Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Exploratory Journey During My Education Years (2)

This is the second part: When I began my PhD research, at the outset, I supposed I am going to be an information technologist. However, after three years I felt that I was a social scientist rather than a technologist! The main focus of my study transformed gradually. My focal view changed in two directions. First of all my perception about what I need to do in my PhD was changed and secondly my viewpoints about the nature of PhD was reformed as well. In terms of my perception about the nature of PhD I passed through a long way. At the early days of my study, just like many other new research students, I neither had a clear idea about the specific theme of my research nor about the nature of PhD. I spent some time to discover more about these two issues. In fact, while I was trying to design my research project I found out more about the real meaning of PhD as a process of learning. Now I can look back and see how my perception has been transformed towards a more productive way. When I managed to define my research scope, I started looking at my research in a different way. Over the second year I looked at it as an “exploratory journey”. It was a journey because I was moving from the initial stages towards new arenas. Moreover, it was exploratory because I have arrived at new areas and found new directions that I had no idea about them at the beginning. In the third year of my study I had a new vision. I imagined my PhD study as a process of drawing a “small picture” in a “big painting”. I believe each PhD student needs to draw a picture which can be fitted into a big drawing of his/her research field. The big painting consists of many tiny pictures which are interwoven together. Nevertheless, each tiny picture possesses the main features and elements of the whole big painting.
The process of drawing happens during the years of PhD research. At the beginning you need to find the best painting which suits your interests. However, it is not easy at all because the big painting is vague and conceptual. It gradually becomes clear just in your mind and only after carrying out a comprehensive literature review. Discovering the big pictures never happens over a night and requires some time. The time that you require to spend to discover it depends on many factors including your commitment to review the literature systematically and constantly, the nature of your field, and etc. In the next stage you need to locate a good gap somewhere in the big image. Then you have to carefully follow the style, colours, dimensions and other features of the big drawing. Eventually, your small picture will be integrated to the big painting. In fact, at the end your picture not only nicely fills the gap but also should make new space for the future people to draw new pictures. Now when I look back the way that I have passed I can see the main milestones of my journey. I am sure this is not the end of the journey and over the next years I will probably find new routes but I still do not know what these new routes might look like. I have to move on and find out.