Last week I plucked up courage to do what is one of those rites of passage that all those embarking on Doctoral studies must explore – talking about their ideas in public. The idea is that you look for a group of like-minded (and fellow suffering) peers and long suffering and sympathetic faculty and talk through your thinking.
At the start of the PhD no-one really expects you to have all the answers, or to have even identified all the gaps, let alone filled them, but they will be quite merciless if you have made any false assumptions or short-cuts. Quite right, too. If you’re going to do this, the chances are (like me) you won’t understand how to approach research and you need to get criticism that will put you in your place, and as long as it is well-meant, it is fine.
I was presenting at a quarterly colloquium of my school at Henley, the School of Management Learning and Knowledge and I have to say that just in the preparation for this I was able to make quite a number of connections for my own thinking. Of course, you are also explaining your research topic to yourself when you present in a public forum, and often what appeared to be crystal clear from the learned journal article you had read the previous week was altogether another thing when you have to describe what you think you thought they meant and how that fits into your own thinking.
I spoke in the end, with some discussion and questions, for about an hour, which was a pleasant surprise, and although I felt tongue-tied and tongue-twisted a couple of times, I think those attending not only got a sense of what my interest is and where it is based, but they seemed to be enjoying it, too.