Friday, 22 October 2010

Uncharted Territory: where do we learn these things?

How does one become an academic?  How does one learn how to become one?

I don't imagine I am that alone, but I feel a bit like I'm bumbling along blindly in incipient academia- trying to write, network, and research my way into my choice career (albeit with a break to make money along the way).  I work in higher education, read the Times Higher religiously, and have a good grip on how universities function in some respects, so I feel like I should know more about the steps I need to take to succeed in one myself as a researcher and lecturer.  But I have no idea even how to apply for PhD funding, where to look, when or how to fill out university applications, and what order to do it all in.  And all as an overseas student, which throws the problems of Visas and funding eligibility into the mix.  Then there is the great beyond- do I apply for postdoctorates after I finish my course?  How long should I expect before I can get a post lecturing at a university?  Am I likely to have lecturing opportunities while I do my PhD?

It all resembles the mysticism surrounding the process when I started my MSc- it seemed I didn't know what I was doing until I was doing it.  Somehow it all fell together- finding the right course, personal statements, Visas, letters of recommendation, renting a flat, navigating London, attending/auditing courses and tackling the reading, and figuring out what a dissertation actually was while writing it at the same time.  It was as daunting as it was rewarding, and I expected it to be like that, but all the while I remember wishing I knew more about the next step, so I could be more prepared and set my ambitions high, but realistic.

The questions I have are, for instance: what steps are involved in a paper being published?  I've read around on a few journal sites, but still feel confused.  How much original research is needed for it to be a useful contribution to the discipline?

Should I publish my thesis?  If so, what do I need to do to modify it so it is ready for publishing?  I have this answer partly answered, and was making the appropriate changes, but with a full time job I am finding it hard to make time...

What else is there that I can do to strengthen my academic CV at this stage of my (not yet born) career?

What is my affiliation now to my university?  I work there administratively but I don't research there.  If I submit a paper, do I say I am from UCL?

These are the questions I have that I want to ask- but there are so many more I would want to ask, if I knew more about what it is I want to know!  The biggest problem I see is that it is all just unknown, and therefore, I don't even know what it is I don't know.


  1. I don't know if you've seen this, I grabbed it off twitter earlier today. It's a useful article on paper writings and journals.

  2. As someone who's also working on a PhD Dissertation, I have also asked myself some of these questions. And I'm not even sure I'll ever finish my research project. I'm a full-time teacher of English, and recently I was given the opportunity of having an additional part-time job as a university lecturer, which sounds quite fine for someone involved in PhD studies, but I had to say no. It was just too much for me. I think it is important to try to keep some sort of balance in life. In any case, writing blogs is a nice way of sharing experiences. I have just discovered yours, and it looks quite interesting, so I'll try to read more of it. Bets wishes!


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