I spent most of the first half of this year working up to my PhD confirmation presentation which happened this month. I'm waiting for the bit of paper to say I'm official, and can proceed with my PhD. The process of getting the proposal in order was challenging not only because I had to keep it exactly to 20 pages, but also because I had to become very clear about what it is I will be doing for the next few years. None of this is unique to me I know, and it did force me to do some thinking around the dreaded ontology and epistemology. I discovered that I have been a closet social constructionist (a favourite book here is Michael Crotty, The Foundations of Social Research*). That discovery made finishing the proposal a lot easier, and some things fell into place in terms of how I see the world and my work.
Why I'm designing my work around people in my strategic foresight practice, for example, became clear - people create the future, not systems or structures or trends. Why I am going to surface the integral 4 quadrants in my work became clear - those systems and structures and trends matter little if we don't understand the nature of diverse worldviews surrounding the future. I have been trying to find a way to include integral in my PhD, but that hasn't worked out yet. I'll keep trying. And perhaps importantly, the process reminded me that I love doing deep dives on topics and writing about what I'm finding in a way that makes sense academically and professionally.
I know that the whole process will shift and change as I start collecting and analysing data, and I know that it's not going to be a straight line to the finish. At least I feel like I'm underway now, and that is a nice feeling.
*Crotty, M 1998, The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and perspective in the research process, St Leonards, Allen & Unwin.