Saturday, 2 September 2017

Thesis submitted. Waiting for viva voce. And a narrative of the horrors of that 'final' draft


On August 30th 2017 I printed out four copies of my 91,232 word thesis (minus all before introduction and all after conclusion), got them bound in a temporary format, and handed three of them into the Graduate School.  I signed my name to some things and was told that the copies would be sent out within the next week to the external examiners.  It looks likely my viva will be in mid-November 2017 although that has still to be fully confirmed.  I did it!  I actually got to this stage!  After all the doubts and re-writes, I finally held my nerve and said this version was good enough.   And it is.  And that's a lesson you have to learn.  As well as when to let it go because it's ready and not because you are fed up with it.  And, finally, to take full responsibility for that draft.  It's your project.  It's your baby.  And you have to be able to hand in a thesis that you can solidly defend in an oncoming vocal exam.  I think I've finally managed to achieve that :)

There are a lot of posts on the internet about the horrors of the last few months of a PhD.  I have to agree with the majority of what I read.  It was horrible.  You live, breathe, eat and shit thesis.  You start out the last few months with something resembling a balance in your life.  I started this twilight period still going to the gym about three times a week.  Still meeting friends for drinks.  And still cleaning the house.  Things slip.  It might be you actually go to the gym twice, or you cancel on a friend because you realise you're a little behind and want to get that section finished whilst you are in 'the zone', or you put off the cleaning for a few days.  And then the sleeping pattern starts to get interrupted.  You find it very very difficult (even though you've had years of practice at it) at getting to sleep because you are pretty much working on the thesis from 7am until 11pm every day.  Every so often you reward yourself with a break.  It might be the gym.  It might be a movie.  But then the tiredness starts to kick in.  And you're waking at 2am in the morning in a cold sweat.  You drink wine after you stop working at 11pm to 'knock you out'.  You stop going to the gym as the guilt becomes too much.  You stop eating like a normal person and find yourself eating supernoodles at 5am because you woke up at 3:30am and couldn't get back to sleep and have been working since 3:45am.  You remain in your pyjamas until 5pm when you realise you've completely ran out of most food groups.  You get changed and go round to the nearest shop that stocks pizzas, supernoodles, pot noodles and packet pastas (the ones where you add milk and water) and start all over again.  You go back to the shop at 8.30pm and buy a bottle of wine to 'reward' yourself for a good day writing.  Instead of switching off the laptop when you get back, you keep writing.  It's 01:15 and you've finished that bottle of wine but you still haven't switched the laptop off...

Like I said, it's a horrible, horrible period.  But, it was all completely necessary.  Blogs I read state that the author wished they had been more healthy and kept more of a routine.  I think that's wishful thinking.  At the end, everything else gets completely sidelined and you spend pretty much every waking moment on it (and probably are working out some stuff in your sleep too).  Because a thesis is never finished until it is handed in.  There are always ways to improve it.  We all have to decide when that cut-off point is.  And, for most of us, it is that final deadline.  And you work like nothing else until it approaches.

What I didn't expect were the mood swings.  They became pretty erratic in the last few weeks.  I swung very heavily - almost on a day-by-day basis - from thinking my thesis was the biggest pile of poo ever to actually being quite groundbreaking.  I think I had two days where I thought it was somewhere in the middle.  Most of the time I was either on one extreme or the other.  It tended to tip more towards pile of poo as the deadline came nearer.  A really important piece of advice is this - give your conclusion chapter to someone in your field who hasn't read your entire thesis and is coming at it with fresh eyes.  They will tell you to stop being so hard on yourself and to actually see the contributions you have made.  I couldn't see it towards the end.  They could.  And bollocked me in a good way.  Your supervisors will bollock you to be more critical of your claims.  I was bollocked by a colleague to be LESS critical and be more complementary.   I think the combo worked.  I ended up with a critical conclusion that was confident about what it achieved.  Honestly, get someone external to read your conclusion.  It helps you to go back and take out all your scathing comments that were made when the pendulum had swung too far in a particular direction.  It also helped with writing the abstract too.

So, I came out with a 91,232 word beast I am proud of (I've already found some typos but, honestly, I don't care) but at the price of being mentally and physically exhausted, and having a carb belly that really needs to be shifted lol!  You will spend the last few months chained to your laptop and occasionally taking respite by going to a coffee shop with a pad and paper to re-articulate where your thoughts are going.  It's relentless and all-consuming.  But, you do come out the other end.  Just don't beat yourself up for your carb addiction and for not going to the gym.  You don't need another stick to beat yourself up with.  The thesis is enough.  And put it in knowing that you gave it all you could but had to stop before your sanity was tipped too much.  I had that at least.  The mood swings were worrying.  And I couldn't have sustained that for much longer.  Know when to walk away from it.  I had to walk away from it for almost a week (I was able to sustain it as had visitors who MADE me stop working) because I was starting to scream at myself.  I stopped and walked away.  Do it.  And you do come back with a better mindset.  Annoyed that it's taking you a while to get back into it.  But a better mindset that has seen at least a modicum of perspective.

Now, I'm having a much needed rest.  My house looks like a bomb went off (papers, drafts and books everywhere) and a list of things I need to do.  But one of them is to rest.  And I'm off to do that right now...

Monday, 5 June 2017

Final supervision team meeting and feedback on latest draft

I'm really starting to understand when people say that each PhD journey is unique and that comparing PhDs - and PhD journeys - is the equivalent of comparing apples and oranges.  Yes, they are both fruits and are grown for similar reasons - but which one is liked more is completely dependent on personal taste.  The so-called trick is to find out which one your external examiners like more - and make your PhD appear more like that one; even if, in reality, it is more like the other.  Doing a PhD is a process that is not only fraught with tension but also contradiction.  What your external examiners will and will not like is completely subjective.  Yes, they may prefer apples.  But, in actual fact, that day your thesis arrives they just might fancy an orange.  Or, because they have been consuming apples for so long, they might each have a preference for a very different type of apple.  The short version: I honestly don't think you can write a PhD with your external examiners in mind.  Supervisors ask you to always keep your externals in mind when making your final changes.  With the exception of making sure you don't misquote or misrepresent the externals, I think playing that game is not as sure a bet as some people believe.  In all honesty, I think you are better writing the PhD YOU want to write.  You're the one who is going to have to defend it for 90+ minutes and be confident about why it is one way and not another.  But defending that viewpoint towards the end of your PhD journey is not an easy thing.  Everyone involved with the thesis each has their own idea about how that thesis should look.  And sometimes this overlaps.  And sometimes they are miles apart.

This leads to my final supervision team meeting.  The good news: I really don't have a lot of changes to make.  The biggest concern was the Methodology chapter which surprised me as I thought that was the chapter that wouldn't need much, if any, work at all during the summer until final submission.  I need to add some literature around case studies.  This has gradually become a tension throughout my PhD journey.  As my PhD is about England and, using Hansen's methodology, you can use more local material to demonstrate how national discourses are being developed, legitimated and enabled at a more local level, the local authority district chosen was just a snapshot to show how national discourses embed themselves at a local level, i.e. the local authority was not a case study - the study is about England.  However, my findings do actually show that one national discourse in particular appears to embed itself in the local authority but, in fact, it is a different discourse that is calling itself a similar name.  As a result, I need to present this local authority as a case study that could be an anomaly or not.  This is not necessarily compatible with Hansen's methodology and it is going to take quite a bit of work to get this to fit into my methodology chapter comfortably.  But I can see why it's needed.  But it means I'm likely to end up with a 22 000 word plus methodology chapter.   Yes, really.  I really want to stick a flag in it when it is completed ;)  That's a monument, not a chapter.

The rest of the changes are relatively minor.  The chapter I thought would need the most work - the Policy Context - actually was reviewed positively by my supervision team.  It does what it needs to do,  It needs finessing and I need a few extra sentences here and there to 'flesh out' some of the points I make.  And I'm considering adding another section that my supervision team hadn't thought about.  But, overall, it doesn't need a lot of work.  A week or so of tweaks should do it.  The last findings chapter needs some restructuring and some of my figures taken out.  But no additional material,  Just a bit more clarity in some places and refinement.  The first two findings chapters are fine - refine if possible and make more succinct.  But no restructuring or new material.  My research objective needs to become my research aim and vice versa.  And some reshuffling material in the introduction chapter.  And recommendations to write.  But... that's it.  Seriously.  That's it.

One final push then until submission at the end of August.  I've put everything else - work wise - on hold until this date and giving myself a clear run at getting this submission ready and something I will be proud to defend in the viva.  In all honesty, if I thought it would go through as it is now I would submit it.  But I would likely get these corrections anyway.  So, I'm going to plunder on with it.  After this, I will be done with this thesis.  I'm honestly at the end of the road with it.  But one last sprint to go.  I'm proud of it.  I'm proud of how it reads and I'm proud that I never gave up on my original ideas and pursued them to the end, even though it was very complicated and would involve an obscene amount of work.  It's nearly there.  Proof-read in early August.  I'm sending my supervision team my methodology and conclusion chapters for one last check in late June.  Unbelievable.  So close... yet so far at the same time.

Wish me luck :)  

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Getting closer to the finish line... last full draft under review

THE THESIS!!!
Another draft compiled and sent off to the supervision team.  Again, I have to salute peers all over the world who write a PhD and work full-time.  Since I last posted in January, I had hoped that I would have been able to carve out more time to actually work on my thesis.  That didn't happen for a variety of reasons.  However, I did do my best (marking weeks aside) to get 20 hours a week under my belt.  It was ridiculously tough.  But I think I did manage it.

Since January, I have re-drafted my findings chapters again.  The first two were just cutting and editing, and didn't take me very long.  The third, and final, findings chapter took a bit more effort.  I cut it down from 23 500 words to 13 600.  This level of a cut from my final findings chapter meant the inevitable - that I would have to go back through the thesis in its entirety and cut out all the material that was building up to those findings.  The good news is that there is at least two journal articles in the material I cut.  The bad news was going through the deliberations of cutting it out: But the thesis isn't as good without this... I'm not fully answering the research aim if I take this out... The examiners are going to ask where this material is and tell me to put it back in... etc etc etc.  I eventually took a leap of faith and believed that the thesis would survive without it.  It wasn't easy though.  But, the chapter reads much better and is much more manageable.  It also, now, answers my third research question on its own.  That's what you want in a thesis... clear signposts and structures that keep hitting home that you've answered your aim, objective and questions.  For all the flaws of the thesis, it does all that clearly.  Therefore, I have to concede that its FINALLY at doctorate level.  The writing itself illustrates this.  My writing style has dramatically improved over the course of the last 5 years.  An important baptism of fire for the purgatory that I will have to go through post-viva of submitting articles for peer review.  Yet another stage on the academic ladder.

I also redrafted all the other chapters.  The Methodology got another working (draft 14 in total) as did the Introduction.  Both of these were minor affairs.  The Policy Context was the biggie though.  This chapter has always been the most vague and frustrating.  And the majority of this has come through mixed supervision messages... At first it was a literature review... and then it shouldn't exist and just be touched lightly in the introduction... and then it should give a descriptive overview of the policy context that will be detailed in the analysis chapters... and then it wasn't analytical enough and had to give a broad overview of the forces that this policy context is situated in... etc etc etc.  I had about a month - with a full teaching and marking workload - to try and see where the gaps were and attempt to fill them out; in addition to taking out the material that no longer served the PhD any purpose.  This also involved reading as it had been about 9 months since I had touched this chapter.  It wasn't enough time but I did manage to cut and condense the sections I needed to and add the others.  But, I still don't think it fully hangs together.  The content is all there.  The structure needs a bit more work.  Not a drastic overhaul.  But a bit of tightening and some cutting as there is a bit of repetition.  I think this will be the work over the summer until final submission to the Graduate School at the end of August 2017.  That and the conclusion.

I haven't really had a chance to read the thesis in its entirety.  I've printed it all off - as the photo at the top of this post shows... that's me btw :) - and that's the plan over the next few weeks (I've a HEA application to submit and marking to do as well!) and this will help me nail the conclusion.  I have an older draft of a conclusion that I wrote in August 2016 but I'm going to re-write it.  I will use a tip given to me by a now-Dr... go through the thesis in its entirety and write a summary sentence for each paragraph.  Go back and read the summary sentences.  The repeated sentences are your conclusion.  It's also viva prep at the same time.  Sounds legit :)

Anyway, back to the HEA application.  But, it looks like this beast will finally go in this summer.  It's been a long, long, loooooong journey.  But it's coming to an end.  Finally!




Saturday, 28 January 2017

Dealing with feedback and putting together the (hopefully) final draft


Another year, another full-team supervision meeting.  I hadn't really spoken to my supervision team since the last time I posted here.  I was just concerned with re-drafting the findings chapters.  It took progressively longer to get the three chapters finished.  It took just over a month to write the first one; about a month and a half to write the second one; and then just over two months to write the third.  Of course, teaching workloads was a time factor here.  I started teaching mid-September so to try and do a full-time lecturer's post and still keep to 20-25 hours on the PhD was a challenge.  However, in all honesty, I did manage it.  That's a win in itself.  But, getting those chapters re-drafted from scratch was an absolute nightmare and my love for the PhD was the most tested during this time frame.  In fact, I really started to hate it by the time I got to re-drafting the third chapter.  I really was struggling with the point of it all.  It really became about fitting a square peg into a round hole.  And I don't like fitting square pegs into round holes - life's just too full of that as it is.  So, it became a battle.  But I did it.  I got the third chapter finished mid-December but some parts of it just weren't working as best as they could.  So, I held on to it and doctored it over the Christmas break.  I gave all three chapters to my supervision team in early January for review.

The good news is that the chapters, with some amendments, are actually doing what they need to be doing.  I'm still holding on to writing a methods thesis in some respects and the language I use at times reflects that.  But it's not just a straight empirical thesis.  So, it will be a balancing act writing / tweaking these drafts for the next full iteration of the thesis.  Shock horror, again, I just have too much material for one thesis.  So, I need to cut but not lose the richness of the data.  My supervision team gave some good pointers on how to do this.  I do over-use quotes - using three in full to show intertextuality when I could be using one and them giving phrases from the other two to show how they are connected.  I also repeat myself a little too much; especially in the third findings chapter.  So, it's about cutting all that out.  My supervision team have advised that I go back and re-do these chapters NOW rather than putting my energies elsewhere.  The good news is that in the gap between giving these chapters for review and the supervision I managed to get the final iteration of my methodology chapter completed.  I think that chapter is an absolute monument.  It's gone through three versions and around fourteen drafts in total.  But it nails the things I really struggled with at the start of this PhD journey.  And that's where I see the progress.  And in my writing style.  My second supervisor - who has always complained I am overly verbose and go round the houses a bit - thinks my writing style is now at doctorate standard.  It's all coming together.  It's been an absolute beast.  But it's all coming together.

The next iteration of the thesis is due for review in April this year.  I'm left with two big jobs: (i) get the findings chapters into more concise and less repetitive chapters; and (ii) re-draft the policy context to under 10 000 words.  Eeeeeeeeee.  That's not going to be easy.  But I can see what needs to go and this will be shelved for post-PhD work.  My second supervision keeps saying I have enough post-PhD material to sustain my career for years.  That's good news.  On top of that I have three research projects worth of material.  So, life post-PhD should be a good one.  I just need to get there...

Wish me luck...

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Pushing through barriers and doubts... and letting the thesis do what it needs to do...


It's been nearly four months since I last blogged.  I that time I have had three substantial supervision meetings, presented at a conference in the States, been to Lollapolooza, been to Spain and started a full-time lecturing job.  In between all this has been the thesis.  One of my supervision meetings did not go well at all, just after I wrote the previous post.  There were a number of reasons why this happened (stress being very much one of them) but the bottom line was that I was still receiving feedback from the team about including material that I had decided at my mid-point progression was not going to go in the thesis.  Whilst supervisors are trying to do their best for you, they also have their own ideas about how a thesis should be and look.  When you are told that your research aim, objectives and questions do not match up to what you have done but your supervisors are also telling you to include material that would make you travel even further away from your aims and objectives, you have to hold up a STOP sign and walk away for a bit.  Both the conference in the States and Lollapolooza allowed me to do that.  And then I made a really tough decision.  I've lived with the aftermath of it for the last three months.  The decision was to completely re-write my findings chapters.  I was losing a battle with my supervisors.  It didn't matter how much I bulked up the methodology chapter, they were struggling with the level of analysis I had undertaken and, crucially, how I had presented it.  It seemed clear as day to me.  But, my supervisors eventually agreed in unison that my external examiners may struggle as they have had and I could be asked to re-write all these chapters at the viva.  My supervisors didn't force this opinion.  They just said they were doing their job and showing where the weakness of the thesis lay.  You could not dispute the level, integrity and depth of the analysis I had undertaken.  The problem was that the findings were getting buried under the weight of the sheer complexity of the analysis.  They're words were "you need to tell the story - the story is getting lost in the post-structuralism and the methodology".  So, I went away and re-wrote my Introduction chapter - outlining with confidence my research aim, objectives and questions and what my original contribution to knowledge was.  The findings had to tell the story but also answer all this.  So, I decided to completely re-write the chapters - from scratch.

Yes, this meant going back to the files beyond files and beyond more files of the original analysis that I did between 2014 and 2015.  The positives of this was that it was much easier to see all the connections between the texts - it was like a light switch went on.  The bad news was that all the months of cutting and shaping I had done to get rid of words in the first two complete drafts of the five then four analysis chapters had been a waste of time.  I would have to go through this process once again as I initially had to include all the material that would allow the story to be told.  I could then shape.  But it means more drafts after drafts, after drafts.  **Sigh**  However, good news: I have completely drafted (I averaged about 5 re-drafts of these drafts each) two of three findings chapters.  They're lengthy - averaging 17750 each.  I completely restructured how the findings would look to tell the story: findings chapter 1 - national debate; findings chapter two - local debate; findings chapter three - implications for community development.  I gave the first findings chapter to the team to review.  Good news: very positive review.  Easier to read, tells the story and presents clearly what the key findings are.  Don't get me wrong, it is still a post-structuralist thesis.  The floating and empty signifiers are all still there, just like the nodal points and the binary pairs.  But the Introduction chapter (including the research aim, objectives and questions) marry up to the findings.  YEE HAA!!!!  The now obvious news is: I have some amendments to make in Methodology, Policy Context and Conclusion chapters to reflect these changes.  It's so true with a thesis - you change one part and it has a domino effect.  As a result, it will not be fully submitted for January 2017.  I am currently negotiating when it will be.  I've promised my supervision team that the three findings chapters will be in a final draft form by December.  My plan is to also make the necessary tweaks to the Methodology chapter so they marry up to the findings chapters.  I will send these four chapters to the team in final draft form my mid-December.  That leaves the Introduction, Policy Context and Conclusion chapters to re-do in a final draft.  Introduction is pretty much there.  Policy Context needs the section on welfare reform changed to public sector reform, and an additional section on the neoliberalisation of community.  The Conclusion needs to reflect the changes to all the chapters I have made.  I've agreed to get this final draft to the team by March 2017.

However, we will see how things go.  It could take less time, it could take more.  Formatting and proof-reading will take time.  But I really am getting there.  I've given this everything I could have.  And, I know making these changes now equals an outcome of an A or B at the viva.  The possible C is very unlikely to happen now.  And that's all I want.  There's no way I want major corrections.  Not after all the work I have done.  Best to do it all now, and take a little bit longer then spending another year in total on this beast... and having to do two vivas!!!!

Wish me luck :)

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Drafting, re-drafting and re-drafting again... and finding out how all the pieces fit / don't fit

Wow, just over a 5 month 'break' from writing in this blog.  In absolutely honesty, I've had no time to write in this blog.  I have been writing constantly.  And, without a shadow of a doubt, THIS has been the hardest part of the PhD journey so far.  I have never drafted, re-drafted, edited and re-drafted again ANY work the way I have been doing in the last 5 months.  The good news: I have a complete thesis.  The bad news: it's still not anywhere near ready.  I'm going to unpack both these statements in this post.

Since January I have completed the following: redrafted my Methodology chapter which was again re-drafted into two separate chapters: (i) Theoretical and Analytical Framework and (ii) Research Design and Methodological Issues.  I have also re-drafted my Policy Context chapter twice and the second draft took a considerable amount of work.  Instead of sketching national policy developments over the five year span of the Coalition government, I had to go much broader and scope the Coalition government's overall programme of austerity and welfare reform.  In addition, I had to put the context of community development in this chapter as I had previously been advised to keep community development and the policy context separate.  So, I re-drafted the Introduction and Policy Context chapters with community development being dealt with in the Introduction chapter and the policy context being separate.  However, this didn't work so I had to then re-draft both chapters, keeping the Introduction chapter solely as as a brief summary of the thesis in its entirety with a bit of a background to the study, and the Policy Context chapter combining the Coalition programme and an overview of community development and its related practices.  I've also re-drafted the original five analysis chapters into four analysis chapters.  Unfortunately, the analysis chapters need another re-draft - possibly two further re-drafts.  Again, this has been absolutely exhausting!  Also, my plan was to get the thesis in its entirety finished by the beginning of July 2016 as my contract finishes at the end of August 2016.  That has not been possible.  It has not been possible because I had absolutely no idea that I would need to draft, re-draft, edit and re-draft again to such an extent.  And move material between chapters, and combine chapters, etc.  I don't think you are ever fully prepared for this.  The typical response from PhD students encountering this stage (and this has also been my response) is that you have been used to, in your academic career, writing a solid first draft that only needs a couple of tweaks before submission.  The PhD is completely different.  And now I fully understand why some people go over their allocated time doing draft after draft after draft of chapters.  Utterly exhausting.

So, I still have some considerable way to go.  Luckily, I did receive some positive news that will help with the PhD.  I will be receiving a new, permanent contract starting on the 1st of September 2016 so this means that I will have the full, allocated 5 years to complete the PhD (my PhD technically finishes on the 9th of January 2017).  I actually do need this.  My PhD is a good one (I think!), but it is very complicated and I have been in this theoretical and methodological bunker for almost five years now.  So, it can be quite difficult to step back to read my chapters to see if they would make sense to someone not so well-versed.  And when you are rushing against a clock, this is the stage that tends to be 'skipped' in favour of producing drafts and re-drafts.  The most outstanding issue is to get the analysis chapters re-written in a much more straightforward way.  Of course, I still have to honour the methodology and analysis that I used, but I need to present it in a much more sophisticated, yet comprehensible, way.  So, that is the next challenge.  I am currently 'tweaking' my Conclusions and Recommendations chapter which will likely alter slightly once the analysis chapters have been re-drafted yet again.  But I am getting there.

I know the end is in sight.  And I went to one of my closest friend's PhD graduation ceremony yesterday and she tells me that the stage I am currently at is about 3-4 months from completion.  So, I still have one last sprint ahead of me.  But it will be done, hopefully by the end of this year so I can finally have a Christmas and New Year without worrying about writing the thesis (but likely worrying about a viva instead!).  But, again, I never realised that this stage of the thesis would be so intensive.  I've never had to re-draft, edit and re-draft again like this.  And it has been unbelievable time consuming and intensive.  But I am getting there.  I'm close to a very final draft on some chapters and not so much on others.  But I have until the end of the year to get this to final drafts.  And I will need all of this time.  The first six months of this year has taught me that already.

Now, back to the thesis...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

One Month Break and Constructing the Final Draft



December 2015 was a non-entity as far as this thesis was concerned.  I had a bereavement in the family which was unexpected and, well, you never really know how you are going to react to these things.  I reacted quite strongly and it had a knock-on effect on everything - what I was doing with this thesis, what I was doing with my life - so I just had to stop and let all this stuff work itself out.  The short news: I had a month off entirely from the thesis.  No writing, no reading... no anything.  With hindsight, it was one of the best things I have ever done with regards to this thesis.  I had put myself under a considerable amount of stress to get a completed first draft by early November 2015 and I really needed to give myself time away from it.  Mid-to-late November was becoming a struggle as I had focussed on the Methodology chapter and I was struggling to re-structure the material so it was doing what it needed to do for the thesis and I couldn't determine what had to stay and what had to go.  I would spend a day cutting out sections to shorten it and make it more focussed, only to change it the next day by going back to the older draft and putting back in what I had cut out to confuse myself even more.  This happened over the space of a week and I was honestly struggling.  Then the death happened.  And then I had a month off.  I came back to the thesis, specifically the Methodology chapter, well into the first week of January 2016 and decided it was time to go through the Methodology chapter with a fresh head.  Miraculously, this worked and within a few hours I had a structure that made much more coherent sense.  It took me the best part of a week and a half to implement that structure into the chapter I already had.  And it reads the way it should read - confident and clear.  The next week (in the midst of a full workload at the other 'half' of this job) was adding two missing sections of the chapter: methodological issues and a snapshot of the demographics of the north east and the local authority district I chose.  All in all, I think this potentially final draft of the Methodology chapter is solid.  It sets the thesis up well and you can follow what I've done (which is actually quite complicated) in a relatively straight forward manner.  We will see what the supervision team think.  But, overall, I'm happy with it :)

Tbh, overall I'm just happier with this thesis and the experience of finishing this off.  I'm not killing myself to do it anymore.  I've got the nuts and bolts of it.  I've since had conversations with my supervision team about the re-working of the analysis chapters and, actually, they really don;t need that much work.  Yes, they need to be restructured but not as drastically as I was previously under the impression that they needed to be.  The aim is to try and get these five analysis chapters down to three and give myself a 20 000 word limit for each of the chapters.  This means not only cutting some material out of some chapters completely but it also cutting a debate out of one chapter and restructuring it to fit better in another.  The beauty of using this type of analysis is that both discourses and subject positions are relationally constituted therefore it is not difficult to re-position key points in different chapters.  The estimation is that it will take me 3 months in total to turn five good first drafts of analysis chapters into three final drafts.  That isn't too bad actually.

But next it is the Policy Context chapter which the Analysis chapters are going to be in dialogue with so it is important that I get this chapter right.  The good news is that it is not a difficult chapter to do at all.  It is setting out - without commentary - the key policy and policy drivers of the Coalition Government (2010-2015) which I have already done but did so in too discursive a format which I need to take out.  However, presenting it in tables or just being chronologically date-focussed is the opposite extreme not to swing to.  I cannot see this chapter taking any more than 2 weeks worth of work to nail.  But **sigh** marking awaits.  So I will need to put the PhD on back burner until that is finished.  But I will get there.

Also, my mock viva has been booked for June.  This is a 'push' for me to get the final draft of this thesis completed as quickly as possible - but not killing myself in the process.  The thesis is already in what I have got.  And sometimes you just have to have patience in the process.  It will get done.  And it will be done well indeed.  Now to get the (brief) CVs of potential external examiners to the supervision team so preparations can be made.  It's all go go go!  But in a more calm, and bearable, way :)