Thursday, 28 July 2011

The road to PhD confirmation

My PhD confirmation is not due for another 12 months (because I'm part time). But for a range of reasons I want to get it done a few months earlier than that. So I let my supervisor know my plan at our last meeting.

She tells me, if I'm to present for confirmation in March, she wants to see an outline of my thesis for our next meeting in 3 weeks. That's right, an outline of my entire thesis.

Bloody hell, I thought, the woman is serious. So, being someone who doesn't like to let her supervisor down (she is a great supervisor, after all) I thought I'd better start at least collecting my ideas about what my thesis outline might look like.

In some ways I'm lucky. I'm doing a creative practice PhD so 60,000 words of my thesis is taken up by my young adult fiction manuscript (and I've already finished the first draft of that). So that's no drama, but it's the other bit - the literature review, the case studies, the literature review, the reflection... did I mention the literature review?

I came across this fabulous presentation on the PhD presentation by the fantastic 'thesis whisperer' Inger Mewburn, titled (appropriately) Help I am experiencing fear - Confirmation! This has a lot of helpful information and if you're ever going to come up against the dreaded confirmation make sure you have a look at it.

But back to my immediate problem - an outline for my thesis. I've got a few ideas from some great articles I've stumbled upon recently. First up is a great paper, which comes from a great website called Critical Neuroscience. There's a great paper by Jan Slaby on the site that gives an introduction to what critical neuroscience is all about, and it makes a great overarching framework for my thesis.

Related to critical neuroscience, in terms of the work I'm doing, is the reading I've been doing on cultural neuroscience. I'm still trying to get my head around it properly, but from what I've read, it's about how cultural practices impact on brain development. In this way it dovetails in quite neatly with neuroconstructivism in that it looks as culture as experiences and also, partially, a product of environment.

So, these elements are starting to shape the beginnings of my outline:
  • critical neuroscience as an overarching framework, leading into
  • cultural neuroscience, which with its focus on how cultural experiences impact on brain development, leading into
  • neuroconstructivism, with its focus on context dependence (nothing develops in isolation)
And somehow, I have to tie all this in with my work on young adult fiction.

But at least it's a start.