Doug is a Sociology PhD researcher at the University. In this blog, he chats to us about his research project and gives us an insight into life as a PhD student at Bradford.
Them: “What do you study?”
Me: “I am doing a PhD in Sociology, looking at how heavy metal fans express their identities in their everyday life.”
Them: “I didn’t know you could that! That sounds really interesting!”
I came to Bradford in 2013 for my undergraduate degree in BA (Hons) Sociology & Psychology and have stayed ever since, now doing PhD research on something I love. Studying Sociology and Psychology at Bradford helped me think about the social world in deeper and more complex ways, and throughout the course, I discovered my passion for identity, inter-group relations and popular culture.
Staying in Bradford
Throughout my time at Bradford, I was fortunate to establish great networks with my peers and lecturers. My lecturers, in both my undergrad and masters, took their time to get to know me and instilled a positive mindset towards studying and becoming a researcher. This was pivotal in my development as a student and aspiring researcher, so staying at Bradford to pursue a PhD was a no-brainer. The people around me had my back and gave me the confidence I needed to begin this journey.
Here I am, doing my PhD in sociology, exploring the ways that heavy metal fans construct and showcase their identities throughout the course of their everyday life. But what are some of the aspects of PhD study?
A Lonely Journey – Not Necessarily
Doing a PhD can be a lonely adventure. There is a high chance that you are the only person working on that particular research topic in your university – some students might have similar projects, but it varies from faculty to faculty.
This is where support networks become important. Every now and then, some the PhD students would meet up (sometimes there was pizza, too!) and socialise. These social events are a fantastic opportunity to get away from your research for a few moments, meet different people, and through conversations, find out more about where your research could go. Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees and simply through talking to people about your research, and them asking questions, might make things clearer for you and guide you in the right direction.
There are plenty of study spaces available on campus too. One of my favorite places is the PGR Lounge (Postgraduate Research Lounge), where PhD students from every faculty can come to study. The prospect of being the only person in the university to work on your project might seem daunting at first, but we support and look out for each other here. There is always someone around in the PGR Lounge to talk to.
Your supervisors are your main point of contact. They have extensive experience in the field you will study and they will guide you through the entire process. In my case, my supervisors are from the fields of sociology and psychology, respectively, and therefore, I have an opportunity to explore theories from both areas of social sciences and through their support, integrate them into my thesis.
Supervision is more than sending work through and getting feedback. My supervisors give me advice on research, life, and provide me with some teaching opportunities so that when I finish my PhD, I will be prepared for the world of academia – their support has always been invaluable.
Competition from Other Students
There are a couple of students who, for some reason, make the PhD journey into a competition. I stopped counting how many times I’ve been asked questions about when I will finish my PhD, how quickly I am able to write an 8 -10,000 word chapter, why I get sporadic teaching opportunities and they don’t, the list of questions is endless.
Whilst some people try to be competitive about their PhD, the truth is: every PhD is different and you have to go at your own pace. You get to call yourself “Dr” at the end of the project, and it does not matter if you take two weeks to write a chapter of your thesis or two months – I cannot stress this enough: never compare your own progress with anyone else’s. It’s your journey.
If you are considering PhD study, one piece of advice I have is: follow your passion. If you have a passion for something, pursue it. The PhD years are tough, but it is easier if you have a passion for the subject. For me, I am a heavy metal fan, my love for the music has been my driving force behind my PhD. At the end of the day, your PhD will become a part of your life, so why not choose something that you enjoy?