milestones and millstones – my 500th post

500 posts. It feels like a bit of a milestone. I’m not sure why, as it’s not one that I’d set for myself when I started this blog in July 2011. I didn’t start to blog with my sights firmly on doing 500 posts.

I’m possibly not the only blogger who didn’t have much idea where I was going with my blog, even though I did have a sense of what I wanted to do, why and who my readers were. I certainly didn’t project myself forward some four and a half years and think – my goal is to reach 500 posts. Why 500 anyway? There is no particular logic or magic about this number. Yet now I’m here, it does feel like somewhere.

cromer_nine_milesAs I was thinking about all things 500, I realised that a milestone maybe isn’t the best way to think about where I now am, blogwise. Milestones mainly seem to tell you how far you are from your destination, or how far it is back to where you came from. Neither of these versions of a milestone actually describe my satisfaction in actually being somewhere in the middle, sitting on 50o posts,  quite some way on from when and where I started out.

As I was reflecting on the ways in which milestones might create a sense of not being there yet, I recalled the ways in which milestones are set for the PhD. You do some kind of hurdle-jumping paper ,with viva, in the first year. Then, there’s more. Get your ethics approval done. Finish your field work. Complete your data analysis. Hand in your first full thesis draft. Submit  the examination copy. Sit for your exam. These are the common institutional milestones that mark progress. They are audited and ticked off as signs that the PhD is ‘on track’ to the institutionally approved destination, namely, timely completion. Unfortunately, these pre- set milestones often become heavy millstones, weighing doctoral researchers down with hefty expectations and dreads. (Occasionally I feel like this about setting myself the task of posting twice a week.)

But, I wondered, are there other non-institutionally imposed points where doctoral researchers feel they’ve reached an important point? Maybe these are different for different people and projects? Maybe, like my 500th post, there isn’t much rhyme or reason to them, they just feel significant. And if that’s the case, how do we encourage PhDers to celebrate their personally important points, and make them public, share their sense of having got somewhere?

A350_MilestoneIn reality we don’t encourage much celebration in the PhD at all. It’s totally about the final exam and graduation and not a lot else. Achievements during the PhD are ticked off generally because they are on the annual report. Other personal “I’m here and its important” pauses on the lines of doctoral learning are simply privatised.

One of the good things about social media of course is that it can be a place where those under-recognised individual achievements can be made public and celebrated. #Acwri or on #getthatpaperout for instance provide ways to share significant gains and important doings with others. Liking and answering the “whee look what I’ve done” tweets not only  demonstrates community acknowledgment of personal triumphs, but perhaps even  shared pleasure in peers having got somewhere. It seems a pity we can’t engage in that kind of collective PhD joy more, and more often, in our institutions.

But hey, these are just idle thoughts… I’ve got more blogging to do. …so without setting myself anything that might turn into a milestone/millstone…

Oh, I have done 500 posts, and I can/may do many more…

Da lat da (Da lat da), da lat da (Da lat da)

Da-da-da dun-diddle un-diddle un-diddle uh da-da

Da lat da (Da lat da), da lat da (Da lat da)

Da-da-da dun-diddle un-diddle un-diddle uh da-da.


About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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5 Responses to milestones and millstones – my 500th post

  1. Business academic says:

    Thanks for that. Here I am singing in my office [da lat da] trying to work out if I can recognize the rhythm. It is most likely that I will shortly be committed…


  2. Anne Stoppok says:

    I truly enjoyed reading your post and do agree that small achievements/milestones deserve more recognition. Obviously, it depends on the personal importance you put on the achievement and on the energy you needed to fulfill the task. Ticking off is a start to the feeling of joy and relief. Seeing fellow researchers and/or your supervisor sharing these feelings show acknowledgement which can be an incredible source of motivation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and congratulation on your 500th post!!


  3. Jane says:

    Made me smile! As a working academic and part-time PhD student that blog post is something I identify with. Great to hear that even experienced academics appreciate how we are feeling…thank you.


  4. Jane S says:

    This made me smile, too, Pat ~ this post and your previous ‘Welcome to the archive of lost literatures papers’ (sounds like it could be the title for a novel!)
    As to 500 blogposts, I admire your fortitude. I found posting twice a month too onerous, and cut it down. AND had a break for three months or so, when I’d reached 5 years (having begun in the summer of 2010). Now, it’s as and when, really.
    However, blogging’s useful for a doctoral researcher. I read back to 2010, and found lots of things I’d forgotten about, e.g., the intimidating prospect of the mountain to be climbed, and how scary it was. But much of what looked like an assault on Everest sort of fell into place. The system itself tends to take care of the hapless student.
    And now? The view’s great. *Hopefully* it’s now all downhill to submission.
    Fingers X’d ~ although I don’t rule out odd periods of stop-start-stop …

    PS to ‘business academic’ ~ the tune’s The Proclaimers’ ‘500 miles.’ Don’t let it into your head, you’ll never be rid of it! 🙂


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