Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Reflecting on the PhD Journey_Adrian Mallows

In this latest blog Adrian Mallows, a lecturer in Physiotherapy and current PhD student, reflects on his PhD journey so far and offers some hints and tips for those of you considering this path...

Getting on with research
Moving from a clinical role to work full time as lecturer has provided great opportunities. It has allowed me to think again about physiotherapy practice, go back to basics and build again by questioning what I thought I already understood. This has inevitably meant looking at more and more research around what we do (or don’t), and then reading research about research to understand that. This reading about research led to ideas. Ideas have led to me and research needing to get on and become best pals as I work towards my PhD.

In some ways getting started was straight forward; I rang my old MSc supervisor and great friend @jamesdebenham and chewed over some ideas. Thankfully he didn’t think they were too outrageous and agreed to be a supervisor. Over the next few months we chewed some more, until James suggested I contact @PhysioChris and see if he would be interested in co-supervising. Again, Chris was receptive and once I had approached Professor Jo Jackson at my University I had three supervisors in the bag and felt ready for enrolment.

Over the coming months, the outline, literature review and undertaking an unfunded project made up the bulk of the discussions. We decided to apply for funding from a charitable source, which was time consuming and ultimately unsuccessful. This was by no means a waste, as out of the ashes we made another plan. Developing skills to see opportunity in the face of defeat appears to be a must to getting on with research. Eighteen months or so later, and in collaboration with @tom_walker2000 (a clinician who got involved by reaching out) we were fortunate to have the review published. To get to publication took several edits of the manuscript. All in all, from first draft to last took seven months. Tenacity appears to be a must to getting on with research.

As ideas developed, I too have reached out to others for guidance. I am not sure if I have just been fortunate, but when I have asked for help I have found people accessible, interested and willing to offer advice. @DrPeteMalliaras and @painphysio have provided support, encouragement and reassurance at times when I am uncertain that my ideas have enough sustenance. My supervisors provide guidance and understanding to my novice ways. Without doubt, putting your work out there is scary; you are opening yourself up to criticism. Feeling supported appears to be a must to getting on with research.

If feeling supported in your work is a must to getting on with research, feeling supported by your nearest and dearest is imperative. Full time employment and part time PhD can all too often tip your work-life balance in only one direction. Finding ways to be research productive (which can often mean simply reading, thinking or writing) and minimising the impact on family life has been of paramount importance. This book by Tim Albert has been most helpful. Ring-fencing time, even just 10-15 minutes can be enough to be productive and dissolve any feelings frustration. I work this into my early morning or evening routine to minimise disruption and maximise output. Finding how to balance work and life appears a must to getting on with research.

In summary, getting on with research appears to need lateral thinking, tenacity, support and finding a way to balance productivity with everything else in life. I am quite sure these factors are not unique to getting on with research, in fact I see these credentials in many clinicians. As such, I hope this blog might encourage others to give some form of research a go. 

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