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PhD Life

Updated: Feb 18

January 2023 marked the start of my 3rd year (5th semester) in the PhD program. It's been an interesting transition from last year. Upon reflection, I've noticed that every semester of my PhD journey has been different and challenging in it's own way. I've been learning to adapt to frequent changes and to go with the flow.

My first year was hard because I had to arrange accessibility services (i.e. notetakers and interpreters), which initially involved a lot of paperwork. This was riddled with many hiccups and frustrations along the way. It is hardly surprising given that the field of accessibility in Singapore is budding and there are many problems in the system. It felt like the interpreters, notetakers and service providers were on a different planet than I was. We didn't have the same understanding of accessibility and communication with them at times posed a challenge. For my second year, I had only one module left and the first 7 months were spent preparing my research proposal for my QE. I'm glad that the coursework component and the QE are all behind me now, because I don't have to worry about accessibility on a regular basis.

In Semester 1, 2022 after my QE, I worked as a TA for the very first time. My role involved assisting a prof teaching a linguistics module titled Semantics and Pragmatics. I was tasked with grading three lots of 99 undergraduate students' assignments and was given other duties during the semester. This totalled 151 hours. I juggled TA duties together with my data collection stage. In addition, over the course of 3 months from Sep to Nov 2022, I did 35 individual interviews and 2 dyadic interviews.

After getting a feel for last semester, I realised my schedule was subject to frequent interruptions for various reasons such as an interviewee requesting to cancel or postpone an interview, and receiving e-mails from students or the prof assigning me TA duties. All of these made it a tad challenging to schedule social plans with family and friends in advance. I also barely had time to read academic papers.

This semester, I've been assigned to teach SgSL Level 1 to twenty-two hearing undergraduate students. It's been fun running my own class every Thursday night. 4 weeks have gone by already. I've finished marking their fingerspelling receptive test as of last night and have keyed their grades into the spreadsheet. Along with my teaching load, I've been spending much time transcribing my interviews and visiting different sites to take observation notes for my research.

To be honest, January has been completely unproductive. It feels as if I've gotten off to a slow start this year. Two transcription video softwares I tried to use to transcribe the interviews kept hanging at intervals on my laptop for about 2 to 3 weeks. It was very frustrating. So, I really didn't get much work done at all. I've taken my laptop to the Apple Store but they were not able to rectify the problem. I've since given up and taken to transcribing interviews on a word processor instead. I also suddenly felt somewhat tired and unmotivated all month. This is surprising given that my time at the PhDeaf retreat in Norway last Dec was phenomenal and left me feeling highly motivated. I guess I was just experiencing an energy slump after the intensity of the whole of 2022. The festivities of the Lunar New Year in late Jan also served as a nice distraction.

I've seen an improvement in my focus and motivation in February. It's been nice getting into the momentum of how to schedule my research work better. I realise it can be challenging to stay on track because there are all sorts of interruptions. When I was doing my coursework in my first year, there was some sort of regular schedule to follow. However, now that I'm completely on my own and my schedule is open and subject to frequent changes, it's all too easy to procrastinate on my research.

To stay on track, I've set myself daily tasks to accomplish the following on a regular day for the next few months:

  • Spend 2 to 4 hours transcribing interviews. Identify themes and write up my analysis whenever I'm ready to do so.

  • Read one or two journal articles or book chapters and write a summary of the article in one paragraph. Compile this in an annotated bibliography.

This does not apply on the days that I am teaching SgSL or when I have other meetings come up. Adjustments will be made as needed. I hope to be able to achieve the listed tasks at least 3 to 4 days in a given week. I've also scheduled Sundays as my regular rest days. It will be a day of complete rest unless unforeseen circumstances occur.

According to my supervisor, 2023 should be focused on transcribing my interviews, as well as writing up my analysis on the themes identified from the interviews. I will also be doing content analysis of public media discourse. Sometime in the next couple of days, I will have to go to the library to seek the librarian's advice on how to key in search terms to identify deaf-related articles and gather them for analysis later. My co-supervisor has advised that I should only need to spend 3 or 4 hours in the library doing this. In 2024, I should be writing my discussion, conclusion and doing final revisions of my literature review.

This PhD is like running a full marathon. I hope for the motivation to stay on track and submit my dissertation by Jan 10, 2025, as my funding runs out then.

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