A Day in the Life of a PhD Student

A Day in the Life of a PhD Student

There are many routes to a PhD award. I am on a part time PhD programme which I started in 2018, and alongside this I work full time as a senior lecturer. Demands of family and work sometimes must take priority over my PhD, and the global pandemic and home school seriously hindered my progress, but I have found that a “little and often” approach usually works well, with some intensive study blocks at key points in the research. On my journey, I have been lucky to have excellent guidance from my supervisors, and this has been essential at all stages of the programme.

An ideal weekday starts with a study session from 6 - 8am, often alongside a friend on zoom for peer support – I try to maintain this routine on weekdays so that weekends are reserved for family time. How I spend my study time varies hugely depending on the stage of the research. The remainder of my day is busy with a variety of teaching, meetings, administration, and academic duties. Each day is different, and I enjoy the variety of my lecturer role, but my PhD pushes me beyond my usual boundaries.

My PhD constantly provides challenges and opportunities for learning, and although it has not always been easy to progress, the journey has never been boring (and I bore easily!). I am continuously working to improve my knowledge and skills related to my topic, qualitative research methods, ethics in research, qualitative interviewing, data management, data analysis tools and processes, critical thinking, writing, planning and project management.

PhD study can be isolating, but I have found peer support. Twitter can be a good source of support and information, and I have found support through professional organisations like BMUS and the Society of Radiographers specialist interest or writing groups.

A PhD is a long-term commitment which takes approximately 7 years on a part-time route. This requires dedication and should not be undertaken lightly. The balance between family life, work and study can be difficult to maintain, and the constant multi-tasking means that I do not always complete everything as well as I would like to. With so many plates spinning, I occasionally drop one. A good awareness of my wellbeing is necessary, and I rely on the enduring support of my lovely husband in enabling me to spend time on my research and reminding me when I need a break.

A part-time PhD is a long and transformative journey, which pushes me to my limits. A PhD is the most challenging and most rewarding thing I have ever attempted, and I am enjoying the ongoing adventure.

Article by Catriona Hynes, Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University