Throughout the postgraduate research project (which lasts between 3-4 years full-time and at the end of which an 80,000-word thesis needs to be submitted, reviewed, and approved by an academic team), I am doing the following (this list is not exhaustive):
- reading, reflecting, and taking notes on activist, academic, and policy materials on disability, the body, work, rest/idleness and how to undertake research ethically
- contacting organisations, online platforms and individuals to spread the word about the project and establishing links with relevant networks
- attending events and conferences
- exploring ways to make the project useful to disabled gig economy workers in particular, and other groups more broadly (have suggestions? would love to hear them!)
- constantly engaging in a process of self-reflection, questioning and reviewing all the steps and decisions I make throughout the programme; seeking feedback
- deciding on what is relevant to the project, and what needs to be left on the side; what can realistically be done within the timeframe of the programme
- trying to find more resources that are relevant to the topic studied
- applying for approval for my ethics application and undertaking various other forms of assessment and review
- liaising with potential interviewees and diary keepers to arrange a meeting; hold the interview and discuss the details of the diary keeping process
- transcribing the interviews and reading them again and again in order to understand connections, differences and underlying themes of all stories
- seek to diversify the experiences prevalent within the project by contacting other individuals and organisations who could help spread the word to people with experiences that are not yet reflected in the project (i.e. I am trying to look for as diverse experiences of work, the body and mind, and identities).
- writing thesis chapter drafts, meeting with my supervisors to discuss the direction of my project, and following all the institutional regulations and processes necessary
- finding ways to share the stories that emerge through the resources mentioned above, and the interviews and diary entries of the participants in this research
- making sure that I rest appropriately, socialise, take care of myself, and support people around me
- engaging on social media via the project’s account and writing pages such as this one
- anything else that I am not even anticipating now.
Whilst the PhD project ultimately has a sole author (due to academic practice) no research is authored simply by one individual, in isolation from others (not even when the project is purely theoretical). I would like this project to be useful beyond the sphere of academia, and I recognise that the ‘data’ (the interviews and diary entries, as well as all the endorsements and support on social media, the emails of encouragement, the forwarding of my ‘call for participants’ to contacts and friends, and so on) is produced throughout this period. I will not simply ‘collect’ data to make use of it (although this is traditionally the verb used by academic researchers), but I will be part of a process of producing data with yourselves – everyone who is even remotely linked to this project, in one way or another.