Research and Enterprise

So you must finish your Master’s soon right?

During the last 5 months, we have all been navigating our way through the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought. Students in the Graduate School are no exception and Emily Ankers has shared her experiences of working to complete her Masters by Research during lockdown and beyond. This is Emily’s story.

Contrary to popular belief most master’s degrees continue all the way through summer unlike undergraduate degrees. Masters by Research degrees finish 12 months after you start which means I hand in my 30,000 words thesis at the start of October. What does that mean? That I have been researching, compiling my data, analysing, writing and editing from home since mid-March. The journey continues as I have no plans to leave my little home office any time soon. Unless I get a really bad case of writer’s block, then I might venture to the kitchen table…

I have been incredibly lucky that my data collection requiring trips to archives was completed before lockdown. My remaining data collection was participant interviews which I completed over Skype and the phone. I do think interviewing from home has been a blessing in disguise, it has saved me petrol, energy and brain power. Some days I would finish an interview and dive straight into editing my literature review within a few minutes, maybe after a coffee.

Not all days have been so efficient. Some days I will just stare at the words I have apparently written, wondering what I was trying to say in the first place and how to reword them into some sort of comprehensible English. I’m quite an active person in day to day life, running, rock climbing and hiking are my jam. I have found that a walk or some form exercise to be very helpful on days when my brain fails to engage. When we were limited to one form of exercise per day I sometimes got my extra exercise by spending a bit of time (one day I accidentally had a two hour lunch break) by making my little video game character run around on my Nintendo Animal Crossing island.

As restrictions ease and people are allowed to get out and about a little bit more I have to admit it has been a bit strange continuing to sit at my desk, watching the neighbours leave for work and come home and I’m still stay there tackling how knowledge is formed (epistemology, what a pain to write about). My family and friends constantly ask me “so you must finish your master’s soon right?” Well a research degree is a very different scenario and even though it must seem like I’ve been researching everyday women’s experiences of rock climbing forever to others, this is what I do five days a week. It’s my full time job! I know that the rest of August and September will go very quickly but I am still working away, enjoying the process.

A research degree is not for the faint of heart, you must self-motivate, set yourself deadlines and at times, just get on with it. However, doing research over lockdown has taught me that some days it’s just not happening, and I need to leave it and come back to it later on. Some days I get approximately five million tasks done, some days just one. It’s all part of the process, you have to be kind to yourself to do your best!

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