The first six months of a PhD

I’m almost halfway through the first year of a projected three-year PhD. The subject of my research is museums in the UK that have closed since 1960. I’ll be looking at why they closed and how those museums were valued by staff, visitors, and other interested parties.

The first part of a PhD is usually a literature review, which involves reading as much as possible that’s relevant to what I’m studying, and I’m in the thick of that at the moment. So far I’ve looked at around 90 books, articles, reports, and other publications. I make notes on what I read, and then write drafts to summarise the topics and questions that come up. That’s resulted in writing over 50,000 words of notes and drafts since October. Eventually, what I write at this stage will probably get boiled down into a chapter of the final PhD thesis.

My work takes me to quite a few libraries. I’m based at Birkbeck, and I’ve also spent time in the libraries at nearby Senate House and SOAS, as well as the British Library and the rather beautiful National Art Library at the V&A. But mini-libraries can also develop on your desk while you work. Here’s a glimpse of what’s on my desk at the moment.

A pile of academic books and papers on a desk