Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Ph...what?

I was walking back home this evening after going to a bistro for a hot chocolate to read a couple of journal articles (how middle class am I?) and I thought to myself how hard it is to fully explain to people what it is you actually do. I realised that I am getting into that classic situation.

Do you remember when you where are at school and people would ask you, what is it your parents do? You would start with your mother, no idea why that is, but you always did. You would articulate your mothers profession informatively along with some elegancy and ease. 'Oh my mother works as a hotel manager, blah blah blah'. Then you would move on to your father. You try to start your sentence and then are mentally blocked. You suddenly come to that realisation that you actually dont fully remember or know what your father does. You know vaguely. You know roughly, but dont know.'Oh he's a civil engineer, he...constructs...stuff'. So I thought I would spend some time explaining to people exactly what it is I am doing with my life. I apologise in advance if it's slight condescending for those who already have a grasp, but now I have been here three weeks, just like starting any job, you start to get a good indication of what it is your job entails and how it matched up to that job description you once saw and applied for. I also apologies for the butchering and violence of the specifics. They may well be technically inaccurate or entirely incorrect. So here goes:

What is a PhD?

I have started was is known as a Doctor of Philosophy (abbreviated to PhD) Wikipedia (reliable source that it is) states it comes Latin philosophiae doctor, meaning "teacher in philosophy". The essential idea is you research in a particular field of study with the intention to produce a piece of research which adds to that particular existing field of study.

Where is your PhD?

I am doing my PhD at the University of Alberta in Canada. The university is in the city of Edmonton. Its in the province of Alberta. Its on the west side of Canada and its the English speaking side, not the french (of those who always ask). Within the university I work within the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation.(Phys Ed & Rec). More specifically I am apart of the Research Management Group (approx 8-10 of us) looking at Sport Management.

What is Sport Management?

At this point people always misconceive the term 'sport management'. So I shall clarify and define it. Firstly let me tell you what sports management its not. IT IS NOT SPORTS COACHING. Sports coaching is sports coaching! Nor is it just 'WORKING IN A GYM'(although you could do that if you so wish). These are all common responses to when I say 'I study sports management'. Instead, I like to best explain sports management as the study of business and management but with an interest or application to sport. So for example rather than illustrating with mainstream companies such as Mircosoft and Virgin, Sports managers might look at Wimbledon, Nike etc. We apply business theory and business principles to the setting of sport.

Why are you doing a PhD?

The common question I was asked before I started was 'so your doing a phd..[pause] with the intention of doing what?'. What does I PhD lead to? Well, the natural path (if you will) is into academia. Lecturing, researching or consulting at university or specific organisations (or usually some combination of the above). At this point I accept that I dont fully know where I intend to go with my PhD, but I must stress that I dont think that not knowing is a bad thing. In fact I have followed my life all the way to canada on the same premise that you dont have you know what you want to do and if that is the case, do what you enjoy. Do what gets you up in the morning. Do what intrigues, interests and ingages you. Something pushes buttons for you. If you find something that does, give it a ago. If you find it doesnt anymore or you find something else that does it better. Go do that something else. Life is too short and too awesome not to follow your ideas and do what you want to do. I accept that people should work hard and that you should earn your way. But, if your going to do something day in day out, make sure it makes you happy. For me, this makes me happy and I havent found anything that makes me happier, but fully accept that maybe, just maybe something else does. I just dont know it yet. So if I go do something completely different after four years, after this phd. So what. So be it. If plumming suddenly becomes my new fixation, then wicked. For me, as you may deduce studying is about learning and gain knowledge. It's quite an internal thing for me. Its about betterment. Its not bourlesque, showy and in your face. Its about the intelligent intricacies of life (I accept that is entirely my own opinion-and not that of most).

What is the processes of your PhD?

Along with the epic task of adminstratively soughting out my life in canada over the past three weeks, I have also sought to work out exactly what it is I shall be doing here. The main aim, as I mentioned at the beginning is to produce a big research project that is original (otherwise known as a thesis). This is the main reason for carrying out a PhD. Now if I was in England, a PhD would last thre years, you would be pretty much thrown into that specific research project and you would just get on with it. Canada, amongst other countries, does things differently.Personally, despite being longer and seemingly tedious, I think it does it better in terms of personal development. They take four years. With this typical format: from what I currently gather your proposals (document of what you fully intend to do) are usually produced in your 2nd-3rd year. After which you take a 'candidacy exam'. This isn't an exam, in the traditional sense. But rather you have a 'candidacy committee'. These consist of your supervisor and a selection of two other academics of your choosing which have expertises in your particular field. You then defend and justify your proposal. If (and hopefully when) you pass that, you then conduct your research in your last remaining 1-2 years and write it up. After you have finished that you take your 'final defense'. This is in similar fashion to your candidacy exam, but with two more academics on the committee (now 5) whereby your justify and defend your research in its entirity.

What are you researching exactly?

For My PhD: Sport Policy: the effects of funding conditions on the organisational structures, functioning and management of national sports organisations (NSOs)

My main interest and what I intend to really focus on over my PhD is Sport Policy. Sport policy as an area of interest I think is remarkable. The power of policy is something to be revered. Within sport we all study our own niches. I should mention at this point, for those who think sport as a small subject of study...think again. Its not. Its huge and the more you study it, the more you realise this. Whether it be sport nutrition, sport coaching, sport kinesiology, sport psychology, biomechanics, sport administration, physiology, sport tourism, sport sociology...anything. Whatever floats your boat basically. But sport policy for me in intriguing for two reasons. Firstly the usage of policy and government politics, power and funding permeates all these areas. It is this overarching framework which dictates where and how money is spent. The power of government and its role within sport, for me, is often hugely overlooked and underestimated. Secondly, I am intrigued at the contensious and political dimension associated with policy. The justification, the rhetoric, the intentions, the expections and the reality. Policy notoriously difficult to get right. Governments often try in vein to produce the best policy documents to justify spending with the belief that it will somehow improve the efficiency and effectiveness of spending. Questions such as 'is that expenditure justified? Can money be spend in better ways? Why are governments spending money here? What are the broader implications of such change in these policies? These are but a few initial and arbitruary questions that fascinate me.

For my PhD I want to compare two countries sport policy. Canada and the UK. I want to how these countries have changed their spending in elite sport. More specifically how this change of spending has affected the organisations that prepare elite athletes for the likes of the Olympics. These are called National Governing Bodies (NGBs) or National sport Organisations (NSOs)outside the UK. My assumption here is that huge variance in funding has some implication to how these sport organisations function, are structured and organised. Again, insert the big questions such as...Is this the most effective way to spend our money? Can government improve policy so that we can get more from our NGBs, so we can be more successful at the end game- the Olympics?

What are you doing right now?

So PhD project aside. I dont officially start my phD until next year possibly the year after. So this year is sort of a preparation year for doing some courses and working out what you wnat to do. Well as you can see from the above. I know what I want to do.
So I am using this year to do some other cool projects. This is what I shall be doing for the entire year:

Curent projects:

Project # 1 International Sport Policy & Athletics (Track & Field): This is my major project that I am working on this year. Its looking at comparing countries policies in one sport. Athletics. It looks indepth at the entire system which athletes go through to compete at an elite level. From which you should be able to make comparisons of what countries are good at and bad at to identify where money can be just spend to improve the sport in your given country. I am collecting data on canada. I am the canada representative. Really intriguing study. should be a LOT of data to collect.

Project # 2 Corporate Social Responsbility (CSR) and Sports Partnerships: I am also working on developing my MSc research project into a working paper to be published. I am examining how corporate organisations are using sport as a means of achieving their CSR objectives.

Project # 4 Organisational Change and Sport Organisation Archetypes: This again is a article I wish to write using my BSc research project to see if UK universities are following similar shifts in business management than Canada and the US.

Project # 5? Heart Rate Variance in Swimmers :In addition to these. And if that wasnt enough. I have also just embarked on doing some research assistant work with another academic in my department. He is a physiologist by nature and is conducting a study looking at (from what I can first make out) heart rate variance in varsity swimmers. Although this is not my main area of interest, I am sure it will be a cool project to work on 6 hours a week, and something nice to diverge away from.

So yeh. When you write it down. It looks and sounds a) geeky and b) a lot of work. I guess perhaps its because it is.

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