My PhD project explores Turkey’s contemporary geopolitical imagination through ontological security theory. Specifically, my PhD will explore how ontological security and critical geopolitical thought interacts to explain how Turkey’s geopolitical advances overseas serve to uphold state identities and fantasies.
Route into PhD
Prior to my PhD, I studied both my undergraduate and master’s degrees at Loughborough University. The former titled BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations in which I achieved a First, and the latter titled MA Security in which I achieved a Distinction.
Differences between undegraduate degree to PhD?
Postgraduate study is far more independent than undergraduate level, which is a positive aspect! At postgraduate level, you are already equipped with the skills needed to expand your academic portfolio and studying at postgrad level enables you to develop these skills to a much higher standard. Therefore, the flexibility of designing and carrying out your research is an exciting prospect.
Paradoxically, I found the leap from final year to master’s level much easier than the yearly progression throughout my undergraduate degree, as I had consolidated my areas of interest and was able to submit coursework and my thesis on areas that I am passionate about. Fast-forward to my PhD and I am researching theories that I resonate with academically and studying a case that is fascinating to me as opposed to perhaps selecting a coursework question you have the most knowledge of at undergraduate level
Daily life of a PhD student
A day in the life of a PhD student entails waking with a strong cup of tea or coffee whilst checking emails or scrolling through news articles to kick my brain into action. After this, I like to begin reading literature relevant to my research as I am most engaged in the morning, before rewarding myself with a tasty lunch. Following this, I reflect on the reading, often creating a mind map or adding to existing ones to further develop my PhD’s conceptual framework as this is what I am working on presently. I then grab my laptop and continue to write my literature review which is currently focussed on the theories I am lending on for my research – I typically spend around three hours of my afternoon doing this.
Finally, I round my day to a close by scouring the internet for material close to my empirical case, that being Turkey’s geopolitics particularly in the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden and compile any relevant data into a spreadsheet for reflection over the coming months. At around 6 pm, I finish my PhD work for the day and unwind by making dinner. The rest of my evening usually results in watching a series or seeing friends. It is important to remind yourself that PhD study needs balance, therefore ‘me time’ is necessary.
Support and experience of the uni and department
Support within the School of Social Sciences and Humanities is plentiful at Loughborough University from help with getting started with your PhD project, to mental health support, to help with funding and how to source funding and creating a sense of community for PhD students especially with current restrictions concerning COVID-19. There are weekly opportunities to get involved with, particularly the useful Seminar Series that covers topics relevant to PhD students i.e. Literature Review, Mendeley, Interdisciplinary Research etc.
Most support, however, comes from my primary and secondary supervisors who have been great in providing guidance and inspiration thus far. I currently have fortnightly meetings to discuss my research development and opportunities for further progress which has been extremely beneficial for structuring my weeks and monitoring progress.
Advice for future researchers
My advice for a future PhD student would be that balance is key – in order to make good progress and feel confident with your project, you need to schedule ‘me time’. PhD study is not a 24/7 job and having some time away from your project sometimes yields the best results as your reflection is much stronger.
Pick a topic you are passionate about and truly interested in as this is a three-year commitment. The time will pass quickly, but the days can feel repetitive and tedious if you are studying a topic that has little interest or value to you.