My PhD experience, second year in

By Alison Edwards, Faculty of Health

My journey towards commencing a PhD at Birmingham City University was filled with trepidation and questions. Amongst many others I questioned whether would I cope doing a full time job too? What exactly was expected of me? and would I look stupid because my knowledge of research is pretty limited?

I’m not sure that two years in I can answer any of these questions but what I do know is that I have been caught up in the desire to make a difference, no matter how minor.

To have come up with an answer to a question, which adds to the body of current knowledge is no small thing and the journey to that point is in itself both challenging and daunting but at the same time exciting.


Life as a PhD applicant began with the somewhat bewildering concept of choosing what to study. I had some vague ideas around my choice of topic, but what I have learnt through the previous months is that you needn’t stress about it as the vagueness actually isn’t a problem. If anything, it’s an advantage, as the study I am now embarking on bears little resemblance to where I started initially. It’s actually beneficial to be able to toss ideas around with others and be able to adapt.

It’s also proved invaluable to access the knowledge of those around you. Apart from the basics within my master’s degree and various modules, my in-depth knowledge of research was lacking. You soon however, begin to develop your skills in this arena, not least from reading the copious amount of literature already out there. The main driving forces supporting me through this however, have been my supervisors. Without their knowledge and support I wouldn’t have got to the point of registration to undertake the study for real.  Access to an expert and very approachable statistician was also incredibly helpful if not essential and especially important to my chosen methodology.

Balancing work and study

Working a full time job alongside study has been the most difficult aspect. It hasn’t been possible to fully engage with the activities that go along with doctorate study, let’s face it getting even free time to read can occasionally be impossible, and so you can expect to feel a bit isolated and lost at times.  You need to look for alternative routes of support and keep the goal in sight. Having a picture of myself in a borrowed graduation out stuck in my folder just gives me the right kind of reminder why I’m embarking on this adventure.

Next steps

My next steps are into the foggy world of ethical approval. Yet another complex and tangled web of forms and new terminology.  It’s yet another process which scares me, but I know once I’ve got over the hurdle I’ve made the next step towards my ultimate goal and it’s that thought I’m holding onto.

Alison is a senior lecturer in midwifery. For more information about research in the Faculty of Health visit their dedicated research website

If you’re a research student and would like to share your experiences with our research community, email Karen Patel