Many people warned me that my PhD thesis would be much more of an evolving process that a static, three-year project, but for the most part I tended to listen to their well-meaning advice and pretty much ignore it.
I was pretty confident in my topic and in my specific approach and case studies, and so haven’t given much of a second thought to the basics of the thesis since the first month or so. All that changed when I presented my research proposal to my faculty peers and its professors. Many of the academics questioned my choice of case studies, or more specifically, my choice to identify three specific countries to study that are not normally compared in electoral politics for various reasons.
Upon further reflection, I came to see that they had a point. I did plenty of reading about how to structure a thesis investigation, and the way in which specific cases studies can be avoided while still incorporating a comparative perspective.
This reading led me to opening up my thesis structure, while also narrowing it in a few important ways. I have narrowed my focus to one country, Australia, and will introduce comparative notes from many more. After an initial bruised ego, I was really grateful for the feedback from the academics and colleagues: as is often the case, I was so far ‘inside’ my project that I couldn’t identify some of the very basic tenets on which it rested.
It has been a stressful few weeks, but I am glad to have had this learning experience now, six months in.