Posted in academia, Misc

Of(f) time.

In this post I make use of the highly praised (at least in a writing seminar I attended last year) method of ‘free writing’. I’m afraid that if I start with a proper draft that needs to be (re- and re-) edited, the momentum for this post will get lost in procrastination.

As you may have noticed, there has been a real down-time on this blog. Over summer. In fact I don’t even know how it’s possible that this summer has already passed.

HOW has it passed? Personally, there were events that I attended: a 4-day summer school, and a 1-week conference, both in July. After my June post I thought I’d write a really cool post about the exciting month of July talking about these two. Then, August came, I moved to another city, and then flew to my home country to visit family. Now it’s September, (actually approaching mid-September…). I had made writing plans for the time after the conference. Now I don’t want to say much about it, only that it didn’t go quite like I planned. But maybe that’s okay?!

The lovely decoration at my relative’s wedding. Perhaps a little break from the PhD was good for my PhD love story?

One of the main reasons for me to go home for quite a while was my relative’s wedding and the accompanying hen do. They were three weeks apart and I wanted to attend both. I really enjoyed being back in the social circle of my childhood and teenage years, as I have now lived abroad for 5 years. Sometimes I feel a bit lost as to where I belong and what I’m going to do/ where I’m going to be. Visiting my family is then like a grounding experience because many of my relatives enjoy stable jobs/careers/families and places to live (i.e. they haven’t really moved ever or perhaps only once or twice).

It feels good that I gained some distance from my every-day PhD experience by being reintegrated in this family setting. [And friends! I met many of them, spent an entire 4 days at my friend’s place in Hamburg! I also went to the gym! :)] Inevitably, perhaps, some of the ambitious plans for the break got stuck at the procrastination stage. At the same time, procrastinating during my planned tasks let to progress in other areas: I completed my switch from Endnote to Zotero due to the need to collaborate with colleagues. Browsing the web for suggestions, I learned about the possibility of storing my journal articles in a local Dropbox folder and linking them to the Zotero entries. How cool is that? When I double-click on a Zotero item, the PDF pops up, but rather than being stored in some weird, automatically generated, individual Zotero folder, they are all in my ‘PhD reading’ folder.

I also finished a MOOC on R (thanks for the tip by my friend @kimsuekreischer): Microsoft: DAT204x Introduction to R (I think it will re-run in a few weeks’ time; not sure whether the URL stays the same or not). It will be too basic for the pros among you, but I was quite happy with its interactive assignments, which I was actually able to follow. I have also had a try at another R book, this time not by Stefan Gries (see my previous post), but by Matthew Jockers. The writing style is really refreshing and there are many very interesting ideas for analysing texts, with a focus on their meaning. I still have to get used to the perspective/terminology, though, which seems more text mining or NLP-minded than corpus linguistic. While following the MOOC and reading Jockers’ book I have often felt that R is something I can actually learn (apart from all the moments when I mistyped the code and couldn’t find the typo >< !) But what is still a huge challenge to me is how to move from following the instructions to actually designing my own code! This is where some more procrastination developed because I had been hoping to use R for cleaning my data… but… that’s still a little tricky.

In other news, I have sort of followed the #survivephd15 MOOC by @thesiswhisperer and team. Are some of you also participating? I haven’t gotten as involved as many of the other participants, but I am quite happy about this opportunity of dialogue among PhD students. I’m looking forward to topics in the later weeks, as it’s still at the introductory stage (history of the doctorate this past week).

Now there are just 3-4 more days until I fly back to my PhD life. I’ll miss my home, family and friends when I’m back abroad. But it’s good that I’m almost feeling like I have an itch to start again and continue my PhD relationship ;). Incidentally, today is the anniversary of my MA dissertation submission. Time is a strange phenomenon.


I am a research fellow on the CLiC Dickens project at the Centre for Corpus Research, University of Birmingham. My research interests focus on the use of corpus linguistic tools to identify meaning in texts. In the CLiC Dickens project we develop and use methods to study the language of literary texts, particularly in Dickens’s and other 19th century fiction. My PhD research seeks to understand connections in discourse through a corpus linguistic approach. Specifically, I study how the concept of surveillance is represented in different types of texts. This blog reflects my personal opinions and not those of my employers.

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