Why is it that when colleagues or friends discover that you are beginning that journey into higher educational research that they immediately assume you will find everything you need in a good solid research book? Don’t get me wrong two of my prized reads were given to me by friends who are academics. One is Micheal Crotty’s“The foundations of Social Research” and the other Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s “Decolonizing Methodologies”. Great research reads. Inspiring. Technical and focused. But… they only feed the research intellect… what about a good cartoon? comic relief or better still a survival guide to the phd?

O.k. so I was raised the typical Pacific child to be strong. Emotional displays were seen as a sign of weakness and you had to put on a brave face and just deal with it (whatever it was!) quietly and in the privacy of the family circle. In this context, the whole notion of self-help books is seen as a ‘waste of time’ and I can hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “Did you really need to spend that much money to find out something you already knew?” But of course, we all need affirmation and in the capitalist economy we live in today never more has the need to reach out and feel “human” been so important. I must say at this point that I am not a touchy-feely person and I love my personal space… but there are just some things that reaffirm the human condition – some words that touch you in ways that you never though possible and remind you to take stock, to breathe and to purposefully transform your actions and life.

A couple of years ago I got my hands on a second hand copy of Robert Fulghram’s “Maybe, Maybe Not” and thought hey this is great! Then a friend alerted me to “All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten” and again it was a “Aha!” moment. Wonderful. Light and brilliantly human. I was hooked. My next stop a full year later, was discovering Dwayne Dyer’s “You’ll believe it when you see it”. I found myself both intrigued and troubled by the fact that I could relate completely to a middle aged white man whose life experiences were quite disconnected from my own and yet… so markedly similar in the human condition and the quest for personal transformation… the desire for something better than this!

Anyway, so I began the PhD journey convinced that I must devour as much as I could on my selected topic and related topics and issues but it was quite a dry, technical and truth be told, an isolated process… (hence the blogging!) The last two years have been years of avid reading of the like and yes o.k there have been moments of excitement at finding a great journal article or chapter in a book that screams something connected to my stream of academic consciousness and yet.. there has been something missing.I think I may have found what I was looking for…

Last night I stumbled across “The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research” by Gordon Rugg & Marian Petre (2004) and immediately downloaded a copy. Today, the first thing I did after a two-hour micro-teaching class, I printed and bound sections and began to read.. what  a GEM! Thank you to the authors.. with powerful everyday metaphors that even a P.I (Pacific Islander) can relate to… Some examples include “having the right cup of coffee” (p8) (which is itself important);  “bad habits” such as “learned helplessness:  (p28) and “dealing with your supervisor”(p37) I am definitely going to be looking for a personal copy of the paperback version of this. (Yes I am one of those old-school readers for whom nothing quite replaces the feel and smell of the crisp pages of a new book growing into well loved smoothed sheets (with at least twenty post-its!).

If you haven’t yet read this.. you must get a copy! It is the only researchers guide that I have seen written in coffee-talk language that gets simple and to the point information across that every student should know but no one ever told us. It has got to be the researcher’s response to “All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten”… Everything you need to know about the PhD journey is touched on in “The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research”.

Wohoo!! Finally a how to PhD book that humanizes the research journey and makes you laugh as you learn.. what more could you ask for at the beginning of a tumultuous ride?