Academic life has many highs and lows.
For the past few weeks I’ve been knee-deep in marking across
several different modules as I struggle to make myself more ‘employable’ as an
academic, while trying to earn enough money to keep a roof over my head. In the
last two weeks I have fought my way through:
- 80 x 1,500-word essays in Marketing 101
- 12 x 1,500-word essays in English 100
- 146 exam papers of 500–1,000 words in Marketing
All in all, this comes in at around 211,000 words – or two
On 1st October 2016, I packed everything into my car and headed
off to Lancaster to start on a PhD in English Literature. Now, three years and
80,000 words later, on 1st October 2019, I’m handing in my thesis ready to
start on the next phase of my academic adventure.
It’s 8:21am. I’ve been sitting at my desk now since a little
after 6am, working feverishly on amendments to a journal article while also
planning out thesis amendments, my next blog series, and ideas for the In The Zone podcast. I’m also
trying to sort out my work situation for next year and scour the internet for
somewhere to live. Oh, and I’m
also organising a conference.
Just another day in the life of an academic hermit!
But it’s not all bad. The end is now well and truly in
sight. I’ve met my second supervisor and updated my thesis with his
suggestions, and now all that remains is to check that he is happy with my
changes and cut out about 400 words to bring my total under the 80,000 word
maximum required by my department. Though 400 words may not sound like a lot, this
will still take quite a lot of work as I’ve already honed down a lot of my
content to the bare minimum wordage where possible.
This may be hard to believe, but the main challenge with a
humanities thesis is not reaching the word-count, but cutting down your content
to fit within the maximum limit. Nearly there though, and not too long to go
until I submit!
Everywhere you look these days, people are ‘working hard’ on
social media, telling us about their lives, their jobs, their children and all
the many things they do to fill up their time. And when they’re not working
hard, they’re spending their time telling us about how hard they’re working, or
how much they’ve deserved the break they’ve given themselves from all the hard
But what really is work, and why do we do it? Is there even
such a thing as working too hard?
I can’t say that I have all of the answers at this point,
but I do have several thoughts…
Way back in 2013, I was invited to write a review
of the online grammar checker, Grammarly. I was paid by Grammarly directly to
write this blog, with the only requirement being that I had to open with the
phrase ‘I use Grammarly’s free online grammar check because…’ At the time, I
found Grammarly to be a fairly useful tool, though I did raise several concerns
including the academic implications of plagiarism checkers, and the danger of Grammarly
becoming a crutch for weaker writers.
Now, six years on, I find cause to revisit my original
review of Grammarly, and reiterate many of my original concerns as Grammarly continues
to expand its reach.