2016 was a weird one; personally it was a bit of a car-crash, but career-wise I’d deem it a success. I like the process of turning over a new leaf and reflecting on the past year – not necessarily with the whole ‘new year, new me’ in mind, but I do think it’s a good excuse to take a look at recent successes and lessons to learn for the year ahead. Time is also ticking with regards to the PhD, so it seems as good a time as any to get back into work recharged and armed with new goals.
Begin piecing together the thesis
Throughout the first year of the PhD I wrote frequently; I wrote a full ‘PhD protocol’ safe in the knowledge that it would never be published purely so that I had the timelines and task ahead of me worked out early on in the process. Into the second year I began abstract and full text screening for my systematic review, moving on to data extraction over the summer of last year. Other projects started up and required things other than writing, so it’s time for me to get back to writing more often. Whether the words I write end up in the thesis is not important; writing will help me to focus the project and ultimately the thesis later on.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have told me to ‘start writing early’ or ‘don’t leave it to the last minute’. I have started, but there are sections that I can get on with writing at the moment.
Read more widely, and more frequently
As I mentioned earlier on, I’ve been side-lined with data extraction and other projects, and my reading has definitely slipped. I need to get back into the literature, and as I was scrolling through Twitter last week I saw someone using #365papers. 365 papers is a project that I think was started by Jacqueline Gill and Meghan Duffy as a new year’s resolution for 2016. In basic terms it involves reading a paper every day (on average) for a year. I’m going to give this a go, and I’ll be blogging about the project periodically throughout the year too. Stay tuned for updates and wish me luck!
Seek out opportunities to publish
I’ve spoken to lots of people recently – both academics and people outside of academia – about the need to publish. Is it better to publish fewer, more focused papers, or more papers covering a broader range of topics? Every academic went with the latter. As an early career researcher I need to be publishing regularly, and the range of topics those papers include doesn’t seem to matter too much. I published my first PhD-related paper in 2016 (you can read it here), and I have a number of papers that should be published late in 2017 and into 2018. It’s time to actively look for more opportunities to publish though. I want to come out of this PhD feeling confident that I can go into a career in Health Services Research; applying for post-docs and fellowships with a decent list of publications behind me can only be a good thing.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and productive 2017!