Research and Enterprise

Research and Lockdown

The Covid-19 crisis is affecting the way that we work and we’re all learning how to work more remotely. It may also affect the way our students go about conducting research.

Head of the Graduate School and part-time PhD student, Kathryn Brown, describes how she is learning to adapt to a new way of working.

Published on 11 May 2020
PhD student, Kathryn Brown

Adjusting to lockdown

I was recently told that ‘research was messy at the best of times never mind in a pandemic’, how true that is. As a part time PhD student, I have been working through my research, developing a working timetable and whilst I have had a few wobbles along the way, nothing could have prepared me for the curve ball that is ‘lock-down’.

My study room [an old bedroom] has had to become an office as well as a study space to enable me to work from home. This is a challenge in itself but I think the hardest thing was to try to get my thoughts clear on what I was going to do with my research, now that I could no longer collect face-to-face data in France. The lock-down is interfering with my thought process and is overwhelming not only because of being a research student but because of the other implications it has on home life, caring, the restrictions of not seeing family members and of course full time work. I have realised that when everything is on an even keel study becomes part of that life. Yet, when there is a sudden event affecting you both personally and professionally it seems to become a bit of an elephant in the room. My sanctuary now needs to be doubled as a working space and that has made studying less enjoyable.

So, it has taken some time to get myself into a routine and I cannot lie it has been difficult. My confidence appeared to leave me for a while and much needed encouragement came in the form of my supervisors, who apart from giving feedback, helped me readjust and feel that it was quite normal thinking and feeling the way I was. Even though my friends had already been telling me this. It was as though I needed reassurance that was more official!

Staying motivated with small tasks

In a way, this period of lock-down has been a good exercise to look over everything I have written and plan what happens next. With the case study put to one side for now, and another chapter that is more desk bound research started, I am beginning to get myself back on track and feel more in control. Simple, on paper yes - but it has taken some time to be able to write again and prepare that argument and the ‘so what’ question you always need to keep in mind. A few things which have been useful during this time was to do easy things, such as reformat tables/chapters, create graphs or identify images for future reference, as it helped me achieve something, however small.

Adapting to change

The case study will happen but probably from a distance and it will be interesting how I proceed with that. I have learnt throughout my research, but more so during the pandemic, is that you need to be resilient and adaptable. When faced with change outside your control - you need to keep calm and give yourself permission to take some time out to think about what happens next.

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