Tag Archives: research

PhD as self-discovery

I decided to do a PhD because I had a question about law I wanted to answer. So the goal of the PhD has been to make that “original contribution to knowledge”. But as I progressed, I have found that my research has been plastic, in the Hegelian sense. On the one hand, I have shaped my research not only in deciding what to do but also in how my background has shaped my paradigm. In realising the latter, I started to learn things about myself. Doing the PhD became a process of self-discovery. In a sense, at some point, the boundary between my research topic and myself became porous.

As PhD student Kirsty Warren said in the video below, I didn’t start to discover myself by attempting to discover myself; I did it by getting on with life and focusing on something beyond myself. In a sense, as Hegel said, only by recognising that there was something outside me worth recognising did I recognise myself. I became a posthuman researcher.

Emily Warren, discovering herself

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When did you start your doctorate?

By Professor Emeritus Vernon Trafford

President Truman in Oval Office

Vernon’s PhD grew out of his professional work on an interdisciplinary, collaborative project

How often have you been asked that question?  What do you say?  Is your answer always the same?  If it varies why is that?  For some people the answer is easy; it is the date when they were accepted by or enrolled at a University.   For others, the answer is more complex.  I am in the latter category. What follows explains how I now view the question as well as how it links to my choice of my doctoral topic.

After leaving school I had various private and public sector jobs before studying for a BA at Liverpool University.  Then, lectureships in three polytechnics exposed me to the practicalities of my primary disciplines – political science and organization theory.   An invitation to be part of a British Council educational development project in Bhopal, India, was an opportunity to apply my learning in a new context.

Based at one of the four Indian Technical Teacher Training Institutions, the project comprised five sub-projects including education management. For eighteen months I contributed to the education management sub-project, working with counterparts to design, undertake and report on various small-scale research projects.   This involved travelling throughout the three states in the Western Region of India, presenting at regional or national conferences, providing management development workshops for polytechnics and writing detailed reports for the British Council.

Then I became the director of a new sub-project looking at institutional evaluation.  The purpose of this project was to improve the practice of evaluating polytechnic performance.  For years this function had been undertaken externally by ‘inspectors’ who checked regulatory compliance and seldom acknowledged positive achievement. Discussions at the State level in technician education resulted in twelve Polytechnic Principals being seconded to develop an appropriate evaluative instrument. They were the group from whom Polytechnic Evaluation Teams would be chosen.

In this project I was responsible for planning and delivering each stage of the developmental/training workshops, selecting and involving specialists in key aspects of the project plus editing drafts of working papers and operational manuals.  My filing cabinets in Bhopal and UK quickly filled with working papers and British Council reports.

As a result, it became apparent to me that the project was:

  • interdisciplinary at a time when this was rare in international development projects;
  • designed and operated as an evaluative process which replaced one that had been imposed by the prevailing technical bureaucracy on the polytechnics and so had been judged to be ‘not-fit-for-purpose’;
  • exemplifying successful international collaboration between the twelve seconded Polytechnic Principals and the small team of expert advisers;
  • converting an untried theory of institutional evaluation into a practical instrument and training professional education managers to use it.

Since my academic work in a business school also involved educational management developmental projects in Europe, I knew that the Indian project was quite unique. I concluded that it was suitable for doctoral level study and could make a contribution to knowledge.  Thus, my choice of the topic for my doctorate evolved naturally out of my professional practice with me as the insider researcher.

Foolishly, I believed that having a potentially worthy topic for doctoral research would instantly appeal to a university.  I put forward my case in a two-page synopsis outlining the international, cultural, technical, micro-political, behavioural and educational aspects of the project.  Appropriate sources were included to locate these components within their respective theoretical perspectives. Also, an agreed five-year time line illustrated the resources and schedules that would sustain the project.  My part-time research would be inductive, insider-based and use multiple methods to collect and interpret the data. This document was approved by the British Council, my counterparts in India and academic colleagues in UK.

My first application was to my Alma Mater. A beautifully phrased letter from them regretted that my proposal erred too much on ‘the practical aspects of your very interesting project’ and they wished me well.

My second application went to a business school that had international links in Europe.  They rejected it because ‘we have no educationalists on our staff.’

My unaltered proposal was then sent to two other universities.  It was rejected by a centre of development studies because it was ‘too educational’ and was also rejected by a school of education because it was ‘far too international for us to handle’.

My first interview was in a faculty whose Department of Education had institutional links with other countries.   I arrived with high hopes and was armed with my two-page outline, examples of the evaluative materials and some photographs too!  The staff member who saw me instantly launched into explaining why I should drop my ‘little project’ and join his team of econometricians who were studying longitudinal educational development in other Indian States.  I listened in silence until he finished and then refused his ‘kind offer’. . . .

Two weeks later I saw an advertisement in the education press to study for Ph.Ds at the University of Southampton.   Applicants were invited to provide a three-page outline of their intended research and a short CV.  My project outline was extended and submitted.  I was invited to the University for a sequence of meetings that commenced with the Faculty Doctoral Admissions Officer – a retired academic.  He obviously understood my ideas and for an hour asked searching questions about why I wanted to study for a doctorate, the origins and future of the institutional evaluation project, my conceptual understanding of multidisciplinary research and the difficulties of undertaking research in another culture and country.  By the close of that meeting my choice of a topic for my doctorate had been justified to his satisfaction.

The next meeting was with a possible supervisor whom, I was told, ‘normally has twelve doctoral candidates and last week one completed successfully so he could take you on.’  His questions then, and during the following years of our relationship, were Socratic in style and intention.  He helped me to understand the depth and complexity of my topic.  Although he was neither an expert in educational evaluation nor institutional management he was highly skilled in helping people, including me, to think.

Looking back, I realise that my undergraduate and graduate studies had each enabled me to start thinking like a researcher through the lens of disciplines and theories. Then, directing the institutional evaluation project had sharpened my research skills and appreciation of the interconnectedness of parts in a system.  Perhaps, sometime before the University of Southampton registered me for a Ph.D. I had already ‘chosen and started on my doctorate’.

Hopefully my experience of rejection letters and that first interview(!) are atypical of current recruitment practices.  Having now admitted numerous candidates to their doctoral studies and supervised over fifty to completion, it is fascinating to hear applicants’ answers to my question ‘When did you start your doctorate?’

Vernon Trafford is Professor Emeritus at Anglia Ruskin University. After working in the private and public sectors, he gained degrees in public administration and political science.  In 1978, he registered at the University of Southampton for his PhD in “Developing a critical success factor system of evaluation for polytechnics in India”. But, catching hepatitis and a substantial research grant in UK, plus writing a book, delayed his thesis being submitted until 1987 (Editor – that’s 9 years).   He has undertaken education-related consultancy assignments for QAA, OECD, the British Council, the World Bank and various governmental agencies. Since 2001, his research and publications are into the nature of doctorateness. His book with Shosh Leshem, “Stepping stones to achieving your doctorate”, was published by Open University Press in 2008 and has been reprinted three times.  Visit his website at www.vernontrafford.com.

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PhD on Procrastination

By Pravin Jeya

Teenage girl texting

Mobile phones are a constant source of procrastination

I struggle with procrastination. No doubt lots of PhD students and researchers will be able to relate to this. In fact, this post itself is being written because I’ve hit a wall, indicating that I needed to take a break. But recently procrastination went from being a barrier to my research to the very heart of my research. (That doesn’t give me an excuse to procrastinate, off course.)

It started with a particularly bad bout of procrastination. I just kept coming into uni every day with the intention of making a bit more progress. I had a number of things that I needed to do. And yet, I’d come in, check my email, check Twitter and then get sucked into the black hole of everything but my PhD. I needed help to climb out.

Well, shopping was the answer. No, I did not find inspiration in a wild shopping spree down Oxford Street (the university is close by). On the way home, I always pass by WH Smiths (a newsagent cum stationers) and every now and again I pop in to see if there are any interesting books for sale. I don’t usually buy because of limited financial means, I just like to be around books and make a mental checklist of stuff I want to buy when I get through the books I  have at home. Of course, I always forget the checklist.

So, one evening, I saw ‘The Procrastination Equation‘ by Dr Piers Steel. I thought to myself, that’s what I need but I didn’t pick it up because I didn’t think I could afford it. But I came into WH Smith’s about three or four times in a week and every time, I saw this book. Depressed about my current struggle with Procrastination, I picked the book up eventually. I looked at the front cover and the back cover. I noticed that the author was a ‘Dr’ and that he had reviewed all the research into procrastination because he struggled with procrastination. Finally, being a maths graduate, the idea of an equation appealed to me. I felt that this was the book I needed to help me get to grips with my procrastination, because it was debilitating. I am still reading this book at the moment and it is very enlightening.

One thing that caught my eye in the book was when Dr Steel described what procrastination was like. He described it as knowing what we need to do  but waiting until we are sufficiently close to our deadline to have the energy to take action. And as I read the words, a light came on. What he was describing was my theoretical framework, the dialectic between resistance and change that explains the slow progress of environmental behaviour despite ‘end of the world’ style predictions. And I knew that that’s what I was trying to do…look at law as a way for dealing with individual and social procrastination. From that moment, Dr Steel’s book became both my personal reading for dealing with a personal problem and a part of my research reading.

This is not my first post on how my environment influences my PhD.

 

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Researching for Knowledge

By Bhavnaa S.

Eureka?

It did not strike me like lightening. It was a culmination of several personal events which then led me to choosing to work on this topic for my narrative review during my Masters. I completed my M.Sc in Health Psychology this August (2011) and some of my varied topics of interest were hormonal imbalances, psychoneuroimmunology and post-operative cardiac healthcare. Among the several coursework we were to complete, one of them was to write a narrative review where we could review our own topic of interest instead of being provided with set options. Without much thought I decided to write about thyroid health, i.e. factors affecting quality of life among patients with thyroid disorders. I soon realized that I was quite passionate about the topic and wanted to know more. Simultaneously, I also knew that I wanted to do my PhD, but was not sure what to specialize in. My mind kept going back to this topic and soon enough was fixated on doing my PhD on thyroid health.

Tree of Knowledge, painting by Lucas Cranach

Hunger for knowledge about thyroid disorders is leading Bhavnaa to do a PhD

Thyroid health: why?

A few years back, I was commonly noticing a trend wherein a few of my close ones diagnosed with hypothyroidism (lack of thyroid hormone in the body) were either being over or under-medicated by their doctors, had persisting symptoms in spite of normalized values displayed in the report, or were sensitive to the smallest changes of thyroid hormone. I decided to delve deeper and bought a few books on the topic for my own understanding. I soon realized that most doctors only relied on the values of the T4 levels (free thyroxine – unconverted thyroid hormone) or TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels. The basic premise here is that the unconverted thyroid hormone needs to convert into triodothyronine or T3 to be utilized by the body. If this conversion does not happen very effectively, the body gets starved of usable thyroid hormone. Yet very few endocrinologists ask for the values of converted thyroid levels or T3 levels, depending wholly on the values of the T4 and the TSH levels.

Sadly the symptoms associated with lack of thyroid hormone are quite nasty with one feeling excessively fatigued, having slurred speech, slower body responses, weight gain, fogginess of the mind, low concentration levels, and anxiety. The symptoms for excess thyroid hormone in the body or hyperthyroidism are restlessness, tachycardia, weight loss, etc. More than the physical strain, one feels psychologically weighed down with the appearance and sustenance of such symptoms. Some patients are also very sensitive to the slightest change in their thyroid hormone levels, even if it is subclinical.

After much of my own reading and research, I started asking more people (whom I knew were diagnosed with a thyroid disorder) about their symptoms, quality of life, dosage of medication prescribed and even analysed their reports. I started predicting the lab test results before the results of the blood tests were released, and even predicted the outcome of the doctor’s decision based on the person’s symptoms. Obviously I had neither authority nor qualification to suggest anything, so kept these predictions to myself or proudly said “I told you so!”

Similar experiences

My placement involved working at two prestigious hospitals in London in the cardiac department early this year (2011). During the process of working with and interviewing patients, there were some whom I thought would benefit from doing a thyroid test. I was easily able to identify patients with undiagnosed thyroid disorders which neither the doctors nor the nurses were able to gauge. Similarly, my grandmother who was recently hospitalized with cardiac heart failure had all the lab tests done. She had lost a lot of weight and her heart rate was generally on the higher side. After she was discharged and was allowed back home, I casually had a look at all her reports and noticed that she was sub-clinically hyperthyroid. I do know that elderly people are very sensitive to even the smallest amounts of hormonal changes and since it was a case of slightly excessive thyroid hormone in the body, symptoms like tachycardia and weight loss had manifested. Why hadn’t the doctor asked her to reduce her thyroid dosage that she was already taking? (She was hypothyroid and was on medication for several years). I suggested to others that this was worth a mention to the doctor during her routine appointment. It was done and the doctor realized he had overlooked it and reduced the dosage. Obviously this was not the core and sole reason of her being hospitalized or having heart failure but it could have been a contributing factor.

Many such similar experiences have led me to improve and perfect my knowledge on thyroid disorders. Also observing the poor quality of life a thyroid patient can have in spite of being put on medications has provided me the impetus to come up with ways to help improve it.

My passion for psychology

I’ve always been an instinctive person. I’d like to give it a non-scientific term such as ‘intuitive’. During my very early years (approx. age of 12), I became quite interested in palmistry, numerology and astrology. It was so automatic that I cannot remember what led me to becoming passionate about these subjects. Probably a drive to understand that there is something more powerful beyond us, guiding us or maybe I just wanted to challenge the inner sceptic in me.  Over time and after years of experience, I started to practice professionally. Although it’s more of a hobby, it’s something that’s become a part of me and has helped me understand human nature and motivations with clarity. Being an astrologer as well as having a psychology degree has proved to be a double-edged sword for me. I currently provide astrological consultations and write monthly predictions and compatibility for a magazine in Dubai.

On the academic front, I completed my B.Sc in Psychology after which I decided to switch tracks and hence applied for an M.Sc in Genetics (very random, I know). Out of the two year degree program, I completed one year during which I gained immensely but also realized that Psychology was what I still wanted to do. My interest in the mind-body connection was further strengthened by the knowledge gained during my initial and partially completed Master’s degree. I then applied and got accepted to the M.Sc in Health Psychology program which I completed in September 2011.

Most of my short-term placements and work experience have been in hospitals. Having had experience working in the speech therapy, physiotherapy, and cardiac care departments, I felt health psychology would be something I’d excel at.

Doing my PhD

I’m still formulating my topic. I also do know that many a times what is decided on earlier could evolve into something totally different.

To be able to contribute productively in an area that I’m passionate about is what doing a PhD means to me. Besides the fact that I’ve always enjoyed challenges, completing my doctorate degree would simply tell me that ‘It’s all been worth it’.

I’m still in the proposal phase and am hoping to send in my completed application by early 2012.

Bhavnaa S. completed an MSc in Health Psychology at a UK university and she is in the process of applying to do a PhD.

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Translating the French/English Dialectic

By Dr Lee Elaine Skallerup

Quebec Map

Quebec

I knew what I wanted to write for my PhD dissertation during my last semester as an undergraduate. I was taking a course in Québécois poetry and I was introduced to the poetry of Anne Hébert, along with her fascinating correspondence with her translator Frank Scott. Once I found out there had been other, subsequent translations of her poems into English and other correspondences, I knew that I was going to write about it.

I grew up in the English part of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. While I went a French immersion school, I lived most of the time in English. When it came time to choose a university, I took a more unconventional path, choosing to study professional writing in English at a French university about an hour and a half south-east of Montreal, in the heart of French Quebec. My goal was to eventually become (ideally) a journalist and (at worst) a technical writer. As I went through my program, I found myself (a) drawn to Québécois culture and (b) not at all interested in technical writing.

I decided that I was going to do an MA in Comparative Canadian Literature. This decision led me to take the class in Québécois poetry, to get one of the requirements out of the way. As one of my friends and classmates pointed out, this was funny because poetry and translation were my “worst” subject, not to mention that my MA thesis was on French and English Canadian dystopias. But at the same time, it made perfect sense.

For five years, I lived essentially “in translation.” I was continually translating myself for my friends and the world around me so I could understand it. I was also an oddity; I stepped into the “belly of the beast” just after the 1995 Referendum, when Quebec came a few thousand votes away from becoming its own country. Linguistic tensions were high, and there I was, an Anglophone, at a French university. It was some of the best five years of my life, and I became the person I am because of the experience I had there.

When I read the letters between Scott and Hébert, how Scott sought to bridge what is commonly known as “the two solitudes” of Canada, I knew I had found something I wanted to keep looking into. And, who could read Hébert’s poetry and not be moved by the haunting imagery, the economy of language, and the powerful messages about female oppression and empowerment? My project turned into an archival hunt that took me across the country, over the sea, and it grew larger than I could ever have imagined. The things that connected everyone, dead or alive, was a love of an author and her poetry.

This might not be as odd or improbable as some other stories, but it is perhaps rare that I knew when I was 21 what I was going to spend the next ten years working towards. And, I got there, too.

Dr Lee Elaine Skallerup has been teaching at various universities – from large research institutions to smaller ones aimed at non-traditional and minority students – over the last ten years off the tenure track. She gained her PhD “Found in Translation: The Journey of Anne Hébert’s Poetry (in)to English” in 2007 from University of Alberta, Canada. Her blog College Ready Writing focuses on education, higher education, teaching and starting an education business . You can follow her on Twitter @readywriting.

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PhD: A Mission in Itself

By Suanna H. Davis

I was awarded my PhD in 2000. My major field was Rhetoric and Composition, which is a subset of English, focused on writing theory, practice, and pedagogy.

My dissertation topic [was] a rhetorical examination of the missionary newsletters of the Churches of Christ.
It has been so long ago, that I have no idea when I decided upon the topic. I remember that I was frustrated with the theories presented in my rhetoric courses, which all presupposed the lack of God, something I personally disagreed with and still feel is an issue with many theories. I remember that I wanted to pursue a topic that was experiential, and my other choice was very emotionally traumatic; the death of my chair for that topic allowed me to change the topic without repercussions.

When I began, I was a young (according to Dr. Lauer) PhD candidate in rhetoric and composition at Purdue. Usually graduate students will find a dissertation that combines both of their major fields. My first field was rhetoric and composition and my second field was Old English languages and literature. I was unsuccessful in finding a topic that interested me and combined both Old English and rhetoric. After two promising ideas were exploded because “You won’t be able to research the topic,” I abandoned Old English studies entirely in my quest for dissertation material.  

Instead my background and experience prior to Purdue lead me to my dissertation topic. 

I wrote on the rhetorical construction of missionary newsletters for the Churches of Christ, a small, non-hierarchical group with quite a few missionaries for their size. The Churches of Christ have no missionary organizations and each individual missionary must find an overseeing congregation and raise funds themselves. There is no funnel for would-be missionaries, little help, and limited education in how to write, raise funds, or keep in touch with the congregations. I know a lot about the churches and their structures because I am a lifetime member of the Churches of Christ.

My work experience was one of the reasons I chose my topic. Before graduate school, I spent two years overseas working as a secretary in French-speaking Geneva, Switzerland with the Spanish-speaking church of my denomination. While there, I also translated articles for and typed an international Spanish-language church magazine. My boss was a missionary to the Spanish-speaking immigrants and I was considered a missionary apprentice. While I was in Switzerland, I wrote my own missionary newsletter to supporters and colleagues. Then following my return to the States, while working as a high school teacher and in graduate school, I did some editing work for a missionary newsletter and a missionary magazine. So I had personal experience both as a short-term missionary and working with missionary writing.

My educational experience was also instrumental in choosing the dissertation topic. While I have a BSEd with majors of History and English, an MA in English, and a PhD in English, I also have taken twenty-one graduate school hours in missions-related classes, including six which I took following my first year as a PhD candidate. Both my rhetoric and composition courses and the missions classes helped me to examine and understand the newsletters I was scrutinizing.

Originally I was hoping to see how the missionary newsletters impacted the local congregations, but I found they didn’t. In fact, many members within the congregations did not even know their congregation supported missionaries. This lack of knowledge was so pervasive that at one of the larger congregations, even staff members did not know that the church financially supported missions. 

Because I could not see or show any change in the local congregations based on the newsletters, I had to find a different approach. Because of that, I looked at the genre of newsletters, theories of discourse analysis, genre analysis, and social epistemic rhetoric. I also did an audience analysis and looked at what factors increased the congregations’ awareness of their participation with missions. The audience analysis was useful in practical ways, but not particularly useful for the dissertation. However, the other aspects were sufficient to develop a dissertation from.


My significant involvement with my church and the work of missionaries -not simply my own experience – led me to desire to study the main communication venue (at the time) of missionaries on the field. Obviously most of the factors that went into my decision to study this topic were extra-curricular or at least not related to my graduate degree program. 

Until I finished my PhD in 2000, I had moved about every two years (on average) for my entire life. Because of these moves, I had been a member of over fifteen churches, some with very different views of tradition, dogma, and missions. This allowed me to see that the congregations were different based on beliefs and actions and I categorized churches based on what I knew of them and chose congregations from different categories who were known within the Churches of Christ for supporting missions.

The missionary newsletters I examined were not only from the Churches of Christ and from missionaries who were overseen by supportive congregations. I also chose congregations from the state of Texas, where the Churches of Christ are particularly strong. In addition all of the missionaries whose writing I read were overseen and supported primarily by churches in cities, rather than rural or town populations.

The work was engrossing, especially as at the time I was still considering returning to the mission field myself.

Since I was a homeschooling mother of two when I finished, the work took longer than it should have, twelve years, and I am particularly appreciative of Dr. Lauer’s encouragement and help. When I talk to graduate students now, I recommend finishing the dissertation first. While I wouldn’t trade my husband, whom I married during my coursework at Purdue, or my children, who were born after my coursework was finished and I was in a job which would convert to tenure-track upon the completion of my dissertation, the dissertation is definitely easier to finish if your only commitment is to finishing the dissertation.

 

Suanna H. Davis is an assistant professor at Abilene Christian University where she teaches rhetoric and composition. She gained her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Purdue University (US) in 2000. Her blog Teaching College English focuses on aspects of teaching, but includes her life as a voluntary and then job-hunting adjunct, her  job search, various presentation and publishing sagas, and a more complete biography. You can follow her on Twitter @DrDavisTCE.

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It’s all about the language

by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

My PhD idea came to me after a mugging on a beach in Cambodia.  No, seeing a knife pointed at me didn’t make my life flash before my eyes. The adrenaline didn’t help my brain rush to some shocking new insight.

What changed things was that my passport was stolen. Getting a new copy wasn’t a problem: I had a photocopy and a digital copy saved to my Gmail account. Getting a new visa for China, where I had been teaching English at a university, would prove more difficult. I soon learned that I would have to return to the US and go through the same process I had before to get my visa initially.  It would take more time than was remaining before the start of the semester.

I decided then that my career as an EFL instructor had reached its end and that it was time for me to pursue a PhD. My experience teaching EFL, however, led directly to the project I would propose.

Elizabeth with students

Elizabeth with some of the students of whom teaching shaped her research (Photo submitted by Elizabeth Kate Switaj)

After finishing my MFA [Master of Fine Arts] in Poetics and Creative Writing, I had moved to Japan where I started teaching English at one of the infamous Eikaiwa (English conversation) schools – the one with the evil chicken-beaked pink bunny as a mascot. My experience at the now-bankrupt company was unusually positive: during my first year there, I worked at a small branch with very little supervision and during my second year, I rarely set foot in a branch as I taught in elementary schools through the government contracts program. After I left Japan, I spent about a year in New York teaching English to immigrants in the evening (and writing copy for an online kimono retailer two days out of the week  – but that’s another story). Then, I moved to China where I taught composition, oral English, and movie courses to English majors for three semesters.

Along the way, I continued writing and publishing my poetry. I was checking my email in a (literally) freezing Beijing hostel while on break from the university that I found out that Paper Kite Press was going to publish my first collection. The language of those poems – the language of all my written work – had been deeply influenced by my teaching experience. My understanding of the mechanics of the English language had been refined by having to explain them and by discovering which idiosyncrasies of language produced by my students interfered with communication and which did not. I also found that other poets of my acquaintance who taught the language in which they wrote (many but not all of whom I had met through a monthly open mic in a British pub in Tokyo) could trace similar influences in their writing.

This understanding of how language teaching can shape literary work led me to wonder whether similar connections could be found in the work of earlier authors. And when circumstances convinced me that it was time to return to academia and pursue a PhD, I decided that I wanted to apply this inquiry to the work of James Joyce. Not only did Joyce spend years teaching English to speakers of other languages, but also, his famously unique uses of language made his work seem particularly well-suited to being considered from this angle. Going into the third year of my research, I still think that’s the case, though I’ve also found a related pedagogical streak in his works that goes deeper than I had realized.

Elizabeth Kate Switaj is a PhD candidate at Queen’s University Belfast and an Editorial Assistant for Irish Pages: a Journal of Contemporary Writing. Her first collection of poetry, Magdalene & the Mermaids, was published in 2009 by Paper Kite Press. You can find her creative writing at her website http://www.elizabethkateswitaj.net or follow on her on Twitter at @EKSwitaj

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