So what do you do?

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley | August 2, 2012

“So what exactly do you do?”

It is a question that I have become accustomed to over the last two years. At one end of the scale it can be an enquiry about the details of my research. And at the other end, it reflects the fact that many people just don’t know what being a graduate student entails. Indeed, faced with the fact that I can go shopping in the middle of the day, I have met people who express doubt that I do anything. So, here is what I do (warning: this is my personal experience, other experiences may differ)

Research – at the moment this forms the bulk of my work and involves primary sources, secondary sources, libraries, archives and online resources.

Writing – leading on from the research is the attempt to do some writing up as I go along.

Research dissemination – even graduate students find themselves doing what can be seen as research dissemination, indeed it is encouraged not least from a career development point of view. So far I have given a seminar paper, a conference paper and an undergraduate lecture with more lined up.

Career development – as the above suggests, graduate study is done with an eye to the future and Oxford certainly lays on lots of opportunities. I have done everything from training to teach, broadcasting, maximising potential to specific IT courses.

Voluntary work – I help out periodically with access days encouraging school children to think about university and Oxford and I teach a sailing youth group once a week.

Hobbies – in my case these are sailing and ice hockey but the possibilities are numerous

And, how do I manage to do my shopping when it is quiet? Research doesn’t keep office hours. An hour out in the day can easily be replaced with an hour in the library at 9pm…

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