Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Slough of Despond

When I did my Masters, I was the LAST - and only - master's by thesis student.

While I am pretty good at getting on with things, and my planning skills are well-honed (better be, being a management lecturer!), I fell into two "Slough[s] of Despond" (Alcott, 1869, p. 11) while studying.

The first slough arrived when I was transcribing my data in semester 3 of my Masters. I (a) hadn't applied in my Ethics application to use an outside transcription service, (b) I wasn't sure I could afford to pay someone to transcribe all that data, and (c) I would have to proof it all very carefully anyway, because others wouldn't 'hear' correctly unless they were intimately acquainted with the materials.

Boy, was I wrong in not adding transcription services to my ethics application. I lost the will to live for six months. I found it took me one minute to correctly transcribe each second of recording. 

I had fourteen hours of recordings.

Sixty seconds in each minute, so 3600 seconds per hour, which means 50,400 seconds to transcribe. That's 50,400 minutes or 840 hours of my time spent in transcription. Six months of work.

I had estimated it would take two months. ARGH! See what I mean in losing the will to live?

Hot on the heels of my first slough, my second slough arrived in my last semester. My supervisor transferred to another Uni, so could no longer supervise me. I got passed, like a parcel, to another supervisor. The new supervisor was good, and I did already have a brief acquaintanceship with them.

But I had lost eighteen months worth of relationship-building, and I found that very unsettling.

Not ideal, especially in the build-up to my thesis submission.

As a result, my poorest area of my thesis was my findings section (understandably).

So I will be putting more support around myself for my PhD process. Keep tuned to hear what that will be!


  • Alcott, Louisa May (1869). Little Women: or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (Fourth Edition, 1915). USA: Orchard House (p. 11)  
  • ProvLib (n.d.) Alcott Mid-Twenties 1858. Retrieved 26 September 2015 from

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