Higher Degree by Research (HDR) means just that. It’s a postgraduate qualification that involves a considerable piece of research that would eventuate into a written thesis/dissertation of 60,000 to 100,000 words in a rather standard structure. The whole process of the research journey of an HDR has more to do with following conventions than doing actual research.
My Master of Philosophy thesis taught me the tediousness of this whole process, the uncertainties of progression in the early days, the excitement of data collection, the disappointments of things not working out as initially planned, the boredom of codifying the data & tediousness of data entry, evaluation, the excitement of seeing patterns of knowledge emerging from the data, and a long grind of analysing the data, explaining it, defending it, and giving the data a life of its own through the backing of the literature. Real solid time is spent getting the document together; getting the references right; formatting them to convention; structuring the sentences together to make it flow.
I am now in the 4th month of my candidacy proposal compilation, and I am already stumped. All the nightmares of the earlier thesis is coming back. The glory of holding the end product, the printed and bound copy, in my hands has faded away. The pride and relief I felt on that day and ever after for 5 years – it is now long gone. Now, what haunts me is my stupidity in embarking on another HDR. Research is fine. Writing a paper is fine. But an HDR for 3-4 years, living with one topic is getting me down. It should not! I mean, I know I have what it takes to get it done. But I just don’t have the energy to get it done. It no longer is challenging. And for some reason an HDR is sounding so meaningless.
Five years ago, while I was doing my MPhil, I asked my housemate to remind me never to do a PhD. I now can recall telling her that I will most probably be attempting a PhD in a few years as by that time I would have forgotten of all the heartaches and agonizing days of trying to get the thesis together. I remember asking her to remind me about all those days whenever, if ever, I was mad enough to attempt another HDR. I had forgotten about telling her that. But I do recall now.
I guess at that point in time I should have blogged about it so that I would be remembered now and then about my exact feelings at the time I was toiling through the writing.
Alas, now it’s too late. I have committed myself to this HDR and backing out would cause chaos – not only to me, but to my family too. So yes! I guess I am stuck in this again. I just need some doses of inspiration to get through this.