It really is frustrating to talk to people outside academia about my work at this time of year: they seem to think I have six weeks holiday with no work to do whatsoever! This couldn’t be further from the truth; an academic’s work merely enters a different phase in July and August but it certainly can’t be counted as holiday.
I will be doing two sorts of research this summer, one library-based and one based at home. I am very lucky in that, at this stage of my research project, I don’t need to go on any long distance, expensive trips to libraries . I merely pop down to the Bodleian Library, an hour’s travel away. It is one of the best libraries in the world and is an amazing resource; most scholars of the humanities should visit it at some point during their research, even if just to work in those hallowed surroundings!
The other sort of research I am doing this summer involves working with the Early English Books Online database (I won’t link to it here because it’s only available if your institution has a subscription to it). I can access this from the comfort of my home computer. So, I don’t even have to change out of my pyjamas to start the working day at this time of year! I can manage my own time and decide what it is I will research and when: almost complete personal autonomy. However, there are some down sides to this way of working, believe it or not!
You have to be very disciplined or, before you know it, days and weeks have gone past without any work being completed. I try to do a 7-8 hour working day even when working from home. I get up early and stay away from the TV and radio, from the newspaper and magazine, from the gym or the shops until I have done my alloted hours. Some people find this way of working incredibly challenging, but I find the benefits out-weight the negative aspects.
Even the dream of doing research for the whole summer is an elusive one; there are conferences to attend (more about this in next week’s blog!) and courses to prepare for next year. There’s also clearing week looming in which many academics will be summoned back to their offices to help with the recruitment process for next year. So, snatch those precious research hours when you can!