Tag Archives: Annika

My last post ‘ No future for you, no future for me, no future for someone with a PhD? seemed to strike a chord with quite a few people as I received my greatest number of hits on a single post thus far. I think the inner sadness must have really come through in my writing style because my family had a little intervention meeting to check up on my mental health and other people have written me encouraging messages! However, although this was coming from a particular level of emotion, we can all feel happy, sad, optimistic and pessimistic all at the same time and this pessimism is not my constant persona. Rather I am quite an optimistic sort. Therefore I will write in the near future about strategies for looking for jobs outside academia as well as ways in which we can build our CVs to appeal to other sorts of employers – utilising some advice I have received from people in this hour of need, so thanks kind people!

My optimism has also come back because yesterday I had my annual review with my supervisors. I was quite surprised that many fellow students and their supervisors seem to be taking it as a bit of a tick box exercise, whereas me and my supervisors are ‘good girls’ as well like to think of ourselves and we like to obey all the proper rules and regulations and guidelines. So my reflective statement was properly reflective and very useful for me and my team so they could see inside my mind. Also, I reckon if I suggested it, we could have had a group hug because we are all enjoying being together in our meetings and learning from each other.

However, thoughts about group hugs aside, we were also in a very firm military mood and we planned out my timetable for completion. They are very keen for me to finish on time and will not even let me think about going over. Although I kind of want to go over just a tiny bit so I can carry on getting cheap travel with my railcard…. but I better not think like that or I will get told off.

So in the words of one supervisor, the next few months are a military operation as I am a little pushed for time given my current stage. The only long break I am allowed is two weeks off at Christmas and when I submit something for feedback I am not allowed to relax whilst they take a week to read it and we meet up. Nope, I have to get right on with the next task. It’s going to be back to back chapter after chapter.

I am however ordered to have scheduled leisure and mini-treats, for example, if I complete a really good piece of work one morning, I am allowed to have the afternoon off for example, and I do have two very short trips planned. Most extra-academic related things are off though. I am not allowed to attend long conferences, present at conferences unless its a presentation I have done before and I have only done one so this won’t happen, but basically I have no time to plan or practice new ones, and finally writing papers is definitely off the cards for now.

This is a bit of a relief actually because as my last post suggests, I have been so concerned about the future and being ’employable’, REFable’  and able to compete with others who are perhaps more driven and career minded and quicker at doing their work, that  that I’ve been neglecting the present. However now it is confirmed that for now that all these extra things that make you REFable and have ‘impact’ or what not,  is not even a possibility right now and that news feels great!

We will however create a publication plan at the end of my project, so publications are still going to be written and I will probably aim to present at the SRHE in 2016 or BSA in 2017 after I submit (yay!). Also, since I will be unemployed, I will have ample time for these activities 😉

So this is it. The proper pressure and relentless work starts now! I am looking forward to it actually. I respond well to drill masters, orders, punishments and little rewards. With no pressure to think too far ahead and about other things I can focus on my lovely exciting research project instead and cross the ‘career panic’ bridge later.

So here is my timetable if you are interested:


Variety is not the spice of life...

Variety is not the spice of life…

(c) Annika Coughlin 2015

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Last week I interviewed my supervisor for a promotional video to be used on the department’s webpage. She then interviewed me back about my PhD topic.

The last time I properly saw myself on camera not messing about and therefore in ‘natural’ mode was when I worked in a department store and had to watch a playback of CCTV footage when I was involved in catching a credit card fraudster (rather fun – the perpetrator said she had no idea that I knew she was a crook, so I felt rather smug about my acting skills). But watching that back was horrid, not because of the terrible crime (and by the way, it was sooo obvious the credit card was fake, Natwest does not use comic sans as their logo font), but because you get to see your mannerisms that you never actually see. But thankfully you don’t get to hear your voice. However, this interview I will have to see my horrid mannerisms and hear my voice when it gets published.

I don’t think I came across very relaxed in the interview, I stumbled a bit and my supervisor didn’t ask a question I had rehearsed a hilarious answer to – this was meant to be my moment where people gasp at how witty and natural I am on camera. However, I really did enjoy talking about my work and it is good to have the opportunity to practice speaking about it. So in this post, I will recreate the interview in an idealised form – including all the wonderful witty and intelligent things I wanted to say. You might like to try it yourself – it is good to practice being interviewed for when  you are famous.

Instagram: Interview TV set design


Supervisor: So Annika, you are one of our new PhD students in the department. What is the topic of your PhD/thesis

Annika: I am using the 1958 British Birth Cohort study to look at people’s educational ‘careers’ through the lifecourse. I am particularly interested in looking at patterns of participation in Higher Education over the lifecourse. What types of people went onto Higher Education and when did they go. For this cohort, attending University at a young age was quite rare. When they were 18 in the mid 1970s only around 8% of the whole UK population would have attended and of this 8% most would have been middle class young males who went to grammar school. I am interested in the outliers – those who studied at a higher level, but were never expected to at childhood as well as those who were expected to go to university young, but didn’t.

Supervisor:  What appealed to you about using the 1958 cohort study as a key source of evidence for your  thesis

Annika: This group of ‘baby boomers’ are very interesting in terms of educational reforms. They were one of the first groups to have to stay on in school as the school-leaving age was raised from 15 to 16 in 1974. They were also caught up in the shift from selective schooling system (the 11+ tripartite system) to comprehensivisation. Then in terms of Higher Education, as older adults they would have been able to take advantage of various reforms in HE, particularly in the 1990s when polytechnics became universities.

In terms of the actual data, the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study (also known as the NCDS), has a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data. So you have the very large sample of around 17,000 at the beginning of the study where you can look at childhood test scores, parental aspirations, teacher’s aspirations an ‘imagine you are 25 essay’ the children wrote when they were 11 and most importantly for me, the 220 life history interviews conducted at age 50. I am experimenting with mixed methods, so this dataset is ideal.

Supervisor: Are there advantages or disadvantages of the sample all being born in a single week in 1958?

Annika: To investigate a topic using people all of the same age is very interesting because you are controlling for age and generational effects – everyone in the sample would have experienced the same societal changes. They would have been brought up with similar attitudes and expectations around education, gender roles and employment. Of course this will differ according to social class, region and of course they are all still individuals with agency and different life experiences – but I like the fact that they would have all been brought up in the same era.

In terms of disadvantages, [note: hilarious joke coming up] I can’t see any just yet – however, I was reading one of the lifehistory interviews and one cohort member pointed out that since they were all born in the same week, they would all have the same starsign – Pisces I think – so therefore the data and their destinies may be influenced by that, so that is something to bear in mind and may skew the data! (filming has to stop as we all, including the filming crew, burst into laughter).

Supervisor: What are the advantages of using existing data in your PhD research? – are there any disadvantages?

Annika: Well, the disadvantages of using interview data someone else has designed and collected is that you do not get to ask the participants direct questions about your topic of interest. You can get frustrated because the interviewer doesn’t probe where you might have. However, I actually find this a very interesting challenge methodologically – how they talk about education spontaneously without being probed is interesting for me in itself and lends itself well to narrative analysis. A big advantage is that I have access to a very large dataset. Ranging from 11,000 to 17,000 depending on what sweep I am using and then the 220 life history interviews – which is a very large sample for qualitative research.

Supervisor: What a wonderful topic and a fabulous interview. The best I have ever heard!

Annika: Yes, I know. Thank-you.


(c) 2014 Annika Coughlin

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