Category Archives: research proposal

A stapler, a stapler, my kingdom for a stapler!

English: A stack of copy paper.

English: A stack of copy paper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I carefully lift the ream of paper, still warm  from the printer and walk briskly back to my office, I know I have a problem.  These words which I have steadily crafted and edited into my research proposal over the last two months will be too much for the tiny but valiant purple stapler on my desk. But where am I going to find an industrial strength stapler at 7 o’clock at night I wonder. I’m still musing over this quandary back in my office as I pry the useless metal prongs from their final resting place,  half way through my research proposal. Pathetic.

Luckily inspiration strikes, I remember that the next assignment office over has an automatic stapler.  How could I forget that contraption given the numerous times I have dangled a paper apprehensively under it, waiting for it to snap down at any moment with an efficient BANG! So with this in mind I find myself bundling on my coat and heading back out into the cold night air. It’s odd walking through the courtyards devoid of students and the bustle of campus life.  But it isn’t until I climb the stairs and spy the stapler safely ensconced behind glass that I realise my night-time wanderings have been in vain.

I check my watch, it’s later than I had thought so I figure I might as well try the staplers in the faculty office. At least these should be more efficient than my mini-stapler. Nevertheless, all I succeed in doing is peppering my proposal with more holes and scaring myself by mistaking the sound of my book bag bumping against the cupboard for someone knocking at the window. It’s then that I think to try the library. It’s a Thursday night, so it might be open at this hour and short of leaving a ream of loose paper in the pigeon holes of each of my three thesis committee members, it’s my last shot. Another night-time stroll through the campus later and I am welcomed by the sight of the library, positively hiving with students. I’m cheered to see I am certainly not the only one left on campus and head over to the automatic stapler. In a matter of seconds and with a satisfying clang it neatly gathers together each of my three stacks of paper. Maybe I’ll get out of here tonight after all!

Retracing my steps I make my way back up to faculty offices and hear a noise behind the door where the pigeon holes are. It turns out I’m also not the only psych student roaming the halls at this hour. Behind the door is a grad student I know. We chat for a bit  and then I scan the rows for the right pigeon holes, finally depositing the copies of my research proposal. Sadly though, my journey has not yet ended. I’ve a trek ahead of me because I’ve had to park miles away in the car park affectionately nicknamed Bora Bora. I make it there at last though and arrive  home by 8:45, pleased in the knowledge I’ve achieved a major milestone and even happier knowing that I can work from home tomorrow. After dinner and watching Men In Black, I head to bed, hoping fervently that staplers do not feature in my dreams!


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Filed under A day in the life, Clinical Phd, research proposal, writing


My personal radiograph

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These past few weeks have been anything but  typical. I’ve given a campus tour to prospective students which took me to the robotics program of the university, some of my classes went on temporary hiatus and life has thrown me a few curve balls, the least of which being  the news that the soreness in my foot is not due to a sprain but a stress fracture.  Things have been a bit fragmented lately in more ways than one.

Given all the events of the last few weeks it  seems likely that my thesis would have stalled a bit. Much to my chagrin however, quite the opposite seems to have happened. I’ve been granted conditional ethics approval for my first study and I’ve written most of my research proposal. I’m still trying to work out how that happened. One minute my proposal was 1000 words long and seemingly in the next minute it had expanded to 4000 words! Of course it’s Murphy’s Law that something will go wrong with my thesis at some point, but that’s okay. Being a bit ahead now will help.

Moving from anticipation of setbacks to past challenges I seem to have made some progress with my writing. When I was working on my last draft I really focused on trying to move from the general to the particular and making sure my point was clear  and it seems to have paid off.  That’s not to say that there isn’t still plenty of room for improvement with my writing or that I didn’t dive straight into the details, because I did, but I can see progress. The coursework side of things also seems to be going well. I passed my latest counselling assignment and got some positive feedback. It’s already funny looking back at how alien counselling techniques and psychological test administration, scoring and interpretation seemed at first. I’m by no means an expert in these areas yet, that will take years of practice, but I am certainly learning a lot and becoming more confident.

Until next time, good luck for your endeavours and I hope your last few weeks have not been as fragmented as mine!


Filed under A day in the life, ethics, research proposal, test administration, thesis, writing

A day in the life…of a Clinical PhD student

Wordmark of The Beatles, originally painted di...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, what does a typical day in the life of a Clinical PhD student look like? Quite frankly, I don’t know. In fact, I’ll tell you a little secret. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a ‘typical day.’ If you asked me, my answer would depend on the day of the week and how my thesis and assignments were progressing. I’d also wager that if you asked my comrades who have the same coursework and thesis commitments, you’d get a different answer again.

I will concede  that  a ‘typical week‘  exists. On a weekly basis I attend a day and a half’s worth of classes, a faculty seminar and  a meeting with my supervisor. In between these bouts of structure I can be found doing ‘homework’ for my classes, working on assignments, reading, writing, bouncing ideas off the others in the ‘Nerve Centre’ and of course, thinking. But this bland description doesn’t capture the half of it: birthday cake days, campus wildlife spotting, occasional escapes to the grand piano round the corner, a-ha moments, thesis/computer/coursework/admin trouble shooting sessions, training seminars, inductions, lunchtime rituals and social get-togethers also punctuate my typical week from time to time. And then of course, there is my life outside uni: my casual job, family and friends. Variety is the spice of life and ironically, the one constant in my life as a Clinical PhD student.

Take today, it started out with me driving to uni belting out ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay in my car, and ended with me writing this post while munching on a chocolate snowball (for the uninitiated, this is a chocolate and coconut coated marshmallow). In between, I attended classes – applying ethics concepts to counselling scenarios, listening to others’ research progress and discussing statistical power; worked on my thesis – reviewing the latest articles in one of my ‘pet’ journals, writing my research proposal and having an a-ha moment about where my thesis is headed  and, lastly, the ‘miscellany section’ of my day today – debating the inner workings of EndNote, why I like research, why some academics wear blue robes and why the writing on the bottom of lipstick is ridiculously tiny. My theory is that they try to save money on ink!

All in all, the unstructured elements of a Clinical PhD aren’t a bad thing. They’re an opportunity for flexibility, to call my own shots within reason, and to develop a system that works for me. I’ll probably blog about my day to day experiences from time to time now, so watch out for my ‘a day in the life’ category if you’re interested.


Filed under A day in the life, classes, Clinical Phd, Piano, Reflections, research proposal

The highs and lows of research: Research proposal, thesis committee meeting and ethics submission

Earlier in the year a lecturer described research as an emotional process full of highs and lows. Wondering why?  Read on…

About a month ago I broke into a silent victory dance outside the psychology office.  I had just submitted my research proposal!  It felt so good to finally hand it in after two months’ research, writing and discussion.  Correction, it did feel good until later that night during ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ when I realised I had made an error with one of my hypotheses.  It turned out later that it was right, but I did not find that out until my thesis committee meeting.  Can you imagine what my stress levels were like during the intervening time?!

My thesis committee meeting fell on a chilly June morning.  I began this rite of passage with a brief summary of my project before my study design, analyses and introduction were discussed.  It might sound daunting being seated round a table with lecturers and trying to hold your own, but the experience was not as intimidating as you might imagine.  It was reassuring to hear that I shared my problem areas with previous Honours students and everyone thought my project was worthwhile.  The guidance I gained, fresh perspectives and new ideas were invaluable.  I still wonder what I looked like after that meeting though, having watched the mingled expressions of relief, amazement and information overload on the faces of other students after their meetings.  I remember feeling disbelief that it was all over, that I could shelve my introduction for a while and get my study ready.

Applying for ethics approval, the first step in preparing my study, was also an emotive experience.  I had submitted my electronic application and its numerous attachments for letters of introduction and consent forms etc. a few days after the deadline.  I was worried.  My late submission meant I would be unlikely to gain ethics approval until August, giving me less time to collect data.  Someone up there was looking out for me though because I was informed my submission would be reviewed earlier than I expected.  I sat in the library grinning from ear to ear,  fist pumping the air, little caring what anyone thought.  I had been unbelievably lucky.  What did I learn from this experience?  Chiefly, that I never want to be in that situation again.  I plan to check deadlines religiously in future, and to let someone know in advance if I am unlikely to meet them.

Achieving these three research milestones introduced me to the highs and lows of research that are all part of the experience.

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Filed under ethics, Honours year, research proposal, writing