In 2002 while I was completing my Masters thesis, I was completely stressed out. The main reason for my frustration was the fact that 11 of the 12 months that year, my supervisor was out of the country conducting some huge ADB research project in the field. Great for her – bad for me. Despite numerous requests for a second supervisor, I was not granted one and ended up doing the thesis in isolation. well.. almost..

Towards the middle of that year, I met up with two male friends Desmond and Dick (one from Samoa and the other a Solomon Islander) who were also writing their dissertations and who shared a supervisor that they both detested. One day over coffee and biscuits, someone (I am not sure who) suggested we set up a support group of three. We did. Every wednesday we met at the arts centre (courtesy of the director the late Professor Epeli Hau’ofa) and we sat there from 5 pm to 8pm critiquing, challenging and defending our own and each other’s chapters. For some reason it worked and in december that year, we all graduated with our Masters of Arts in Education. That group worked. We were equally stressed out, committed to our work and dedicated to completing on time.  

This year as part of a similar self-help strategy, a group of colleagues in my department (education) have decided to invite well respected researchers and professors with vast experience of supervisingand examining PhD thesis to share some pointers on very specific “challenging” issues and today we had our first session.

We havent named the group but I guess you could call it the School of Education PhD Support Group (how very original I know! 🙂 Anyways, our first session was today from 2 – 4 pm in the Faculty Postgraduate Seminar Room – what better way to remind us all that we are students.

About the group – there are nine of us (academic staff members) enrolled in the PhD program and everyone is at different points of their studies. It is interesting and challenging having such a diverse group of interests, knowledge and skill set in a big group with the singular mission to get the damned PhD done!

Anyway, back to today.. We invited seasoned researcher and academic Allen (Max) Quanchi who discussed reseach design. While most of what he said was geared at those just beginning their journey (i.e. the intent and proposal process) I found the session interesting because it was the first time that someone had spoken about bricolage (and actually knew what they were talking about). I decided to use the bricolage approach in my thesis (being a fan of Joe Kinchelo’s writing and research works) but have never met anyone who deliberately and consciously applied it so it was pretty awesome.

A firm believer in things happening for a reason, I am pretty damned sure that I was meant to go to that session today! Especially after all the second quessing I have been doing in applying bricolage given that Kinchelo cautions against its use in the PhD. What a relief to hear of other examples. I am totally stoked right now and keen to dig into my next chapter.

Something else of interest was the different expectations of the PhD in different parts of the world – e.g. Germany, France, USA, UK and between “traditional/classical” universities and “newer” institutions who are more open to emerging schools of thought, multidisciplinary approaches and the like.

Max suggested that we identify a “critical friend” outside of our subject area to simply read for coherence. That is definitely on my to do list and I think I have the perfect friend in mind – Oh Mary.. where art thou Miss Mary.. 🙂  

Definitely time well spent. I am totally looking forward to the next session in two weeks and just hope that as we go along everyone gains some momentum as it would be awful  to have some fall out of the boat.

For more on J.L Kinchelo see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_L._Kincheloe.

For bricolage see for example, Kinchelo (2011). Describing the Bricolage: Conceptualizing a new rigor  in qualitative research http://www.petajwhite.net/Uni/910/Legit%20and%20Representation/Representation%20Precis/Kincheloe.pdf