Organising your thoughts – a topic map!

I attended a surprisingly motivating and useful “starting your PhD” type course a couple of weeks ago, one of the optional courses at uni available to any graduate student who signs up on time.

I was excited by the idea of “topic maps” – writing out key words, as back-to-basics as possible, starting off from my core PhD topic in the centre and then branching off into sub-categories. This method can apparently help develop good search terms for databases (such as journals, library catalogues, thesis collections), as well as primarily being useful to organise your thoughts. Currently my topics are “mapped” only by my reading list, and what I occasionally write up as literature reviews of sorts.

So, keen to organise the many interconnected yet still disparate strands of my research I started by writing as many topics as I could think of on post-it notes, so I could shuffle them around into a “map” and connect the dots.

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Oh dear…

Then I took a deep breath and thought it’d help to “write up” this, uh, “map”.

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But writing it up made it worse, I felt like I’d put everything in the wrong place. When I went to connect each topic by line I found EVERY topic connected with (almost) every other topic!

I think at this stage – when I’ve done a bit of reading, but not enough – I am not ready to sketch out a topic map. There are probably still areas I haven’t considered. There are too many overlapping, interconnecting jumbles of wires that I haven’t unpicked.

Or maybe a topic map is not for me?!

The Guilt

At the moment I’m constantly feeling like I’m not doing enough. My To Do list just gets longer, I’m not making a dent in it. I reassure myself that I’m still right at the start of my studies, then I get wobbly-lipped at the realisation that I’m nearly 6 months into my studies, actually. Eep. I have two books in particular just sitting on my desk needing to be read but I feel like a stroppy teenager wailing But I Don’t Want Tooooo coz they’re haaaard. When I get a nice stretch of time to work I feel guilty for “wasting” it. Embarrassed to confess that on Saturday afternoon, when the baby was out with my partner, I settled down with my books and my laptop and… napped for an hour. And look at me now, blogging when I should be reading!

But then – as another mum pointed out to me at playgroup today – whatever you do, you feel The Guilt. In the corporate world (she works part-time) you feel guilty for not working enough, not being seen enough, not spending “enough” time with your child. Air-quotes of course because neither of us rationally believe we should be feeling The Guilt, but some days you just do.