it a point. It gave it a purpose. And I loved it.

And here we are at the PhD (always mindful that what goes up must come down!) Excitement and nerves are in equal proportion which I think hope is understandable at this time. It’s early days (week 1/156) but there is so much I am looking forward to and want to share with, well, anyone who is willing to listen!

And then there is the project…

The project will look at the role of multi-agency early intervention projects in diverting young people from crime. It’s a mixed-methods project which will utilise data (which means I need to master the dreaded SPSS) and qualitative information from both practitioners and young people as I feel strongly that young people should be present in research conducted on services and structures which affect them.  At the heart of the project is collaboration: with Sacro, leading early intervention provider; and the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice. I fully acknowledge that enthusiasm doesn’t make up for years of practice experience and intuition, however, this research hopes (with all its heart) to be useful, utilised and have impact. I have a lot of ideas (which I dare not declare on the World Wide Web until my supervisor has seen them) and genuine enthusiasm for this subject and pursing research.

I hope to have more to say very soon… and hopefully CYCJ will let me blog again when that time comes. But until that point I’d welcome feedback, advice, wine…

Photo posed by model.