John Siedel and Martin Lodge were the first to present themselves, their work and advice to students at this morning's first year PhD seminar. Some useful insights from both, which raised some interesting questions about reading, finding a question and ways of approaching the research. Siedel outlined his area of research at PhD level - local politics in the Philippines - and how his empirical experience through working there influenced his reading and decision to challenge the prevailing literature. Reassuring for me was his willingness to use texts and readings from beyond the region - something that I suspect I'll have to do, as what's been written on social democracy in Latin America is much less than that based on Europe.
Martin Lodge has moved from studying rail privatisation to esoteric things like examining moral panic and resulting dangerous dogs legislation and other forms of regulation. He invited the class to read a quirky piece on public policy and country music. That and his own research prompted my question about whether oddball research was acceptable at the PhD level - especially when we don't yet have tenure. Perhaps that's something for later on, once the viva is out of the way, I asked. Lodge responded by saying that as long as the quirkiness was not just for show, but had a point to make and related to a relevant it should be sufficient.
So what did I take away from this first week? Read, read and read - and not just on our own topics. Write, write and write - especially to get the thinking process going and also because of the research proposal we'll need to submit at the end of the academic year to be upgraded. And think of a question that isn't too broad or too narrow. Quite a tall order then...