Challenges of the PhD

As a researcher I find that the challenges are more straightforward than music because they’re more within my control. Academia in Australia is highly competitive, yes, but there also lots of opportunities. The PhD is like an apprenticeship and there are transparent and logical rewards for your efforts – pretty much the opposite of the music industry. The first challenge of research would be self-management. I’ve put in many all-nighters and have many times felt on the brink of insanity trying to solve some tiny but all-powerful problem in a huge pile of data and code. A lot of research work is very boring and difficult and you have to keep yourself motivated through the troughs. A second challenge with research is writing and keeping up output when you have a lot of different things half-cooked.

A third challenge with research is cynicism. Right now I’m in a good place now and enjoy my topic, research, and writing. But with time the academic ladder will no doubt get more slippery and more fraught. Academics inevitably get more critical over time, partly because they are open to ever more criticism. My Mum once came to a PhD completion presentation I did and was traumatised by the questions at the end – no-one handles you with kid gloves like in school or something. For me that was just how things work. But maybe I will get tired of becoming thick skinned, so for now I am just taking it as it comes and seeing how much I deliver on this post doctoral project. In general I enjoy going to work and could honestly say I’d still do it, or something much like it, even if I didn’t have to financially.

Dr. Elizabeth Taylor is an Australian scholar, working as an Urban Studies Post-doctoral Research Fellow. She is also a blogger, musician and Radio Broadcaster with 3 RRR program, “The Urbanists.” Here she discusses the difficulties of academia in comparison to the work of being a musician. The interview is conducted by Australian sociologist Dr Sheree Gregory.

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