Thalassophile: someone who loves the sea.
I love the sea, and swimming, and most things to do with being in or near water. Much like doing a PhD, there are rough days and smooth days, days when the sea looks spectacularly and fascinatingly navigable, others not so much. I’ve never wanted live anywhere else, I’ve never been anything but grateful for living where I live, and again, much like the PhD, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. As the seasons change and I settle down to write my next and final chapter, I’m both excited and sad that being at this stage means being nearer the end than the beginning. But we’re not on dry land yet.
Somehow, I am in my third and final year, the year the money runs out, also known as the Year of the Viva. I wasn’t off much in the summer, and as usual I wrote and studied around the edges of my son’s days (like I am now, in a trampoline park), on play dates, in soft play centres and at home whilst he watched TV. Everyone I know who studies does this, more so when you have other responsibilities, be they kids or work or self-care.
Working between the gaps of the summer meant I was able to get one piece published with The Politics of Representation and another with the journal Androgyny, which is my very first academic piece (meaning peer reviewed). You can read them here. Both came about after meeting people at conferences who thought my work might have a place with them – another reason to go to conferences and present is this one, you just never know. I also had a publisher approach me about a monograph (too soon for me, but nice to be asked), and another paper rejected. Don’t worry if different opportunities come at different times. Everything is a potential, everything you do helps.
This year is all about writing my findings chapter and improving my first two chapters (the lit review and the methodology chapter), with the aim to have a first full draft of the PhD ready for my supervisors to read in May 2020. So, the first thing I did in September was meet with my supervisors to plot a timeline and work out how to achieve this. We decided to pare back everything I’ve been doing, so asides from a little bit of teaching this semester (which I love), and a couple of conferences, all eyes are on the PhD. It feels rather luxurious to have a schedule with nothing but ‘PhD’ written on it.
As I become more immersed in each stage of this chapter I will write more, but before you can write about your findings, you have to analyse your data. The first thing I did was re-listen to all my transcripts, and then re-read them again. This iterative process was essential for me, mostly because it had been over a year since I had conducted the interviews, and refamiliarizing myself was a very necessary activity. My old field notes helped me to remember how I had felt, the weather, the location, all of which are really important for me when I think about my reflexivity. I then started coding my data: I did this by going through the paper copies of the transcripts and highlighting words that jumped out, which at this stage was rather a lot. I then put all this information into a spreadsheet, giving me something that looked a bit like this:
|A||25||Non-binary||Rugby||Family, changing rooms, school.|
|B||47||Trans-woman||Cycling||Role models, policies, clothing|
After completing that spreadsheet, I was then able to put all of these different themes into what Braun and Clarke call ‘theme piles.’ What I’m doing here, of course, is thematic analysis – and I found their article fundamental to helping me to follow the steps of using thematic analysis in qualitative research. Now that I have my theme piles, I am beginning to draw up a picture of what it is my findings are saying. I also – very unlike me to get creative – used a big piece of paper and created a sort of weird spider diagram/mind map, and I found it surprisingly helpful to see the themes in one place. But that’s not everything, of course, and what I have done here is an incredibly simplistic, watered down version of what data analysis is. And I probably haven’t finished. And it might be a bit wrong, but it’s a start. You may do this differently, and don’t forget you’ll be reading relevant texts and articles to help you decide the best analysis tool for you.
What should also be happening alongside this process is remembering what your research question is, and what the questions are you wanted to answer, and what was in the literature review. As my lead supervisor Dr Hannah Frith said – check to see if any of these themes help to answer your research question, because if they don’t, they have no place here.
And here’s where reading other people’s PhD’s is really helpful – or particular bits of people’s PhD’s, so that you can get a sense of what the findings chapter sort of looks like. For me, at this stage, I’m working on describing my themes and thinking about what bigger key theme pile they belong to (and if they answer my question). Pat Thomson offers some fantastic advice here. I have no idea yet about the chapter structure, this will come I believe with the writing. Will I present all of my findings and then discuss them, or will I combine them in a chapter which includes a wider theoretical discussion of the issues. What will I conclude? Where will I conclude it?
One thing I do know is that I am keener than ever to get writing, because this chapter is going to bring everything together and hopefully offer some meaningful, surprising and helpful recommendations about what it means for trans and non-binary people to participate in everyday sport and physical exercise. And that is why I love this research so much, for the spectacular and fascinating stories I will be able to share with you.
The Conversation, March 2019
‘Hostility to elite trans athletes is having a negative impact on participation in everyday sport’
This article would not exist were it not for the generosity of the people who spoke to me about their experiences. Thank you, you know who you are.
The Politics of Representation Collective, August 2019
‘The Embodied Researcher & the Disembodied Participant: Navigating Telephone Interviews with Trans &/or Non-Binary People’