Written by Shannon Ludgate, PhD Student, School of Education – Early Years
Making the decision to embark on a PhD journey has been the biggest decision I’ve made so far. Being just 21 and starting a PhD, it’s fair to say I felt incredibly under-experienced, questioning my ability to take on this challenge at such a ripe age. Nonetheless after much thought and discussions with my undergraduate peers, family and partner, I submitted the application form with my fingers and toes crossed. After being successful, I have embarked on a journey to research experiences children aged three to four years have, and how this has the potential to enhance their learning (specific area yet to be decided).
With not knowing what to expect with a PhD, particularly as I was introduced to the opportunity with just weeks to read up on and write a research proposal, I searched endlessly on the web and in books to discover what it meant to be writing a thesis, and what it might look like as an end product. Doing a little background reading into these areas provided me with the initial knowledge I would need, with what to expect and what I would be doing.
Regardless of the literature, starting on my first day felt unusual; as an undergraduate, I had a whole network of friends, academics to talk to, and support 24/7. Walking into the office, I was greeted by another PhD student; I felt a little out there on my own. Looking back, I can see the need to adapt to this new lifestyle – reading endlessly on my new topic, trying to find out what had already been researched and where the interesting little gaps were in the literature. Four months on, I can positively say I’ve enjoyed the journey, even though I am only just starting! I am happy to admit I have changed my ideas too many times to remember, but I see it as a refinement process; my ideas are becoming more absolute as I progress. I am really excited to get started, to get out there in the field and start collecting interesting data, but I know there’s a lot to do before.
As the days pass I can see how I am progressing towards that point, and making initial contact with settings to conduct the research has been exciting, I can almost touch it – the beginning of data collection. I know that a great challenge lies ahead of me, and after speaking to other PhD students, I feel somewhat ready for it. I am eager to begin and enjoy this journey, after all, I’m researching something that really interests me and I want to inspire others with my work.
To research very young children’s experiences with touchscreens is such an appealing topic. Having completed my undergraduate in the early years field, this topic held so much interest and everyone I have spoken to has gave an opinion on it. Our youngest children using technology isn’t something that is overlooked; there are people all for it, and of course, those who absolutely dispute against it, expressing health and social development concerns to name a few.
I’ve had great support so far from everyone around me; my supervisor has sat and listened to my ideas, even if they’re not fully formed in my own mind, but expressing them in some way has helped me to realise what I’d like to research. Gaining advice from others is a definite must, and having others to support you on the journey I’ve been told is advisable.
For now I’m keen to begin, although I’m not really sure when I can actually say I’m beginning (of course I began in September), but I know it’s coming soon. My time as a PhD student has been great so far, and I can see the next three years being the most interesting and insightful yet.