The decision to embark on a PhD is a strange one. For me the motivator was the importance of the qualification for my progression in my chosen career. That said, at the outset I knew that if I didnt choose a topic that would sustain my interest Id be unlikely to succeed.
Wanting to build on my knowledge rather than start from scratch in an unfamiliar area, I looked at what I was bringing to the task and worked with my existing skills and experiences. The topic I chose drew on my writing and interviewing skills, my contacts, the reading I had done for my Masters thesis, and a niggling irritation I had about the disdain some news commentators had expressed about magazine editors (a job that I had done for six years). These ideas combined into my quest to discover whether and how womens magazine editors thought they were driving cultural change.
I started my PhD in mid-2005 and submitted it in October 2008. I worked full-time in challenging jobs throughout that time. How did I manage it? I think the main thing was careful planning. This meant considering, at the outset, not only what I wanted to find out but also what methodologies I would use. By becoming really familiar and comfortable with the scope and limitations of those methodologies, I was able to use a range of them to complement each other. This not only made my research design logical and robust, it also gave me a perspective on my study that kept it in check. I knew what I was doing. When new ideas and tangents presented themselves, I was able to resist them because they were beyond the scope of what I was doing. I also made a point of not wasting time. When work was so busy that I could only find sporadic hours to work on the PhD, I chipped away at tasks like interviewing and transcribing. When I had a week off and could concentrate for longer periods of time, I wrote up discussion sections.
While fulltime work and study is exhausting, Im glad to have completed it. Now I have rich resources of data that I can dip back into to and use for many smaller studies in the future in what is becoming a vibrant area of cultural studies research worldwide.