The 31st of January 2018 marked the halfway point of my PhD. My PhD involves the development and validation of a bespoke strength and power diagnostic system for Irish Olympic and Paralympic athletes for use in injury prevention, rehabilitation, and enhancing athletic welfare and performance.
Two years down and two years to go until I hand in my thesis, marking the end of the whole PhD journey (fingers crossed!). The first two years have flown by. I thought back then I would never make it to this point and now the thought that I’ve only got that amount of time left to complete everything I want and write it up has me feeling slightly anxious. At this halfway point, I think it’s important to reflect on the progress I have made and the steps I have taken to conduct my research, organise my work and drive my project forward. This reflection has allowed me to outline some of the central aspects of my project, which is helping me get an overview of the project and help with the planning of the next two years.
Reflecting on Progress
The first part of this reflection involved detailing what I have achieved so far. Some of the key achievements include; a narrative review paper I have written that is currently under review, after returning for the second time with minor revisions. The publication process for this paper has been a challenging one, with the paper under review for a year, but it has been a big learning curve and we are hoping to have it accepted in the coming months. I completed a reliability study and this has been written up and accepted for publication in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found Here . I presented a portion of this study at the International Society of Biomechanics in Sport (ISBS) conference in Cologne, Germany in June 2017 “Comparison of the reliability of peak force measured during an isometric mid-thigh pull and isometric squat” and acquired my first experience of presenting at a conference. I spent some time in Edith Cowen University, Perth with Dr. Greg Haff and his research team, learning some new techniques and helping with some of their projects. I have collected a major portion of my data for my next studies and I am close to starting to analyse two data sets.
Reflecting on Challenges
I’ve also reflected on some of the challenges I’ve faced. Overall, I feel I’ve been very lucky in the process so far as the biggest problem I have faced is recruitment of participants. As I struggled with the number of participants needed, it resulted in missing deadlines I had set. At the time, this was extremely frustrating, and resulted in some “second year blues”. I found not being able to recruit and complete the study at the pace I was planning and not achieving targets I had set for myself quite disappointing. At times I even questioned what I was doing. I still have to decide on the route of the next study, which will be driven by the results from the previous study. Not knowing the exact route I will be taking is challenging, but it is all part of the process of answering questions step by step.
Reflecting on Learning
As I reflect on what I’ve achieved so far, I realise I’ve learned so much and sometimes that’s been when everything has gone wrong. I’ve developed many new techniques, my writing has improved and I have gained a good grasp of my weakest link – statistics! The regular meetings with my supervisors have played a key role in getting work done and pushing the project forward and I am very lucky to have these supportive supervisors with excellent lines of communication. I’ve enjoyed the journey so far – the highs and the lows. Discovering novel results, publishing my first paper, understanding the publication process, attending and presenting at my first conference and making connections with some leaders in my field have been the highlights so far. Looking back at the past two years and knowing what still needs to be done, I do find it hard to tell if I’m on schedule, but I can say for certain that it has been a rewarding learning experience so far. So here’s to another two years of blood, sweat, tears and laughter on this PhD adventure.
Claire Brady is a PhD researcher in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. Her research interests include strength & conditioning, sports performance, biomechanics, anatomy & physiology. You can contact Claire by email firstname.lastname@example.org follow Claire on Twitter or view her profile on Research Gate or ORCID