This page contains a summary of 2012, my first year of the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) research project. I am writing it retrospectively, given that I only started the blog at the end of 2012. However, in attempting a summary of the year I’m hoping to provide a bit of context for the rest of my writings.

At the time I started the degree, February 2012, I had just moved to Sydney from interstate, and my daughter had been married (also interstate) in January. Joining my husband, and leaving behind our parents, kids and most of our siblings (who, I must say, are all grown up and perfectly capable of managing without us), I had launched into a new ’empty-nester’ phase of my life after a 16-month long period of living between the two states and a total of five different households.

It was a big start to the year.

From the perspective of year’s end, I can now safely say that the most difficult thing I’ve achieved was getting through the enrollment process. By that, I don’t mean that the year has been a breeze; I mean that I found enrollment day confusing and at times overwhelming. I thought I was reasonably bright…enrollment challenged that assumption. I managed to make my way through the relevant steps in the process, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I rang a couple of days later to clarify the process for choosing Actual Units of Study (the required number of which was still a little unclear to me) that I discovered – whoops – I had missed that step on enrollment day.

Some weeks later, having sorted out the question of how many Units I would do and what they would be, I was safely enrolled in ‘Practice Theory Development’ and ‘Independent Study and Report’. The latter didn’t involve any class time and I was able to use it to work on my Literature Review, which was an excellent way to get myself into the swing of study again, whilst also producing a piece of work that would be directly relevant to my research.

It turned out that my part-time status only really required one Unit of Study per semester, but by the time I figured that out I was off and running, so I hung in there and am very glad I did, as I am now a semester ahead of my planned timeline. A good feeling, indeed.

Semester 2 involved a ‘Social Research’ unit, and again I found this unit very valuable not only as a solid grounding in theory and methodology, but also (through the assignments) as a means to produce written work that will contribute to my research proposal.

Meanwhile…reading, reading, reading. It took quite some weeks to be able to filter and focus effectively.* After the first couple of weeks I was convinced no-one had ever written anything relevant to my topic, and I was spending time reading studies that were only very tenuously connected. Then, for some reason that I’ve forgotten, I looked in a nursing rather than social work database and voila! suddenly I was gasping for breath under an avalanche of information. Looking back, I don’t think I could have avoided this process; there seems to be a period of swimming around in the ocean (to mix up my metaphors) before you find your way to the right pond…or, potentially, puddle, depending on how obscure your research is, I guess.

The other class time in 2012 was a year-long workshop series entitled ‘Thesis Proposal Writing Workshop’. This series was optional and involved no assessment, but I am very glad I went along – the content and teaching were excellent, and it was a fabulous opportunity to meet other students doing education or social work higher degrees (mostly PhDs, some DSWs, M.Phils and EdDs). The interaction, both intellectually and socially, made an enormous difference to how engaged I felt (at many levels). Out of this group has emerged a study group of eight students – six education, two social work – who meet regularly and present updates on our research, alert each other to useful resources, and generally enjoy each others’ company. A certain amount of empty carbohydrate is also consumed. We have vastly different research topics, not to mention professional and personal backgrounds, but it’s turning out to be a vibrant and very supportive group.

So, in short, 2012 has been an exciting year. I do feel a little like Pollyanna, gazing around in delighted wonderment at my surroundings, but I really have had an incredibly positive start. In addition to academic content that I’ve found both challenging and stimulating, the teaching staff have all been extremely friendly and encouraging. I’m feeling confident that my supervisors are exactly the right match for my proposed research (and for my personal approach to study) and, to use one of my son’s favourite phrases, “it’s all good!

* ‘Filter and Focus’ has become my mantra.

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